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 ~


Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp  

When I read the premise of this novel, it sounded like a mystery/thriller to me. After reading it, I have to say that it definitely doesn’t fit that category – at least, not in the conventional way.

Synopsis (Goodreads): Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter..

My thoughts on this novel are mixed. I don’t think I loved this novel as there were a lot of features that really bothered me or weren’t done well, but the story itself – well, it had me hooked.

One of the things that was severely lacking in this story was character development. There was none. Corey started off feeling guilty and angry, and she left that way. She maintained her pigheadedness and her insistence that the town was to blame for Kyra’s death right to the end. It didn’t help that the only way we got to know Kyra was through Corey’s interactions with others in the town, as well as Corey’s own memories; it made Kyra a very one-dimensional character, although the author did try to fix that by including letters that Kyra wrote to Corey. But even those letters didn’t have much substance to them so I couldn’t get a good feel for Kyra.

What I found weird about the novel was the writing style. There are moments taking place in the present, followed by memories from the past, and then random excerpts that read like a script from a play or a phone call, and then diary entries/unsent letters from Kyra to Corey. It affected the flow of the novel a lot. While the author may have been trying to use these different mediums to give the reader a more rounded picture of the scene, it failed in that attempt.

While the plot was intriguing, I wish there had been more of a build-up there. What were the crowning instances that caused the town to change their attitude to Kyra? How did they get to that frenzy point that tipped Kyra off the edge? These were things that were never really addressed. If it had been, I feel like the story would have been better developed and more intriguing and the suspense would have been better. As it were, there was no real mystery to it; everything becomes clear in a short while and there is nothing to really change it up. There were also a lot of details in the story that were mentioned but never reconciled, and this really bothered me. Why mention Corey hearing voices or seeing things if you aren’t going to do anything about it?

My general feelings for this novel are still mixed. There were a lot of things that could have been improved and that would have made this story so much better, because the concept behind this novel was actually really intriguing. It was just the execution that suffered. I’m giving this a 2.5 stars rounded to 3.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

The Party By Robyn Harding

This novel has been on all the trending reading lists. I really wanted to know what the hype was about. There’s been a trend in stories that talk about parties going wrong, but this one seemed unique in that it was not just told from the perspectives of adults but also from teens. Here is my review:

Sweet sixteen: it’s an exciting coming of age. To celebrate this milestone, Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah, a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Instead of an extravagant affair, they invite 4 girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. But things go horrifically wrong. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.

This novel was confusing in that it wasn’t sure what it was meant to be. In the beginning, I thought this story would pan out into a thriller, with increasing tension and a grand reveal. It started off giving every indication that that was exactly what would happen. And then it suddenly became a drama. Now, we are reading from the perspectives of adults and how this situation has changed their views on their children, and how they now question their parenting. It becomes a story about culpability, and guilt, and revenge. When the teen perspectives are shown, it’s all about bullying, guilt, and self-esteem and identity. And this is fine. There is nothing wrong with any of these themes. But it just came off a bit cheesy and overdone. It didn’t help that the adults were all extremely selfish and annoying. Just when I got used to all of this melodrama, the story begins to show hints of this big reveal. Once again, I’m feeling confused as to what I’m reading. In the end, the reveal really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; it’s something that was easy to suspect, and may not even have been necessary. There were also a specific detail that the author mentioned (I will refer to it as the introduction of a psychopath) that really bothered me; it didn’t have to happen and was just there to add more drama to an already cringe-worthy situation. Overall, this novel was just confusing: it didn’t know if it wanted to be a thriller or a soap opera. It might have been better as the latter, since I felt that the grief and emotional aspects of the story were not too shabby. I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars, but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for a good read; for me, this was just okay.

Happy reading ~

The Ninth Circle: Fire by C.A. Harland

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

What drew me to this novel was the beautiful cover design and the fact that it features females as the protagonists. I love fantasy and supernatural novels that have strong females in them, and this one seemed like one of them. Here is my review:

Tala Morgenstern has grown up hunting demons. Her family are all Nightwalkers, and it is their duty to protect humans from supernatural beings. But when her younger sister, Hartley, disappears while looking for her long-lost father, Tala must reach out to her other sister, Aiva. Aiva is the only Morgenstern who has turned her back on the underworld … but the underworld hasn’t forgotten about her. Reluctantly, Aiva agrees to help Tala track down Hartley. But as they investigate, they discover that there is something more sinister at hand. Now, they must make their way to the depths of the demon stronghold to save Hartley … before she can be claimed by hell.

If the TV show Supernatural had female protagonists and was in book format, this would be it. I used to be a big fan of the show, and I have to say that the similarities are uncanny. Both deal with family members who have gone missing on a “hunting” trip, and involve siblings coming together to discover the truth and fight supernatural creatures along the way. There are some unique elements, like the fact that Aiva can scry and make protection spells, but not much else. Was this an interesting read? Yes. It was fast-paced and action-packed. However, it was just too similar to the show for me to appreciate it as its own unique entity. Even the characters themselves resembled the Winchester brothers. And while I have no problems with authors being influenced by other ideas/stories, this was a little too much for me. Since it was still written well and exciting, I’m going to give this a 2/5/5 stars, rounded up to 3.

Happy reading ~

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek by Anthony O’Neill

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

I really like when authors take a classic story and put their own spin on it, or try to add onto it. The problem is this is not always successful. Sometimes, it can be amazing but other times, the attempt fails miserably. It’s a hit-or-miss situation… but I’m always game to try it out! I was super happy to have received this ARC, and here is my review:

It has been 7 years since Edward Hyde died, when one day a stylish gentleman arrives claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful laywer and confidant knows that this man is an imposter – because only Utterson knows that Jekyll was Hyde. But as the imposter goes around charming all of Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming his estate, Utterson finds himself the only challenger. And as the bodies of others who really knew Jekyll start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life … and questioning his own sanity.

So I liked the concept here. But this one leans more towards a miss than a hit for me. The author jumps right into the story, and I really liked that because it immediately sets up the stage. For those who have never read the original class, fear not! The author gives enough hints that the reader can piece the whole thing together. The reason that this novel didn’t work for me was because it felt very rushed. Utterson’s panic and conviction are realistically portrayed but the madness of his behaviour and the flurry of events that occurred were sometimes hard to follow. It didn’t allow the story to develop deeply enough. I wish that the author had slowed down, had made Utterson talk to the imposter a few more times, so that we could have also believed that the imposter might not be Jekyll. I didn’t really have any impression whatsoever of the fake Jekyll because there were so few scenes that involved him! There was also other characters that were introduced but then they faded away, and it just made it a very confusing read. I also didn’t really like the ending, as it made the novel a moot point. At the end of the day, this novel showed that the original never really needed a sequel. While I appreciate the author’s efforts, it just didn’t work for me.

Happy reading ~


Now I Rise by Kiersten White – Conqueror’s Saga #2

When I read And I Darken, I immediately fell in love with the unique protagonist. Lada is like no other in her ferocity and determination. The author stays true to her vicious nature and I loved that the author never made that aspect of Lada go away. It was no surprise then that I would be anxiously waiting for the sequel. So here is my review:

Lada Dracul is only after one thing: Wallachia. And she will do anything to get there. Filled with rage, she storms the countryside with her loyal men, terrorizing all those who defy her. But brute force isn’t working as well as it should. What Lada needs is her younger brother, Radu. But she left him – and Mehmed – behind. What Lada has yet to discover is that Mehmed has sent Radu to Constantinople – as a spy. Mehmed wants to control the city, and Radu would do anything for Mehmed. Radu longs for Lada’s confidence and bravery – but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. As nations crumble, the Dracul siblings must decide if they will make the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill their destinies.

I didn’t think the story could get any better – but it did. I loved everything about this book but let me try to break it into components. First off, I loved Lada (as usual). She maintained her ferocity, but also realized that she needed to change her style at times. She had her own unique way of deciding to govern her people, one that was influenced by her time with the Ottomans as well as by her memories of her father. She grows as an individual and the reader gets to see her vulnerable side (but not for too long!) This is the one character that does not require a man to complete her, or help her fulfill her goals and that is what I love about her. I’ve always been fascinated with the historical figure Vlad the Impaler but I never thought anyone would be able to reimagine him as a female. I’m happy to say that the author has succeeded! The next amazing thing about this novel is that the author made Radu a more prominent character. Before, he had been overshadowed by Lada, but in this novel he had his own moments. He also grew and changed as events unfolded. He became wiser, and struggled with himself at times. Was he my favorite character? No. But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t well developed. In fact, he was an amazingly developed character, and the author kept him true to his original personality. What I actually liked about this novel was that Mehmed took the back seat. I was worried that this second novel would be more of a love triangle than a story filled with action and warfare, but I needn’t have worried. There was a ton of bloodshed and cunning in this story, enough to keep me satisfied. The story had a lot of twists and turns and it forced the reader to pay attention to all of the details (not that I had to be forced!) Overall it was a very compelling read and I really could not put the book down. And that ending? Well, it was fantastic and I cannot wait for what the author has in store for the Dracul siblings! Definitely a 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

What drew me to this novel was its interesting premise and the idea of a female gang leader. I love seeing powerful female protagonists in a novel so I was looking forward to this novel. Here is my review:

The Crenshaw Six may be small but they are making it up in the gang world in South Central LA. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six may appear to be led by a man named Garcia … but what no one has realized is that the gang’s real leader is Garcia’s girlfriend, Lola. Lola has mastered the part of submissive girlfriend, which allows her to be constantly underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her. As the gang gets drawn into the high-stakes drug world, the gang will have to depend on Lola to survive.

After all the excitement surrounding this novel, it ended up being a bit of a let-down. I was expecting some crazy mind games, with Lola showing off her brilliance and ruthlessness. But Lola really didn’t seem that smart or tough. To be honest, she didn’t have much of a personality and so, I really didn’t root for her or care about anything she had to say. There was this young girl introduced to the story and that intrigued me but I didn’t like how Lola didn’t take the child’s abilities into account. The story itself dragged a lot and it was hard for me to focus. Overall, this novel just didn’t make me go wow. The story was alright with brief intriguing moments, and the awesome female protagonist really didn’t show up. I would give this a 1.5/5 stars.

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 ~

The Twilight Wife by A.J Banner

This novel really reminded me of Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson so I thought it would be interesting to see how another author would put their spin on it. Here is my review:

Ever since her diving accident, 34-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop can’t remember anything. Apart from brief flashes of the last few years of her life, Kyra’s world is limited to her close friends on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob. But as Kyra begins to have visions of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and relationships with people she doesn’t know, Kyra starts to question her new life … and her husband.

This novel was ridiculously similar to Before I Go To Sleep to the point where it felt like I was reading the same story. Despite this, I quite enjoyed this story. It had a lot of intrigue and the author spent a lot of time developing Kyra’s character and her memories. There were certain things that I felt the author could have explained better, and there were certain characters that could have used a stronger backstory. However, the overall story was interesting and engaging and I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of S.J. Watson.

Happy reading ~

The River At Night by Erika Ferencik

I’ve been looking for an interesting thriller to read and this one has been on my TBR list for a while. Now that I’m on vacation, I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up and reduce that list as much as I possibly can. So here is my review:

Wini likes to play things safe, but when her friends decide to celebrate their middle-aged life by doing something drastic, she decides to take the plunge. Wini and her friends decide to go to Maine to do some white water rafting, something that none of them have any experience with. A fun trip quickly turns into a horrific nightmare as the women find themselves trapped in the wilderness with no way out.

I recently read another novel that deals with survival, a YA fiction called Feel Me Fall. Compared to that, this one was a softie. This novel had a lot of positive aspects to it: it had a great premise, and an interesting friendship group. But with all of that potential, I felt that the action was lacking. The beginning started off great, and I found myself intrigued with where the story was going. However, as the story continued, I found that there needed to be more action happening. That kind of made the story fall for me a bit. Overall, this was an interesting story but it needed way more action to carry it through until the end.

Happy reading ~