The Lives of Desperate Girls by Mackenzie Commons

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

I was intrigued by both the premise and the location of this novel. I really like novels where teens are dealing with something difficult and take it upon themselves to find out what’s really going on. I also wanted to see how the author portrays Northern Ontario; as a Torontonian who has never really gone up north, I was excited to read about what life is like there. Anyways, here is my review:

When 16-year-old Helen Commanda is found murdered just outside Thunder Creek, no one pays any attention to it. All her death does is shed light on the earlier disappearance of Chloe Shaughnessy. Chloe is everything Helen isn’t: beautiful, wealthy, and white. The fact that Helen was from the reservation only seems to make it easier for people to dismiss her. Only Jenny Parker, Chloe’s best friend, seems to think it is important to look into Helen’s death, and so she takes it upon herself to look for answers about Helen’s life and death. But what can a teenage girl really accomplish where adults have failed? And how much is Jenny actually complicit in a conspiracy of silence?

I have mixed feelings about this novel because there are a few things that the author does that I like but an equal amount of things that I don’t like. I really liked that the author highlighted the problems of the First Nations people of Canada. Not many people are aware of their struggles and the things they have endured – and continue to endure – are heartbreaking. And the author really does do justice to them: she tells it like it is. I only wish it had been told from the perspective of an actual Native and not just from that of a white teenage girl. While Jenny is definitely trying to understand and be aware of the oppression and racism that the Aboriginal people face, I don’t think she is necessarily the best spokesperson for it since she really isn’t a part of their community or culture. I wish there had been more emphasis on the way life is on the reserves and the traditions that the First Nations value, as that would have allowed the reader to see some of the wonderful aspects of their culture. However, the idea that a Native girl’s death is not as important as a Caucasian girl’s disappearance was an interesting one and I think the author did a really good job of bringing that to the forefront. I actually found the writing style compelling, even if it was confusing to follow at times what with the various jumps in time that Jenny took; it was hard to tell if something was happening in the present or if it was just a memory. I did not like the love angle that the author tried to force into the situation; it didn’t add anything to the novel and it was not well planned or executed. It was literally just two teenagers hooking up and doing drugs and drinking, none of which screams romance or bonding. I didn’t like the incompetence of the cops, and I’m not just referring to their dismissal over the case of Helen. I’m referring to the almost comical way they question and interrogate Jenny over Chloe’s disappearance; you would think adults would know how to run an investigation and ask the right questions but clearly, that is not the case in this novel. The author also takes on another topic: slut-shaming. While I think this is an important topic to discuss, I don’t really like Jenny’s role in that aspect and I wish the author had made her more … sensible or intelligent. I also didn’t really like how things were resolved in the novel because, well, it didn’t really feel resolved. I understand that not everything can have a happy ending but this just felt messy and unfinished. Overall, I think the author chose 2 very important topics to center her novel around. While the writing was compelling, the main character’s decisions as well as the actual ending of the novel left me disappointed. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

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The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

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

I love dystopian novels and anything that is really full of creepy crawlies. This novel seemed like the perfect fit for me so I was super excited to read it! Here is my review:

In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line, which is a ring of scorched earth to protect citizens from ticks that carry disease. Those that live within the zone are safe but are controlled by this common fear. Few have any real reason to leave the safe zone … except for the adrenaline junkies who are willing to pay a hefty price in order to enjoy what is left of nature. Among the latest expedition are a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; tech giant, Wes; and Marta, a simple housewife. Once they leave the safe zone, the group are at the mercy of deadly ticks – and in the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors. As alliances and friendships shift, the hostages must decide how far they are willing to go to get back to safety.

I really wanted to like this novel but I found I couldn’t get into it at all, and I had to add it to my DNF pile. While the story seemed interesting in its premise, I just couldn’t get interested enough to pursue this novel. The pacing was quite slow and that made it a bit harder for me to read because I really wanted to get to the good bits as fast as possible. I also didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters; they just didn’t have enough for me to feel that emotional tug. I don’t really want to write too much on this review since I haven’t fully read the novel and others who have finished it would have a better idea on it, but for me, this novel gets a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker

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

I don’t know why I keep having this habit of reading books that are part of a series. But sometimes, I just see a synopsis that I can’t resist and I feel this NEED to request it. And then when I get my request approved, I HAVE to read it, and I don’t have the time to read the previous books in the series. But sometimes, I find that when I really like one of the books, I end up wanting to start the series properly. So with that kind of optimism, I began reading this novel… here is my review:

Robin Hessop and David Mallory barely escaped with their lives when dealing with a deadly cult. Now, they continue to try to unlock the truth behind a 700 year old conspiracy – the power behind the Templars. Infiltrating the group’s vast archives, Jessop and Mallory discover something unusual: a sacred mission that is hinted at in an ancient Templar passport. The mission hints at the transportation of a treasure, something that is invaluable. As the pair sifts through centuries of clues, they come face-to-face with a secret that could shake Christendom as we know it – and put their lives in danger.

So the author does a good job of explaining things such that it isn’t 100% necessary to have read the other books in order to understand what is going on. However, I would still say that this novel is best enjoyed as part of the series so that you can really get into the plot and feel a good connection with the characters. It was something that I had difficulty with because I didn’t really understand the interaction between Robin and David. There were also some other characters that were part of this story that kind of confused me; their actions and feelings didn’t make sense to me given their role in this story. However, I chalked it up to the fact that I don’t have the necessary background. It is clear when reading this novel that the author has done a great deal of research and really knows his Templar material! While this information is intriguing, at times it was overwhelming and unnecessary. It’s also not the most action-packed story I have ever read; the first 50+ pages were them simply trying to decode a document and it took a loooong time. While this may be accurate in its portrayal of the process, it makes for slow reading. The story does pick up after a while, and it was pretty interesting, but again, there were so many details thrown at you that it can be hard to keep it all straight. Overall, this was an interesting story but it is best enjoyed if you have read the previous books in the series. It had a bit too much detail and not enough character work for my liking, so for that reason, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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

I’ve only read one other book by Alice Hoffman, but I really loved it. So I was super excited for the chance to read this one! This novel is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read before and which the reader does not have to have read in order to understand what is happening in this story. But let me get on with my review:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Even though it has been hundreds of years, and there have been many changes in the world, Susanna Owens knows that her 3 children are talented – and dangerous. There’s Franny, perpetually grumpy but with an ability to communicate with animals; Jet, who is beautiful and kind, with the ability to read others’ thoughts; and Vincent, charismatic and addictive, with a penchant for getting into trouble. Knowing all this, Susanna has set down rules for her children: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they really are. And when they come back home to New York City, each sibling sets off on a risky journey to escape the family curse.

If you think this is just a story about spells and potions, then you would be wrong. This is about so much more than just magic. It’s about families filled with regret, it’s about gaining the courage to live life to the fullest, and it is about daring to love and dream and LIVE. As usual, the author has written a beautiful story about family and love and loss, with gorgeous prose. I really could not stop myself from turning the pages. Every character has been wonderfully created, and it is so easy to feel connected to them; I felt truly invested in their lives and their pursuit for happiness. This novel had me so emotional; I was literally sobbing at times because I could feel their emotions so deeply. One thing is for sure: I am DEFINITELY going to read Practical Magic. If you have never read a book by Alice Hoffman, I urge you to do so ASAP because she is such a talented author and everything she writes is amazing! I’m just glad she’s written as many books as she has, because now I have more books to enjoy!

Happy reading ~

Once, in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, but I’ve been putting it off every time in lieu of some other urgent reading task. But I decided to make time for it now, so here is my review:

Ana grew up in a tiny Mennonite colongy in Bolivia. Her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now, as a teenager, Ana and her father have also run away from the community, but Ana doesn’t know why. All she knows is that things were not right for her and her father and they needed to leave in a hurry. Now, they’ve arrived in Toronto and Ana must fend for herself in an alien country, completely disconnected from everything she knew. She has no idea where to begin with fitting in. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the hierarchy that is present and all the unspoken rules and codes that govern teenage life. She goes to the library, the mall, and even parties. And all the while, she is desperate to find her mother who left her so long ago, and understand her father who has always been a stranger to her.

This is definitely a character-driven story, and it is quite well done at that. The story is told from Ana’s perspective, in third perspective when she is in Toronto and in first perspective when she is describing her past in the Mennonite colony. I really liked that the author made that differentiation, as I’ve never seen an author do that before and it added a unique touch to the story. I really liked Ana’s character and the author did a really great job in expressing the emotions she was going through; as a reader, I found it very easy to connect with and understand Ana. I didn’t know much about the Mennonite community before this novel, but it is clear that the author did due diligence in researching and presenting the information about this community in a non-judgemental way. This novel is definitely more of a slow-burner and it’s really just about how Ana adjusts to Toronto after leaving Colony Felicidad so if you are expecting something more fast-paced or with action, then this is not the novel for you. However, it is a well-written YA novel that is all about growing up, fitting in, and finding your identity. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The House by Simon Lelic

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

I was very excited to read this thriller because its premise seemed to hint at a haunted house type of story. And I’m a sucker for anything to do with houses with a past. I was super happy to receive an ARC but because of my vacation, I wasn’t able to get to it until now. Anyways, here is my review:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime? When Jack and Syd find the perfect house, they can’t wait to put in an offer. They never thought they would get it – but they did. They moved in, excited to make it their forever home. When they made a gruesome discovery in the attic, they decide to ignore it. They’re willing to put anything in the past so that they can continue to live in their dream home. But that was a mistake. Because someone was murdered right outside their back door. And now the police are watching them…

So the story is written for the most part as journal entries between Syd and Jack. They are recalling the events that led them to a certain point in the novel. At first, I found this a cool concept. They keep hinting at some bad thing that happened to them, and every time they hinted at it, I became more eager to find out what it was. It was also weird/interesting how they responded to each others’ entries. However, that was probably the only thing I really enjoyed about the story. The themes that this story revolved around were sad but common ones in this genre so I wasn’t really blown away by anything. I also found the plot to be a tad bit predictable. I never felt connected to the characters, and I pretty much lost interest around the 30% mark. I kept reading because I didn’t find the writing style terrible and I just wanted to make sure that my predictions were correct (and they were). There was a lot of hype around this book, and quite a few people liked it. However, I wasn’t one of them. This really wasn’t much of a thriller for me. And the house didn’t play as much of a central role as I had hoped. This novel gets 2/5 stars from me, and only because I liked the writing style.

Happy reading ~

The House At the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

I was very eager to read this book, not only because of its hype, but also because I thought it was an interesting way to go about telling a historical story. So let me just get right to the chase:

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. On the island is a café called the House at the Edge of Night, where everyone in the community comes to gossip. Amedeo Esposito owns this place and it has helped him make a home for himself and his family. As the story follows the lives of the Esposito family and the islanders who live on Castellamare, we see how the people – and Castellamare – itself are transformed by both world wars and a great recession.

Let me start by saying that this novel is very eloquently written. It has beautiful descriptions and very complex characters that it is easy to become caught up in their world. I loved the way that the author described the island; it made you feel like you were a part of the island community as you were reading. However, I found the novel to be a tad bit boring. There were too many characters, and the story meandered away from the central family to describe details that I really didn’t care about. While there were interesting points, it took a lot of effort to focus and get to those areas. Because of that, I didn’t have the best experience reading the novel. However, I would definitely not discourage others from reading this book; it has a ton of raving reviews on Goodreads so this may just be a one-off situation where the book and I didn’t match. If you like descriptive historical fiction, then definitely add this to your TBR list.

Happy reading ~

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

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

I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about this novel, so I was very happy when I received an ARC for it! It has taken me a while to get to this book because of other commitments, but now that I have, I have to say that it is definitely a book worth reading! Here is my review:

Aila Quinn is reeling from the death of her mysterious mother, Juliet, when she and her younger brother, Miles are sent to live in Sterling – the rural town where Juliet grew up. While Aila is far from eager to leave behind her home and her best friend, she is hopeful that Sterling will help her understand her mother better. But Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. It is a place plagued by the Disappearances, a phenomenon by which an experience – like the scent of flowers or the reflection from a mirror – vanish every 7 years. No one knows the cause behind the Disappearances, and no one knows what will disappear next. But Sterling has always suspected that Juliet Quinn may have been at fault … and now, the brunt of the blame passes on to Aila and Miles. As the next Disappearance nears and tensions mount, Aila takes it upon herself to figure out the mystery behind the Disappearances using literary clues her mother left behind. As Aila starts to make sense of things, one thing becomes clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for much longer.

This was such an amazing novel and I’m so glad I got an ARC of this! The author has created such a unique story that I was never bored for a minute! First off, the plot was just fantastic. I was already intrigued by the idea of different senses and elements disappearing, but once the author brought in Shakespeare, it was a done deal for me. I loved how the author weaved all of these different components to create such an awesome cohesive piece of work. I liked that there were segments of the story told from a different perspective, as that just added to the intrigue. I loved all of the characters in the story and Aila is definitely a great main character! My only slight complaint would be that WWII didn’t really have much of an impact in the story; since the author chose that specific time period for her setting, I wish it had had more relevance to the story. Overall, this was an amazing YA fiction story and I would recommend it to anyone who loves YA fantasy because you will NOT be disappointed!

Happy reading ~

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

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

I wasn’t aware that this novel was part of a series but decided to read it as a standalone. Luckily, this novel doesn’t necessarily require one to read the previous book to understand what’s going on, so I was able to focus on the story and writing. Here is my review:

Even though Detective Manon Bradshaw is five months pregnant, she is still determined to focus on her career, where she is stuck in a cold case corridor – the price she paid for a transfer back to Cambridgeshire. Manon tries to look at this positively; after all, this gives her time to raise her adopted son Fly Dent and prepare herself for the new baby.  But when a wealthy businessman is found stabbed, Manon can’t help but get involved. The victim is a banker from London – who was once in a relationship with Manon’s sister, Ellie, and is the father of Ellie’s son. As the case begins to circle in on Manon’s family, she finds herself pitted against her colleagues and friends. Can Manon separate what she knows about the people she loves from the suspicion hanging over them?

For me, this novel was just okay. I was hoping for something sarcastic with some high stakes drama. However, that wasn’t really what was delivered. To those who, like me, haven’t read the previous book in this series, it would probably be good to have read it before reading this one; it would give the reader a better connection with the characters in the story. For me, it was hard to connect with the main characters and they ended up not mattering to me, which really sucked. The story was told from various different perspectives, which I really enjoyed because it made me keep guessing on how everything would tie in together. This novel had a really slow start that made it a bit of a chore to stick through, and for the most part, it felt like Manon’s personal life took precedence over the murder itself. However, when the story finally took off, it was pretty intriguing. I’m not sure I really liked the way everything ended… it just didn’t feel that satisfying to me. Overall, this was an interesting mystery but it felt lackluster to me. There was too much of a focus on the main character’s personal life and the solving of the mystery itself didn’t have the energy that I would have liked. This may be more enjoyable for fans of Missing, Presumed, the first book in this series.

Happy reading ~

 

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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

This is the third novel I have read by this author, and so far, I’ve had mixed reviews on her work. There are certain aspects that I like but for the most part, I always end up feeling that I got a lackluster experience. However, I always like to give people multiple chances, especially when I see that the majority of people like that story. So here is my review:

When Isa receives the text I need you from her childhood friend, she drops everything, takes her baby daughter, and heads straight for Salten. Salten is the place where Isa and her friends went to boarding school … and where one of her friends still lives. As the friends gather, they find out that something terrible has been found on the beach… something that will lead to the past being uncovered. This isn’t a cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, especially considering their history. When the girls were at school, they used to play the Lying Game where they competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But with all the lies, the boundaries between fact and fantasy start to blur. And soon, Isa begins to ask herself: how much can you really trust your friends?

Compared to Ruth Ware’s previous novels, I quite enjoyed this one. The story was interesting and the suspense kept me going. I liked that the story switched from past to present; it’s a style that I’ve always enjoyed because it makes the reader actively think and engage with the story. I will be honest in that I found the story quite slow and not the most interesting thing I’ve read … but it was still interesting enough that I kept reading the book. The ending was a surprise and I enjoyed the twist that was there. I didn’t really like Isa’s character, as she whined quite a bit and just … wasn’t that interesting. Overall, I enjoyed this story more than any of Ware’s previous ones. However, this wasn’t my most favorite thriller of all times. This novel would probably satisfy fans of Ruth Ware’s previous work.

Happy reading ~