Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

I first heard about this book from fellow blogger Evelina from Avalinah’s Books. She had a raving review for this book and since our tastes are similar, I was eager to try this one out! You can check out her review here, but these are my thoughts:

35412372Summary (Goodreads): Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.


My Rating: 5 star

Review: I’m going to start off by giving a trigger warning for rape, suicide, and violence.

This book is one of the most unique novels I have ever read, with its blend of mythology and mental health. In her review, Evelina mentioned that this book can be read either as magical realism or as “stark naked reality.” While Evelina looked at it from the former, I went at it from the latter!

This novel takes a very fresh approach to multiple personality disorder: what if instead of it being just looked at as a mental illness, it is seen as a possession of the body by multiple spirits? In this way, the author has created multiple chapters that rotate through different personalities within Ada’s body, with each personality emerging during a different point of time in Ada’s life. And these personalities are not human, they are mythological forces with great power – they are gods.

I absolutely loved how the author created this story and went with it. Ada herself only has 2 chapters for herself, while the rest are divided by the other gods. Each had their own unique personality and none were infallible. They constantly stated that they were trying to protect Ada and that she was sane, and in doing so, it challenges the reader’s understanding of sanity and mental health.

Yet, even as the author uses mythology as a platform for this story, she does not shy away from elements of mental health. We see how these gods rise to the occasion and make themselves known when Ada is in trouble and cannot face reality on her own. We see how Ada struggles to understand these different people that are inside of her and how they shape her own feelings about herself. Even though the story is not told in her voice, I was still able to connect and understand Ada. While I am no expert on this area of mental health, this novel, through its unique portrayal of multiple personality disorder, helped me see things from a different point of view.

In short, this book was a remarkable experience that blends magical realism with mental illness. It is beautiful and tragic and creative beyond measure. It is a book I would recommend to anyone and for those reasons, I’m giving it 5/5 stars. Major shoutout to Evelina for bringing this book to my attention through her amazing blog (link to her review is at the top of this post)!

Happy reading ~

 

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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 ~

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Over the years, I have become a big fan of Alice Hoffman. Regardless of the genre, she manages to produce a story that will leave a mark on the reader. Of the 4 books I’ve read in the past, every single one has been absolutely stunning. I approached this novel excited to see how she would tackle the contemporary genre.

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Summary (Goodreads): Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.


Review: Once again, Alice Hoffman has written a story that tugs at the heart. But compared to her other novels, this one fell short for me.

The story starts off post-tragedy, and we are introduced to post-tragedy Shelby, a girl who is grief-stricken by this event, which ruined her best friend’s life. Shelby shoulders all of this grief and hurt, but most importantly, she stops loving herself and thinking of herself as a good person. And thus, starts our journey with Shelby as she hesitantly moves through life, changing and adapting – and maybe finding it within herself to let go of the grief. I know I’m saying something that might be a spoiler… but it’s really not. The blurb pretty much gives it away.

Here’s the thing: I liked the journey. I liked the growth. I loved the opportunity to connect with Shelby and understand her. But the story lost me quite a few times. The plot meandered many times, and I found my interest slipping when that happened. This is not an easy story to read because it deals with difficult topics of guilt, loss, love, and self-love. But it took a long time to get to anything conclusive. I feel like Hoffman was trying to emulate real life through her progression of time and events in the book. And that’s great. But it just strayed away from the central plot too much to keep me interested.

This is a great story that explores grief and forgiveness and love. It mirrors real life by depicting realistic situations and time frames. But I think it was this realistic nature of the story that didn’t work for me. There was a point where some “miracles” were introduced – but it was quickly explained away. I wish this had been explored more because I was excited by the potential for some magical elements in the story. I think that this novel would appeal more for those looking for a very realistic portrayal of grief and the ability to move on from traumatic events. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Top Books of February

February has been a crazy month for me on all fronts! I’ve been ramping up work in my Masters and I’ve also been trying to improve my blog and bookstagram presence. I also really wanted to make a dent in my eARC pile … but that hasn’t gone as well as I wanted. However, I did read some fantastic books and I wanted to take the time to highlight some of the awesome reads!

Top Books:                      

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor 

This was hands-down an absolutely wonderful read. There is no better book to describe the genre of fantasy than this one. If you haven’t already read my previous post where I gushed about it, well, I really had no complaints about this one. I loved the characters, as they were just so unique and vividly portrayed; they literally leaped off the page! The story was also extremely interesting, with great-building. If you are an avid lover of fantasy, then this is not a book you want to miss! It may be long, but it is well worth the effort!

 

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Furyborn by Claire Legrand

This was an eARC that I received from Edelweiss and Sourcebooks Fire (publisher) and I am so glad I got the chance to read it! It’s got 2 badass female protagonists (you know that’s my weakness) and tons of action to keep any reader interested! Also, I really liked the romance in this novel; it made sense and wasn’t too dramatic (and this is high praise from me!). This is the first in a series, and I’m excited to see where the story is going to go from here.

 

33918881The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco 

This eARC (thanks Edelweiss and Sourcebooks Fire) has been super high on my TBR list because I absolutely adored The Bone Witch (first book in the series); this book was different in terms of its focus because it was plot-driven rather than detail-oriented but it still delivered on intrigue and I devoured it in one day!

 

 

32920226Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward 

Unlike the other novels I’ve mentioned above, this is a very sobering story that uses magical realism to explore the themes of grief and slavery. Through alternating narratives from a mother and her son, we read about how memories can haunt people. This was a vivid and haunting story that kept me up all night. It is a very thought-provoking story and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys literary fiction.

 

 

34913737The King of Bones and Ashes by J.D. Horn 

This was a slower paced supernatural novel that I really enjoyed. This ARC was by an author who is known for his stories about witches but this was my first time reading anything by him. With tons of characters and a plot that intensified with every chapter, fans of supernatural fiction would really enjoy this book!

 

 

28096541The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed 

This novel packs all the punches as it tackles the issues of consent, rape, sexual assault, and stigma – and these are just a few of the topics! It was powerfully charged and I was amazed at the way the author managed to weave a story while handling such explosive content. This is a novel I would like everyone to read because it is just so relevant for our society.

 

 

35390279 The Night Child by Anna Quinn

This was a novel that was unexpectedly dark but very good. It deals with a very serious topic: child abuse. It was an emotionally evocative story and I found myself really connecting with the characters in the story. This is a short read but it does justice to the issues it addresses. If you can handle the content, then this is a very good psychological novel.

 

 

These were the novels that really stuck out in my mind from this month! I wish I had been able to read more books and meet all of my reading goals, but I’m glad I took the time to get to these gems!

How did your February book haul go? What were your most memorable books of the month? Comment and let me know! 

The Night Child by Anna Quinn

Don’t judge me but I selected this book because the cover was so intriguing and pretty. The premise was interesting, too, but I am definitely one of those people that go after books with pretty covers. I had an inkling of what I thought the story would be about … but I was completely taken aback when I started reading it! Here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): Nora Brown teaches high school English and lives a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks — ”a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body — the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire — when you think you might die.”

Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. Shaken and unsteady, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered — a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.


Review: I don’t know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t this! I want to start this review by giving a trigger warning: this novel deals with child abuse and may be disturbing for some readers.

I thought that this novel would be a terrifying read based on the synopsis, but I did not expect it to be as emotionally evocative as it was. This is a book that deals with the way the human mind deals with trauma, and how it protects you from your own memories. This was a dark and gripping story, and you would be hard-pressed to not be affected by the things you read. The author did an absolutely fantastic job of weaving the past and the present together, and illustrating how memories can be distorted. This novel delivers on so many levels, and it took me by surprise from the start. If anything, I would want the story to be a little longer to explore the issues mentioned in the book further. This is a solid 4/5 star book and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a dark and emotional psychological story (but keep in mind the trigger warning)!

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

Happy reading ~

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

One of the things that drew me to this book was the number of comparisons it had to Room by Emma Donoghue. I absolutely adored that book. I was wondering if this novel would live up to that comparison…

It most definitely did.

Synopsis (Goodreads): Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.


I’m still trying to come up with the right words to describe how amazing this novel is. It is absolutely fantastic, and the fact that this came from a debut author is hard to believe.

The novel deals with a difficult topic: gun violence and the loss of an innocent child. The story is masterfully written, told entirely from the perspective of young Zach Taylor. It is his innocent thoughts that we hear, his eyes through which we observe – and yet, we are given the opportunity to see the bigger picture and make the connections that his young mind cannot. There was never a point where I felt that the author was faking the POV of a child; it was just that realistically portrayed! And I really do not think there could have been a better voice from which to tell the story. Zach’s innocence and honesty was the perfect vehicle for the reader to witness a tragedy that no parent ever wants to face.

Zach is such a sweet and wonderful protagonist, that it is easy to connect with him and care for his character. Every emotion that Zach felt was one I felt – the anger, the fear, the anxiety, the sadness. Zach tugged at my heart with every turn of the page. I will gladly admit that this book had me ugly-crying at various points because it was just so emotionally touching.

This book deserves every star I can give. Do yourself a favour and read this book. It is 100% worth it.

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

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 ~

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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

I had previously tried to read a book by this same author called All is Not Forgotten. While its premise had been interesting, I found I couldn’t get myself to get through the novel. However, I thought that this novel of hers had a premise that was even more enticing and I was willing to give this author another shot. Here is my review:

3 years ago, the 15-year-old Cass Tanner and 17-year-old Emma Tanner disappeared. Now, Cass has returned – but without her sister, Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

I really wanted to enjoy this novel, and in the beginning, I did. This story is told from both Cass and Abby’s perspectives as they circle around the kidnapping and the events that led to it. But after just a few chapters, I found myself struggling to get through this novel. Maybe it was the writing style, or maybe it was the story itself. But I really didn’t enjoy this novel. For one thing, there is a huge disconnect between the character’s emotions and the reader. I couldn’t experience anything because I didn’t actually feel anything that the characters felt; I was just told the emotions. It’s a very weird experience to not have the characters actually experience anything firsthand but just tell you everything after the fact. And I didn’t like it. I wasn’t able to get into the story, and so, everything just dragged on for me. When I got to the ending, I realized why the author used this style to deliver the story; however, it really wasn’t worth the effort. I also found that the story focused too much on the whole narcissistic-parent aspect. I love psychology and reading about different personality disorders, but it got very repetitive very quickly. It made the reader lose sight of the actual mystery of what happened to Cass’s sister. And again, because of the writing style employed, I wasn’t able to emotionally understand the impact of having a parent with narcissistic personality disorder. All in all, this novel was a mess. There was an interesting thriller premise but the focus was really on reiterating this idea of narcissistic parents and not the actual disappearance of the sisters. But even with this focus, it never actually felt like the author got to the crux of the matter because the writing style caused this awkward separation between the emotional and factual aspects of the story. It was a struggle to get through this novel, and I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed with the way it turned out. If the author had made the characters’ emotions more vivid and had told the story in a different way, with an equal focus on the parenting style as well as the actual disappearance, I think this novel would have been a lot more appealing for me. For now, I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen

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

Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training: she was once victim #17 of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. She was the only who survived. Back then, she was Abigail. Now, she has shed both her name and all connections to her past, in order to focus on the future and try to stop other innocent people from getting in harm’s way. But when 3 people disappear from her town in the span of 3 years – all around her birthday – Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer all those years ago. Agent Reed Markham may have become famous for solving the Coben case, but his luck has changed since then. When Ellery calls him, he reluctantly agrees to help her. Now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them…with a killer who can’t let go.

While the beginning of this novel started off as a thriller, I think this would be better described as a crime story. The author maintained a good pace and I quite enjoyed the writing style, which switched between the perspectives of Ellery and Reed. This was a short book compared to most other crime fiction/thrillers that I read, which meant that things moved along quite quickly. This may have been why I hesitate to call this novel a thriller; there really wasn’t the time to allow the tension and questions to build up. I thought that the story was interesting and it definitely had my attention from the start. It was a little too detailed at times, with side information that was not really important or necessary for character development or the story. I would have preferred if there had been more of an emphasis on profiling criminals and more red herrings in place. The ending was also easy to predict but enjoyable nevertheless. Overall, this was a nice mystery and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of crime fiction and is looking for a short read. Solid 3/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung

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

Abuse of any kind has been a topic that a lot of authors are writing about. It is a very sensitive topic that needs to be taken seriously and handled carefully. There have been many times when authors try to portray some scenario of abuse but end up over-dramatizing it to the point where it is no longer taken seriously. I really did not want that happening here, and I am happy to say that it didn’t. Here is my review:

Windemere School for Girls is an elite private school in America that boasts of its ability to nurture the young minds of its female charges. The school has various teachers, including Dr. Gregory Copeland, the chair of the English Department and everyone’s favorite teacher. Although he is married, he has its own agenda, namely teenage girls who are under his care. For years, he has been targeting girls – until a former student goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and 2 other Windemere alumnae who were Copeland’s students, these women unite to take him down.

I had recently read a book that dealt with domestic abuse and had not been too happy with the way the author had handled that subject matter. This author did not have that same problem. I felt that the issue of sexual abuse and abuse of power by authority figures was handled delicately and maturely. The story revolved around a former student who was interning at a newspaper and decided to share her incident through the news. This later led an investigative journalist, who was this student’s mentor, to help track down other women who had faced similar issues with this same teacher. The author really showed what investigative journalism is like. I also liked that the author did not shy away from difficult aspects of abuse. The story was also very real about the physical and mental damage that comes with abuse, as well as the negativity that comes when people accuse someone of perpetrating the abuse. It was very insightful. I will say that I don’t think this was really a story. From the way it was written to the actual events that were happening in the story, it felt more like a nonfiction book, which may throw off some readers. Either way, kudos to the author for doing a good job in chronicling sexual abuse in schools. I’m giving this a solid 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~