Counteract by Tracy Lawson – Resistance #1

I received this novel as a copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Not only is this novel the first book I finished for February, it is also my very first audiobook. I’ve never found myself able to get into listening to an audio book. Somehow, I end up zoning out and losing sense of what’s going on in the story. This time, I was determined to pay attention and give this form of story telling a good shot. Here is my review of the book as well as the experience:

Synopsis (Goodreads): In an alternate reality version of 2034, terrorist attacks on American soil continue after the events of 9/11. The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, created in 2019 to oversee domestic security, rises to unprecedented heights of power by exploiting the people’s overriding fear of terrorism.

When Tommy Bailey and Careen Catecher meet during one of the bogus terrorist attacks, they discover the OCSD’s darkest secret: an antidote distributed by the government to “protect” people from the effects of imaginary toxins in the air is really being used to lull them into a state of submission. Tommy and Careen face a difficult choice: stay quiet about what they know—or risk their safety and anonymity to join an underground rebel group that’s determined to break the OCSD’s grip on the nation.

Review: There are a lot of YA dystopian novels out there and it can be hard for an author to be unique in this genre. That was not the problem here. I found this story to have a lot of great qualities to it that set it apart from other books in this genre and kept me interested throughout the story!

I really liked the way the story unfolded. There were quite a few people involved in the story, and each got their time to shine. I liked hearing from these different perspectives because it allowed the reader to see the issues through more than just one point of view; whenever I get the chance to see a fuller picture, I am appreciative of it because it doesn’t always happen. Of course, Careen and Tommy were the main characters but having other adult voices to balance out their teen ones was quite nice.

Even though the concept of the government being evil is not a new one, the story that the author presented here was very different from what you see. I liked it because it didn’t take place too far into the future; it was a world that I could easily envision happening a few years down the road. It was scary to see how trusting people are and how easily that can be manipulated by those in power. The novel had a good pace with enough intrigue to keep me guessing about how things would progress. There were a couple holes that I spotted in this book, and I hope that the author addressed them in future books … but it wasn’t a significant problem.

The one thing that I didn’t like was Careen’s personality and behaviour. While she showed independence and intelligence at certain points, most of her actions were a bit too whimsical and flighty for my taste. I didn’t really like how dependent she became on others, especially since her first introduction in this book portrayed her as having a lot of sass and spunk. I also thought the relationship between Careen and Tommy could have progressed a bit slower, allowing it to develop more richly.

I think that this novel really worked as an audio book because the story wasn’t bogged down with too many details and descriptions. The narration was done by Sarah Rogers and she did a great job of expressing all of the right emotions and matching her pace to that of the story. This is not an easy story to narrate as there are many different characters and perspectives to present, but Rogers did a great job in making them all stand out. My only comment would be that Eduardo really didn’t sound the way I expected; even though he was Spanish, the accent used was more similar to Russian. Regardless, I found it really easy to pay attention and my focus never shifted from the story.

Overall, I thought this was a really good dystopian novel that explored the idea of autonomy and the role of the government in protecting its citizens. I liked the various different characters and thought that the novel was well-paced. This book definitely works in an audiobook format, and I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a unique YA dystopian story!

Happy reading ~


The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

There are a lot of books out there on the subject of marriage, and the secrets and lies between husbands and wives. I’ve been seeing so many books that have something to do with marriage or husband or wife in the title. It got me wondering “how do these authors make their story unique?” To figure this out, I’m going to actively try to read books on the topic of marriage and secrets and see which ones are actually unique and which ones are just the same story line but with a different title. So here I go with my first one:

Iris and Will have a perfect marriage: a beautiful home, rewarding careers, and now they are ready to try for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip in Orlando, Iris’s happy life comes crashing down. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed, leaving everyone on board dead – including Will. Confused, Iris is sure there is a misunderstanding: why would Will even be on the plane to Seattle? But as time passes and Will’s ring is found at the crash site, Iris is forced to accept that her husband is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about his destination? What was so special about Seattle that he went there? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets out to uncover the truth, she discovers that she may never have known her husband at all.

This novel is getting mixed reviews from me. And here is why. This is one of those rare times in which the author actually gives the main character a realistic and positive support system. Iris’s whole family comes out to help her deal with this. As she goes around trying to uncover the true identity of her husband, her twin brother tags along. And I love that. I love that it isn’t a potential romantic partnership that strikes up. I love that she is bolstered and supported by her family, instead of just falling into the arms of some man who she has “sparks” with. I also really liked that her responses and behaviour to the situation were realistic and understandable. The steps that she took to uncover the mystery and to protect herself made sense and I appreciated the author actually giving her main character some common sense. But then there were the things I didn’t like. I didn’t like the fact that Iris had a background in psychology but her understanding of things was so … weak. I didn’t like that there were random things that were mentioned (like a lawsuit against the Airlines) that had nothing to do with the story and didn’t really enhance it in any way. I also didn’t like the way the villain was portrayed and the way in which the villain was introduced; the portrayal bordered on racist and the introduction near the end was just so out of place that it made me cringe. I will say that I did enjoy the ending as Iris’s final decision was unexpected but also pretty badass. As you can see, I have some good things and some bad things to report on. Since I had a pretty positive reading experience for about 80% of the novel, I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

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

From the moment I read the description of this novel, I knew it was my kind of book. It sounded intense and thrilling and absolutely realistic. I’m really glad that I got approved for this book and now … here is my review:

Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, love going to the zoo near closing time to just relax and play. It’s the perfect way to end the day. But then Joan sees something as she and her son are moving toward the exit gate, something that makes her sprint back into the zoo with her son in her arms. And for the next 3 hours, she keeps running. Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and the zoo itself comes in handy in her time of need … but will it be enough to keep her safe from danger?

Just as I had expected, this novel was gripping from the start. Joan and her son are very believable characters and the situation they find themselves in is also, unfortunately, something I can realistically imagine happening. I had my heart in my throat the entire time I was reading because I could feel how dangerous the situation was and how desperate Joan was to keep her son safe. The danger is present for the entire span of the novel, which means that Joan was running for safety for that entire time…. and yet, there really wasn’t a boring moment in the story. It was one of the more enjoyable features of this story. The novel is also told from the perspectives of other people in the zoo: fellow victims and even a perpetrator. I found that interesting but I wished the author had done it more often instead of just randomly including snippets from other perspectives; it would have helped me visualize and connect to the other characters in the same way that I did with Joan. I will admit that there were certain discrepancies in the plot that bothered me. Some I was willing to ignore because I understood that it was necessary for plot development, but there were others that seemed a tad bit ridiculous. The explanations for certain behaviors exhibited in the story also weren’t the best at times. These were really the only flaws for me, and overall, I was quite satisfied with my experience with the novel. The author promised a book that would make your heart pound and she definitely delivered on that account! I would give this novel a 3.5/5 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique thriller.

Happy reading ~

All The Forever Things by Jolene Perry

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

I’m always in the mood for a story that is unique. I find that most realistic fiction novels that are YA tend to follow the same trajectory, but this story came off as being different so I was glad to be approved for this ARC! Here is my review:

Gabriella’s family owns and operates a funeral home, which makes Gabriella well acquainted with all aspects of death. She may be weird and a bit dark, but at least she has her best friend Bree on her side. But when Bree begins to date the jock who used to bully Gabriella, their friendship starts to change. Gabriella wants to be supportive but she just isn’t comfortable with Bree’s new relationship. It doesn’t help that Bree has no time for Gabriella anymore, and even begins to act like all of the other girls in school. The only person who seems to want to spend time with “Graveyard Gabe” is Hartman, the new guy in town who has his own issues. To try to get things back to normal with Bree, Gabriella agrees to drive everyone to prom… but no one could have been prepared for the deadly incident that would occur.

The premise for this novel was definitely interesting. I mean, you don’t hear too often about teenagers living and working in a funeral home. And Gabriella – or Gabe, as she likes to be called – is definitely on the morbid side. She wears vintage clothes in black, and loves Wednesday Addams. Not that I have a problem with either of these things! I think that the author enticed readers by showing them this breakdown in friendship between Gabe and Bree, and the emergence of something romantic between Gabe and Hartman. But I wish the author had really gotten into the material instead of just skimming the surface. There were quite a few instances where the author could have really pushed and delivered more on the emotional front, but instead, it just felt very … superficial. Instead of making this more of a heartbreak, this novel (for the most part) just seemed like a girl whining about growing up. Even during times when my alarm bells went off, things didn’t really take a serious or deep turn. This novel had a lot of potential but I think its flaw comes from the fact that everything that happened with the characters just skimmed the surface. When I read a realistic fiction story, I expect it to be very character-driven; I want it to be teeming with complex emotions from the side of the protagonist as well as the other characters. However, this novel didn’t dig deep enough into the character’s personality, so it was very hard for me to feel any sympathy for anyone in the story. Also Hartman’s character just came off weird. I understand that the author wanted to show him as grieving but his actions just didn’t match up so he just confused me. In the end, this was a novel with a lot of potential that didn’t really deliver what I was expecting.

Happy reading ~

The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

Everyone knows the basic gist of World War II. There are countless heart-wrenching stories about the survivors and the soldiers who fought in this war. However, this story is unique in that it focuses on the Italians who were drawn into this war because of Mussolini. While I knew about Mussolini and his friendship with Hitler, I never knew the full involvement of the Italian people in this war and the tensions that arose in Italy. Knowing that this book dealt with this topic made me really interested in reading it.

While most in Venice know that the war is coming to a close, people know that it is still not safe to voice their opinions and go against the Third Reich. Germany is still strong and many cities in Italy are occupied. One night, a fisherman named Cenzo comes across the body of a young woman in the lagoon near La Serenissima. He puts her on board his ship, only to discover that the body he presumed was dead is very much alive – and in trouble. Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Giulia is being hunted by the SS. For reasons beyound his understanding, Cenzo decides to help her reach safety instead of handing her over to the Nazis. This decision will lead them into a world full of danger, as they make their way through a world of secrets and treachery.

This story is more of a romantic historical thriller than a historical fiction novel. Yes, it shed light on the political tension in Italy and the dangerous circumstances that citizens were in. The author mentioned many different interactions between Cenzo and those around him, that allowed the reader to gain insight into the different viewpoints people had about this war and Mussolini. I found these sections to be entertaining and interesting. I liked Cenzo’s character: he came off as a simple man but turned out to be quite complex. The romance that takes place in the novel was set up quite nicely. In the beginning, the novel made me curious and I couldn’t stop myself from continuing on. In the middle, however, there are parts that got quite boring. At one point, I even forgot the point of the story. I will say, though, the author did a good job of recovering from this by making the ending exciting and funny all at the same time. This isn’t a novel that I could really take seriously, and I think that was the author’s intent. This isn’t a sad story about the destructive effect war can have. Neither is it a novel that is hilarious and ridiculous in its portrayal of war. It lies somewhere in between, ensuring that readers can see the serious side of WWII while also showing a dark humor that somehow makes the story lighter. Overall, I quite enjoyed this book and the way in which the story was told. If you are looking for an interesting historical thriller with romance elements, then give this novel a shot. But if you are looking for something that has a more serious take on Italy’s involvement in WWII, then this may not be the book for you.

Happy reading ~


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I’ve actually been really looking forward to reading this novel. The plot and the cover just seemed so intriguing, and I’m a sucker for a good dystopian novel. This is a novel that I’m really excited to write a review for because it is definitely one of my favorites!

It took just one day for the Georgian Flu to become a serious medical threat and put the world on edge. It took merely two weeks for civilization as we know it to collapse. Twenty years after the Georgian Flu ran its course, a band of actors and musicians have come together to form a Travelling Symphony that performs Shakespearean plays for the scattered settlements that are the remains of mankind. Although life is simpler, it is by no means safer and new dangers threaten to take away even the smallest sliver of security. As the story moves back and forth in time, we see how much of the world we take for granted and how resilient the human spirit can be in the face of despair.

I loved this novel. I loved every single character that was introduced. I loved seeing how they were all connected and how each character changed and developed over time. The author allowed every single one to grow, and it is a feat that is commendable. The storyline was tight and flowed beautifully with the memories of the past. Every single thing that was mentioned had a purpose and that’s what made it such a great read: you had to pay attention to every single detail to really “get” the story. I don’t buy many books but this novel is one I can’t wait to get a copy of, and I urge you to buy it, too! What a fantastic novel! I can’t wait to read more by this author and I’m sure you will feel the same way if you give this novel a chance!

Happy reading ~ 

The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig – Fire Sermon #2

This book was given to me as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So as previously mentioned, I  read the first novel before delving into the sequel because I wanted to do right by the story. And I’m so glad that I did, because otherwise, I would not have understood a single thing that happened in the story! This novel has just been released a few days ago, so it should now be available for your perusal.

Cass has been betrayed on multiple levels. Zach, her twin, has manipulated her and used her. The resistance Omegas simply want to use Cass for her seer skills, and are ready to turn her in if it benefits them. And the man she thought she knew was not who he said he was. Saddled with the emotional burdens of these betrayals, Cass continues on her journey to find a safe refuge for the Omegas while still hoping to find a way to unite Alphas and Omegas. But as her visions of the Blast grow stronger, she finds herself succumbing to the madness within all seers. Will Cass be able to achieve her goals? Or will she find herself slowly slipping into the nightmare world of her visions?

This second book was just as fast-paced as the first novel. Cass is a character with high moral standards and a view of equality that sometimes seems just a tad bit too ridiculous, given the circumstances she is in. Although she has become more determined to fight for what she believes in, she is still not as strong a heroine as I would have hoped she would be. I pitied her more than empathized with her, especially during her period of mourning and confusion. The novel explored many different avenues and showed the many different perspectives on the issue of discrimination and rights of the Omegas and the Alphas, which gave the storyline more depth. However, the novel tried to encompass too much at once and felt a bit jumpy at times. Overall, the sequel was interesting and engaging, and I look forward to reading the conclusion of this series.

Happy reading!

Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet

As you may have noticed, I have been getting quite a few books from publishers to read as advance copies. I now have A TON of books to get through in a very short period of time. It’s getting a bit hectic what with school and exams and deadlines for these novels but I promise to get through them as fast as possible and give you a review that is honest! This novel is another advance copy and should be released in about a month!

Anna is in a broken marriage with her husband, Ned. He doesn’t care for her and she no longer loves him. The only good thing that came out of their union was the birth of their daughter, Lena. It doesn’t bother Anna at all that Ned is not involved at all in Lena’s life; in fact, it makes the bond between mother and daughter even stronger. But when Anna and Lena try to leave Ned, they find themselves having to hide away in a motel to avoid his stalker behaviour. At first, Anna and Lena are happy at this unassuming motel. But soon, Anna realizes that the patrons – and the owner, himself – are quite unique and have their own reasons for escape. As the chase continues between Ned and Anna, she will find herself terrified not only of her husband but also of the reality of her world.

I thought this novel was going to be great. It was introduced as a psychological thriller that explores the world of domesticity. And it did – to a certain extent. As I kept reading this novel, I found myself struggling to keep afloat and make sense of it all. The peculiarities of Anna and the other motel inhabitants seemed extremely far-fetched and I really had no idea how it played into the larger scheme of things (even now, I feel confused about it). And while the actual behaviour and personality of Ned gave me the chills, the way the novel ended just seemed so abrupt and dissatisfying. While this novel was definitely a psychological thriller, it was also very confusing and not worth the time and effort.

Happy reading ~

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

Let me start by saying this isn’t the first novel I’ve read by this author. Back in high school, I would read her Otherworld series and all of her other books as soon as I could get my hands on them. She is witty and has strong female characters, which is always a winner for me. I was definitely looking forward to reading this novel!

Casey Duncan killed a man and got away with it. But she isn’t worried about that. She’s worried about her best friend, Diana, whose crazy ex has found her again. Casey has to protect Diana from him and Diana has decided that the safest way to do this is to find a mythical town where people can hide. Casey is surprised to find that the town actually exists and is even more surprised to discover that both Diana and Casey can go there. But is their new Haven really safe?

I was very disappointed with this novel, so much so that I didn’t even finish it. The beginning felt extremely disjointed and the character of Casey lacked dimensions. It was like she had no real feelings at all. Her dialogue and everything about her just felt flat and didn’t make me even slightly interested. It was hard for me to continue pushing through this novel and finally, I just decided to let it go. It’s unfortunate that this novel didn’t get me excited but I guess that can happen sometimes. If anyone has read this book and liked it, please let me know whether I should continue or not. Because for now, I’m gonna give up on it.

Happy reading ~

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

I can’t recall when I last read a historical fiction novel. When I was recommended this novel based on my love for The Book Thief, I was more than happy to give it a shot. I actually had to recommend it to my library because it hadn’t been bought yet. And then I had to wait to sign it out. It was quite an arduous process but well worth it!

Anna Lania is just seven years old when her father, a linguistics professor, is taken by the Germans in Poland. She finds herself all alone, bereft of all friends. And then she meets the Swallow Man. He is an enigma, skilled at blending into his surroundings, with the uncanny ability to become whoever people want him to be. Anna knows that the Swallow Man could never replace her father but she also knows he is in danger from the Germans. And so, Anna decides to journey alongside the Swallow Man into the wilderness, where nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted.

This tour de force novel had me riveted from the start. Told from Anna’s perspective, it gives a glimpse of the mind of a child in these trying times. Every emotion from joy to sorrow was eloquently expressed by the characters. Anna will make your heart break and the Swallow Man becomes a father figure to all who read it. The intensity of life at this time point is depicted faithfully and it will make you reflect on life’s hardest lessons while still celebrating random bursts of happiness. This novel is an absolutely brilliant debut that is very different from other novels on the same topic. I loved it to the core and would recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction. Actually, I would just recommend it to anyone and everyone because it is JUST THAT GOOD!

Happy reading ~