The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Thank you to Edelweiss for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

When I first began reading this book, I had no idea it had any ghostly underpinnings. Naturally, that just made me more excited to read it! I have been in a bit of a book slump for the past few weeks so I’ve been desperately searching for that story that will propel me back into reading – and this one was it! Here is my review:

35533431Summary (Goodreads): Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . .

Review: Let me start right away by saying this book gets 5/5 stars from me. I loved it that much. I’m struggling so much to find the right words to describe my emotions … but I’m going to try anyways.

I really liked that this story alternated between 2 different points in time. Some chapters were from 1950 and others were from 2014. The chapters from the 1950s were my favourite because every time the story switched to this time point, it was one of the 4 roommates who got to speak. This allowed the reader to connect with all of the girls and understand them – and their secrets. I thought the author did a fantastic job at this. I felt empathy for every single girl and could really feel their bond towards each other. I was also able to appreciate them as unique entities and could feel the pain of bearing the burden of their secrets. The chapters from 2014 were exclusively from Fiona’s perspective, as she searches for the truth. I will be honest, in the beginning, I wasn’t very drawn to Fiona. But as the story progressed and the different time points began to intersect, everything made sense and I grew to love every chapter, regardless of who was speaking.

I also really loved the mystery behind it all. I’m not going to say too much on it because I don’t want to ruin anything but there are 2 “main mysteries” that are the focus in this novel. Both of them made sense and were resolved beautifully, with no holes in reasoning. I loved the way the pieces fell together, and the emotions that were brought to the surface as Fiona tried to make sense of it all. Through the investigations, the novel raises difficult subject matter and does it in a very respectful way. I know I usually tell you what these are but for the sake of keeping this review spoiler-free, I’m going to stay silent.

The most surprising part of the novel was the ghostly element. I really wasn’t expecting it from this book but it was absolutely fantastic. It gave a very Gothic and haunting atmosphere to the story! I almost never get scared or feel shivers when reading a book with ghosts in it… but this book did it for me. My heart would race and I would turn on all the lights in my room because the mood was captured so perfectly. And in the case of this book, the ghost story aspect really enhanced the mystery! It added something more to the story, that set it apart and also gave it more …. substance. It reinforced the main message of the story: not all secrets stay in the past.

I have to say that this book was literally perfect for me. It had great characters, great writing, dual storylines that converged beautifully, and tons of mystery to it. The supernatural elements to the tale were just the cherry on top. I am so glad I got to read this book and I cannot wait to read more by this author!

Happy reading ~


Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

I really wanted to read this book because I heard that it was being made into a movie. I’m a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan so I was excited to watch it … but before watching, I wanted to read the novel and see how it was. I love spy-ish movies and stories so it was a no-brainer for me to choose this as my next read. Here’s my review:

15803037Summary (Goodreads): In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.

Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.

Review: I was surprised at how long it took me to read this book! It looked fairly short but it had super tiny font – so consider yourself warned!

This is a very detailed book. I had always figured that espionage would be very meticulous and intricate, but I had no idea how much until I read this book. The author has carefully researched and outlined every small thing in this story. I really appreciated this attention to detail because it created a lot of depth and gave the reader a very full picture of what it means to be part of the espionage world. It also gives the reader an understanding of politics and the different mind games that can take place, which is where all the fun happens! At times, this level of detail could be overwhelming; it is one of the reasons why it took me so long to finish this book. However, now that I have completed it, I can see no better way of telling this story.

The characters in this novel were very unique. Dominika is fiery, egotistical, and able to adapt to every situation. She is so smart and I really empathized with her feelings of being used as a pawn; she wanted to be so much more, knew she could be so much more, and I loved that about her. However, I didn’t like that the author made her very impulsive and moody. It just didn’t fit with the image of a spy that the author kept pushing forward. I liked that she had spunk but her outbursts were a little shocking to me, and seemed incompatible with the rest of her character. I also didn’t really like Luke. There didn’t seem to be too much of substance there. While I liked that Dominika was the driving force behind this novel, I wish that Luke had been a worthy match for her strong character.

The story’s pacing is a little weird. I can’t really classify it as fast or slow; its tempo changed as it progressed, ramping up and down as needed based on the events that were about to unfold. There were times when I wish things would progress faster … but it made sense why it didn’t.

The writing style was something else I am struggling to characterize. I think that it worked for telling this kind of story. It was a cold and calculated voice that distanced the reader from the characters. I can see why a lot of people would find it off-putting but it reminded me a lot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hypnotist so I didn’t really mind it too much. I thought it was really cool how each chapter ended with recipes of a dish that was described in that chapter; it wasn’t strictly necessary but it was an interesting tidbit.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I would give this a 3.5/5 stars. I think it took me time to start to really get into the novel; at first, I felt bogged down by all the details. Once I got used to the details and the writing style, I found myself caught up in the political intrigue. I definitely want to continue reading the rest of the books in the series, especially since this one ended on a cliffhanger. But before that, I’m going to go and check out the movie!

Happy reading ~

Amber Alert by Dan Lawton

I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

I am always happy when an author gets in touch with me and asks me to read their work. It’s not easy to write and publish a novel, and I definitely want to support writers wherever possible! I was super excited to receive this novel, which sounded like a very cool thriller! Here is my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): Time is running out.

Nine-year-old Chloe Janis is abducted.

Abby, her mom, is now faced with revealing her dark past, hidden these last seventeen years, or losing her daughter forever. A cryptic message from a man she’d shoved into the dark recesses of her mind forces her into an impossible situation—revealing secrets best kept hidden or losing her daughter forever.

Secrets, deception, and betrayal surround the small town of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. All eyes are on the community, threatening to split open as yet unhealed wounds are probed. Fates will be rewritten and careers redefined. Everyone involved will confront their pasts if there’s any hope of Mifflinburg becoming a town at the heart of redemption and forgiveness.

Review: The plot for this story was quite strong and I really liked the direction that the story took. However, I thought that the writing style wasn’t the best fit for this story.

A child being abducted is not necessarily a unique story … but the way the author presented it here made it stand out in my mind. It was easy for me to follow along with the events that unfolded, and I got caught up in the thrill of it all. I liked that the plot had depth to it and kept you guessing as to the motives behind this kidnapping.

I also really liked the characters because every single one of them had something to contribute to the story. There were no useless characters, and I’m so happy about that because that is one of my biggest pet peeves. All of the characters had a backstory and the author definitely had them all fleshed out. I will point out that I didn’t like the main detective’s character. He had an off-putting personality, and while that may have been done on purpose, I thought that some of his actions and remarks were uncharacteristic of a police detective and that didn’t really work for me.

The one issue I had with this novel was with the writing style. Oftentimes, I felt I was being told rather than shown what was happening. When the character was giving their backstory or their inputs, I would much rather have not been told it straight to my face; I like to be led to the conclusions, not given them. When I’m told rather than shown, I find that it takes me out of the rhythm of the story and it can be hard for me to get back into it. I think that if the writing style had been edited to be cleaner in these aspects, it would have made the story even better.

Overall, this was a very interesting premise and a well-developed story. However, I don’t think the writing style was a good fit for this novel. Nevertheless, this was a solid effort, and I’m giving this a 3/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

Keep Her Safe by K.A. Tucker

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

This was a book that I really wanted to finish back in January … but I fell behind. However, I made it one of my top priorities for this month and got on this book as soon as possible! Here is my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): Noah Marshall has known a privileged and comfortable life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But all that changes the night she reveals a skeleton that’s been rattling in her closet for years, and succumbs to the guilt of destroying an innocent family’s life. Reeling with grief, Noah is forced to carry the burden of this shocking secret.

Gracie Richards wasn’t born in a trailer park, but after fourteen years of learning how to survive in The Hollow, it’s all she knows anymore. At least here people don’t care that her dad was a corrupt Austin cop, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Here, she and her mother are just another family struggling to survive…until a man who clearly doesn’t belong shows up on her doorstep.

Despite their differences, Noah and Gracie are searching for answers to the same questions, and together, they set out to uncover the truth about the Austin Police Department’s dark and messy past. But the scandal that emerges is bigger than they bargained for, and goes far higher up than they ever imagined.

Review: There are two aspects to this story: the actual mystery and the romance. I greatly preferred the mystery to the romance.

I was automatically drawn to the secret that Noah’s mother revealed to him. It promised to be the start of a complex tale – and it was! I loved all of the different twists and turns that the story took, making every single character a suspect. The author also did a great job highlighting important issues like corruption and human trafficking. However, I found the story to be quite long and I don’t think every part of it was necessary.

While I didn’t realize this novel had a romantic suspense angle, I didn’t quite love it. I liked Noah’s character just fine but I didn’t really like Grace. She was far too stubborn and pigheaded and there were moments where I really wish she had used some common sense. I have no problem reading about fiery female protagonists but when they act in an unintelligent way, it really annoys me. I also didn’t really find the development of the relationship between Noah and Grace believable. The beginning of it was a little too forced and fast-paced, but it eventually worked out as the story progressed.

I went into this novel with very high hopes because of a lot of positive reviews, however I didn’t love it as much as I wanted. It had a good plot and interesting twists, but I didn’t like all of the characters and I thought the romance aspect developed a little too quickly for my liking. I would give this a 2/5 star rating!

Happy reading ~

Himself by Jess Kidd

Synopsis (Goodreads): When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.

His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers.

Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.

This novel was such a fantastic read, with its dark story and simple but beautiful prose. Almost everything about this novel worked for me!

The premise of this novel was absolutely incredible. Mahony has come to Mulderrig to find out about his mother, a woman he has never known, who he has presumed abandoned him when he was a baby in an orphanage. Just recently, he received a letter telling him that there is more to the tale than that, and the answers are in Mulderrig. If that wasn’t enough of an attention-grabber, the quirky antics of the townspeople and the numerous ghostly encounters certainly are! I loved the elements of magical realism in the story. To be fair, I love magical realism in general. But it was incorporated so well here and it added this interesting mix to an already intriguing tale.

The characters in this novel are definitely unique – and this stands for both the villains and the protagonists. Mahony is a handsome, charming man who also has a dark side that all women find attractive. I loved his charisma and the way he could get along with (almost) everybody. Another notable protagonist that I want to mention is Mrs. Cauley. To me, she was the real star of the show because she was quirky and wise and always ready to spring into action. The one character I didn’t really like is Shauna; while she was the tame element needed to ground the story, she really didn’t play a big part and didn’t have much of a personality. It made it hard for me to understand her subsequent relationship with another character in this story because it just felt underdeveloped. Apart from that, all other characterizations were fabulous!

The writing style was also amazing. The story is written in a simple way, with short chapters that are easy to get through. And yet, the writing expresses so much depth and so much beauty in its descriptions. There were a lot of layers to the story and these layers came together wonderfully through the simple yet complex writing style.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It had a great story, great characters, and a wonderful writing style. I cannot wait to read more from this author! 5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

Lullaby Road by James Anderson

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

Highway 117 is a remote road that runs through the Utah desert. It is trafficked by oddballs and fugitives. When local truck driver Ben Jones finds an abandoned, mute Hispanic child at a gas station along his route, he knows something has gone awry. Who would leave a child out there in the cold winter season?  With the help of his eccentric neighbors, Ben sets out to help the kid and learn the truth. What he didn’t expect was to make new friends, lose old ones, and find himself in danger.

I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn’t get into it. When I started reading this book, I was unaware that it was a sequel. I thought I might still be able to understand what was going on, but there were quite a few veiled references and allusions made that are probably referring to something from the first book, which is why I wasn’t able to follow along. I would definitely recommend people read the first book before reading this one. I also didn’t really love the writing style. I found it overly descriptive, especially when it came to automobiles (which I really have no interest in). I also found the plot very confusing: there were a lot of characters introduced and it wasn’t always clear how everything was going to play out. I really wanted the story to focus on the child but that was not the case here. There have been a lot of positive reviews out for this book, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

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

Sometimes, I forget the premise of a book. But instead of looking it up, I read it as is and try to figure out what the story is all about. I find that it makes the reading experience more enjoyable, especially when the novel is a thriller. Here is my review:

3 little girls headed off to school one morning in May. Within an hour, 1 of them is dead.

15 years later, Alison and Kitty are living separate lives. Kitty lives in a care home. She can’t speak or move properly and has no recollection of the accident that put her here. Alison is an art teacher who struggles to make ends meet. when a job to teach prison inmates opens up, she decides to take it. Maybe now, she can finally make things right. Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it – this is her chance to finally make things right. But things aren’t all what they seem. Someone is watching Kitty and Alison, someone who wants revenge for what happened that day. And only another life will suffice…

This novel was told from 2 perspectives: Alison and Kitty. I thought that this was quite a different thriller than what I’m used to. Maybe this was because I had no idea about the premise before reading this novel, but I found the writing to be really appealing and the story caught my attention right away. Having a character with a mental and physical disability is something very unique, and I thought the author did a really great job of representing this character’s difficulties in life. I also really liked that the author made Kitty a bitchy person; most authors try to garner pity for the disabled character but the author didn’t try to do that here. However, I didn’t really like Alison’s character. A lot of the things she did made no sense, and while the author did explain it at the end, the explanation didn’t cut it for me. The main theme for this story is about what it means to be sisters and how far you would go to protect your sibling. Considering that I have a sister who is 8 years younger than me, a lot of the reasons behind hiding the truth was understandable from me. I wasn’t ever able to predict any of the twists which was nice, but I didn’t care much for the plot after the halfway point. I don’t want to reveal too much of the story but it just didn’t really seem to flow at this point of the novel. However, I did like the focus on the sibling relationship… but maybe this is because of my own partiality to stories about sisters. Since I liked the theme and most of the story, I’m giving this a 3/5 stars. But note: this was a really hard novel to rate because I was torn at points on whether I liked the story or not.

Happy reading ~

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

When I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, I wasn’t blown away. However, I chalked up my feelings to the fact that I had just recently read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and was comparing every thriller to that one. So when I heard that Hawkins had released another thriller, I thought that this one would give me a better idea of whether I liked her or not, especially since my last read wasn’t a thriller. Here is my review:

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now, Nell is dead, having jumped off a cliff. And Jules has to go back home to care for Nell’s teenage daughter. But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool…

I’ll be straight with you: I didn’t like this novel. There were a lot of things that didn’t work for me, and it was really hard for me to push through and get to the end. One of the things that I really didn’t like about this novel is that there were too many characters involved. Every chapter was told from some character’s perspective, which is a literary structure I usually like. But when there are more than 5 characters who all have a voice? Well, it can be really hard to keep it all together. And while it became clear why the author did this when I got to the end of the novel, I still thought it wasn’t the right way to go about telling this story. It was also misleading because the premise, as advertised, seemed to only talk about Jules and so there is this assumption that the story will mostly feature her – but that wasn’t true. I also thought that the story took a long time to get to the point. The first half just dragged on and on, and it really wasn’t relevant for setting the stage because I promptly forgot about the minuscule details that connected different individuals together. This was definitely a quiet thriller, without a lot of the drama and high intensity scenes that are popular in other books in this genre. It reminded me a bit of Midsomer Murders, which is a show I really enjoy watching because of its detailed but slower pacing. However, this novel was missing some spark to really make it interesting and the overwhelming amount of character perspectives definitely bogged the story down. And by the time I finished the novel, I really didn’t think that it was worth all that effort. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~


I Found You by Lisa Jewell

The last time I read something by Lisa Jewell was 2 years ago, and I absolutely loved it. The book was The Girls in the Garden, and I found the thriller to be very engrossing. With that experience in mind, I was really excited to see how this novel would turn out! Here is my review: 

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside. Meanwhile, in London, newly-wed Lily Monrose’s husband fails to come home from work one night. Stranded in a country where she knows no one, Lily goes to the police – only to find out that the man she calls husband never existed. 23 years ago, Gray and Kirsty were teenagers on holiday with their parents. But their annual trip to the seaside town takes a disturbing turn when an enigmatic young man starts to pay attention to Kirsty. As these 3 paths intertwine, lies will be told, hidden secrets will be revealed, and lives will be changed forever.

What I had loved about The Girls in the Garden was how character-driven the story was. This novel was also heavily character-driven, which would have been great … except I didn’t like the characters. Every single one of them is so needy and so unbelievable. For example, let’s take the character of Alice. Even if you consider yourself to be very outgoing and in the habit of making bad mistakes, why would you bring a random stranger into your house? Especially considering that you have children who live with you? Okay, say I believe that you want to be a nice and helpful person – why would you let them stay for longer than a day? In what planet does it not strike you to call the police and get them to help you? And why, oh why, would you start up a romance?! The sheer amount of Lily’s character, while being well developed, was one that I just didn’t like. The way she spoke and acted were not always synchronous with her emotions so I would sometimes feel confused by what she was thinking or feeling (especially nearer to the end when everything was revealed). I didn’t actually mind the missing guy’s character, nor did I mind the story line that takes place 23 years ago; in fact, those were the only 2 things I liked about the novel. By the time I got to the middle of the novel, I had pretty much figured everything out. Nearly all of my predictions came true (and I’m usually pretty bad at predicting things). I don’t actually mind that sometimes thrillers can be easy to predict – as long as the story is well-written and clearly resolved, I can still enjoy it. This was not the case here. When the final turn of events were occurring, it was a complete mess. All of the characters come together, and then some random journalist gets involved where she really didn’t have to, and nobody does anything logical. Not at all. Everything is revealed in such a way that it made me dislike the entire novel. I’m actually quite sad that I didn’t like this book more, especially since a lot of people gave it rave reviews. But the actions of certain characters, combined with an ending that was implausible and random were just too much for me. I’m giving this a 2/5 stars because I liked the storyline that took place in the past. But that’s the only positive 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 ~