Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I have been very excited to read this poetry collection. I rarely, if ever, read poetry; I think the last poetry collection I ever read was by Shel Silverstein – and it was when I was in grade 3! Needless to say, my forays into the poetic scene have been long overdue and I decided to get into it with this book by Rupi Kaur, as it has been receiving so much praise… so here is my review:

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose that speaks about surviving. It is about surviving violence, abuse, love, and loss. It is about femininity and the ways one can be ashamed of it – and be proud of it. The collection is split into 4 chatpers, with each serving a different purpose, exploring a different pain. As we journey through the most bitter moments in life, the author shows us how we can still find sweetness hidden … if you are just willing to look.

My first thought was: this is a very short collection. Seriously, I read through it all in half an hour, and that is not a testament to my reading speed. I don’t know how long poetry collections usually are but this seemed unusually small in length. But as we all know, length doesn’t matter; it’s the content that counts! What I liked was that the author was unafraid to tackle difficult material like rape and abuse. There is a strong feminist voice in these poems, one that makes you proud to be a woman. I liked that the author talked about being comfortable in one’s own skin, because it is rare to find people who are. I also liked the hand-drawn pictures in the book. However, I don’t think that there was anything really special about this collection. Of course, the more voices that preach about loving-yourself-the-way-you-are, the better. But with all the raving reviews, I expected there to be something unique about Rupi Kaur’s interpretation and message. And there really wasn’t. There was nothing that made me connect with the poems, and while I could appreciate the sentiment, it just became too repetitive. I understand: love yourself. But how many times are you going to tell me that?! Out of all of the poems, only a handful really hit hard; the others were just underwhelming. In general, I just felt disappointed, which is really a shame because I hate being mean about someone’s art. Maybe I’m just too simple for poetry? Oh well, better luck next time!

Happy reading ~

The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek

It’s purely coincidental that I read this book right after reading The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. I had had both books on my TBR list for a while and it just so happened that I was able to get my hands on them both at the same time. I’m glad I did because it’s allowed me to see two different approaches to the same concept of sleepwalking.

Leon Nader used to have a problem with sleepwalking so severe that he would even turn to violence. After a great deal of psychiatric treatment for his condition, he was convinced that he was cured. However, one day, years later, Leon’s wife disappears mysteriously. Could it be that his illness is back? In order to find out how he acts in his sleep, Leon puts on a movement activated camera. When he wakes up the next morning and looks at the video, he is shocked by what he sees: his nocturnal self goes through a hidden door and descends into the darkness ….

This novel was definitely more consistent with the idea of a thriller. This whole novel is told from Leon’s perspective and it opens up with him waking up and seeing his wife, Natalie, whimpering and packing her bags. When he wakes up next, she is gone and he is convinced that he has done something to her. Right away, the author caught my attention. This novel can be quite confusing at times because it shifts between different points in time and you get a whole host of information and both the reader and Leon are trying to piece together what is real and what is a dream. This was definitely a very ingenious way of portraying this story; however, it sometimes made the story feel muddled and confusing. I still enjoyed the experience and the mystery behind it all, and the thrill factor was always present! One thing that I really liked that the author did was that he gave an explanation for everything in the end. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the last few chapters before the end explain quite a few misnomers that were present in the story to throw you off. This doesn’t mean that I liked the explanation per se but I appreciated the author’s effort to make the story make sense to the readers. Overall, I found this to be an interesting novel that kept the thrills high and the mystery engaging. I would give this a 3.5/5 stars because while I liked the ambitiousness of this novel, I didn’t really enjoy the conclusion or the confusing aspects as much as I would have liked.

Happy reading ~

Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry

I was promised a thriller. This novel did not deliver.

When Nora decides to visit her sister in the countryside, she is looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend. Instead, she walks into a murder scene – with her sister as the victim. Stunned by this shocking discovery, Nora cannot move on. She takes it upon herself to find her sister’s killer, especially since her faith in the police has been shaken because of past events. Haunted by the murder and the secrets surrounding it, Nora begins to show sings of obsession…. until she becomes just as unrecognizable as her sister.

When I first started reading this novel, I was intrigued by the writing style. It seemed a bit dark and poetic, with many intricate details added in here and there. I found it charming at first. But it soon got old. After a certain point, I realized that the writing style did nothing to enhance the plot and the little details were a bit pointless. As for Nora, our protagonist, I strongly disliked her. She had no real personality and was severely underdeveloped and lacked a voice. I couldn’t care less about her and her memories of the past or her obsession. She had no real reason for going about things the way that she did, and while at first I wanted to figure it out, by the time I got to the middle of the story, all I really wanted was for the story to end. The plot moves so slowly that it put me to sleep; literally nothing happens. And the ending, while not what I expected, was not at all a good twist. Just because you explain why someone is the killer doesn’t mean it works! Overall, this is one of the most disappointing books I have ever read and I would not recommend this to anyone interested in thrillers or mysteries. At least it was short!

Happy reading ~

Sunrise by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #3

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

As soon as I finished the second novel in this series, I immediately began reading the final installment in this series. I just wanted to know how everything would end, because this is a really addictive book series. It also helps that all of the books are out and I know I don’t have to wait to read the next one.

The Yellowstone supervolcano had devastating effects on people everywhere. Now, after a year, the survivors are barely able to live. Communities are waging wars against each other, there are gangs of cannibals, and every force of authority has collapsed.  Only sickness, cold, and starvation remain. When it becomes clear that home is no longer safe and the adults are not coping with the harsh reality of this new world, Alex and Darla must forge a new community that can survive this disaster. If they fail, it could spell the end for the remaining survivors, their loved ones – and themselves.

This last novel redeemed the previous book and made me love the series all over again. It was well-written, well-paced, and well thought out. It was just done so well! Everything that I consider as marks of a good book were in this novel: there was great character development, a good writing style, a perfect balance of adventure and romance and suspense, and just an overall strong plot. I loved how kickass Darla was, I loved that Alex became a strong leader and developed skills of his own, I loved the various characters that were introduced and developed in this story. Every conflict that was introduced was an interesting one that raised a powerful issue, and it was dealt with effectively by the characters. While this novel may not have been as action-packed as its predecessors, it was still interesting and riveting. All in all, this was a series well worth reading, and I’m glad that this last book did not disappoint! If you are looking for a unique dystopian novel, then definitely consider giving this one a shot!

Happy reading ~

Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #2

After reading Ashfall, the first book in this unique dystopian series, I found myself eager to discover what would happen next in the lives of Darla and Alex. It took me some time to get to this next book, but once I got into the story, I finished the book in mere hours. So here is my review:

6 months after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, Alex and Darla are staying with Alex’s relatives on the farm. It’s also been 6 months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Enough time has gone by that Alex and Darla decide to venture on their own to find Alex’s parents and bring them to safety. But the landscape has changed since their last foray; things are more vicious, and settlements are more prone to violence as food becomes scarce.  As Alex and Darla try to survive, they begin to wonder if they will ever make it back at all.

Just like Ashfall, this novel is packed with adventure. There is not a boring minute in this story and I was racing through the pages as Alex and Darla find themselves in one dangerous situation after another. Like seriously. They go through a lot. To the point where I found myself overwhelmed by how terrible their journey was. While having a lot of action can be a good thing, it served to make me feel exhausted in this case. There was just a bit too much of it. I don’t need to have my main characters constantly getting in terrible situations; it’s okay for them to get a break or have some luck!

I also found that each chapter ended in a cliffhanger. I found that to be a bit irritating after a while. The story itself has so much going on for it, and I just want to get to the parts, without having this cliffhanger effect on every single chapter.

The last thing that I didn’t really like was Alex’s character. He is just a bit too good. He doesn’t want to do anything that is violent or terrible, and he has this righteous judgemental vibe going on that really bothers me. He just doesn’t seem to have adapted to the situation. It made me really not like him. Another thing I found weird was the steadiness and maturity of the relationship between Darla and Alex. And when I say weird, I don’t mean it as a bad thing, just as an unusual thing. Darla and Alex are both teenagers but their love for each other is portrayed as being very deep and very romantic and meaningful. I don’t know any teenagers who are capable of having such a strong and mature relationship with someone, but I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that they have just gone through a disaster.

While this novel had its high points, I didn’t like it as much as its predecessor. There was an overwhelming amount of action, and not enough character development for my taste. The story itself and the writing was still very good, so I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

Happy reading ~

Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

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

On the cusp of a pending promotion, Hannah Monroe eagerly rushes home to tell her boyfriend, Matt, the good news – only to discover that he is gone. Every item of his, every call she ever made to him, every text message she ever sent to him, every photo has vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened. As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, she knows that she has to find him. But as soon as she begins to search for him, she realizes that someone else is watching her.

Alright … where do I start with this novel? Let me begin by saying that I did not enjoy this thriller for various different reasons:

  1. The first half of the story was boring. Hannah keeps crying and calling and making stupid mistakes. She is also fixated on Matt to the point where I felt embarrassed of her and for her. Her work starts to suffer, her friends become impatient with her, and she just can’t seem to do anything but mope around and call the same number over and over again in the hopes that things are going to change.
  2. Weird things begin to happen to her and she does nothing at all about it. She just assumes it is Matt. Okay, fine, keep that assumption, but why don’t you get some video cameras placed so you can find out if it really is him? Why do you do nothing to find out how someone is getting in and out of your house and spying on you? Her lack of thinking just made me shake my head.
  3. The twist … it was awkward. What does that mean? It means that it took my by surprise but it was not done well. It was a sloppy twist that came out of nowhere and made no sense. Nothing from the first half of the story was indicative of this twist, and the rest of the story seemed to try to explain the twist ….  which was also done unsuccessfully. It could have been done better.
  4. The random stuff with her parents. I get that the author was trying to explain some of the psychological impact that they may have had on Hannah but it didn’t work because it seemed to have just been thrown in there and not been fully developed.
  5. The characters sucked. I hated all of them. They were not believable and they were just so unlikeable.

Overall, this novel failed for me on a lot of levels. It had bad character development, a sloppy explanation for the events, sloppy events in general, and a very awkwardly-placed, underdeveloped twist. I read it because I felt I had to but not because I enjoyed it.

Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick

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

After a stressful week at university, all I really wanted to do was curl up with a nice thriller. I had already read something that was light-hearted so I felt ready for some of the darker stuff. This novel, which was already on my TBR list, seemed like the perfect place to start!

Lorna Bell is just a little girl but she is already considered a nasty piece of work at school. It doesn’t help that she comes from a low-income family and is always looking dirty. She has no friends at school, and is given little attention at home. All of this makes school teacher Claire Penny want to reach out and help Lorna, offer her a little more support and love. As the bond between Lorna and Miss Penny grows, it becomes obvious to Claire that Lorna is not living in safe conditions. As the bruises grow, Claire digs and uncovers a disturbing story behind them. When everyone refuses to believe her, Claire takes it upon herself to ensure that Lorna is safe. But just when Claire thinks everything will be alright, a chance encounter brings a stranger named Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne is energetic, sweet, and kind, but there is something about her that just doesn’t add up. Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what will save Claire from the truth?

I’ll be honest, there is no real twist or mystery. The plot is quite clear from the get-go and only becomes more obvious as the story progresses. Still, this was an interesting story. The first half of the novel focuses on Claire and Lorna, and how victimized Lorna is at her house. In this section, the author really focused on a key issue of society: how to protect children. The author took the time to show how hard it is to get authorities to verify concerns about child abuse, and how reluctant people are when it comes to whistle-blowing. It struck a chord with me because I’ve heard numerous cases where people noticed something amiss but did nothing until too late; it made me sympathize and understand the desperation that Claire felt during this point in the novel. I won’t lie, it dragged on a bit and the author was quite heavy-handed with some of the hints, but the plot was still interesting enough for me to want to continue. In the second half of the novel, we delve deeper into the relationship between Claire and Lorna, and see how the entrance of Marianne disrupts it. This is when things really start to heat up, and I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages. I mean, I knew the general flow that the story was going to take but it was still compelling to read! The final chapters showed that the main characters got what they deserved … but compared to the rush that preceded it, the finale was a bit lackluster. The author also leaves the ending open, and I really didn’t like the implications of it. It made me stop liking Claire’s character, who I had sympathized and pitied for the most part. My final thoughts on this novel is that the author wrote an interesting thriller that deals with protecting a child but there wasn’t really a twist involved in this novel. It was not the best in the genre but it was certainly not the worst.

Happy reading ~

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes #2

It has taken me a while to get to this book. Mostly because I really enjoyed the first novel and I was apprehensive as to whether I would like the second book. There’s this thing I like to refer to as “Second-Book Syndrome”; the second book in a series sucks in comparison to the first. I was worried that that would happen and so, I hesitated. But I finally got to reading it, so here is my review:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt them as they flee Serra and go on a dangerous journey through the heart of the Empire. Laia is determined to free her brother from Kauf, the most secure prison in the empire. And Elias is determined to help Laia, even if it means he loses his freedom. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

So…. this novel didn’t meet my expectations. I don’t know, maybe I set them too high? I really really liked the first novel, with its interesting Ancient Rome aspects and the dual storyline with Elias and Laia. In this one, however, the story plot was lacking. The story continued to be told in multiple perspectives but it started to get repetitive when it came to Laia and Elias because they were both together and going through the same thing. I really hated the fact that Elias had to go through so many issues in the novel; he literally never got a break. And Laia was super selfish. There was a love triangle and it made me feel really annoyed and upset, especially because it made the real “love” seem so fake. I really liked seeing Helen have her own perspective, because she was a character I had always been interested in and she was going through her own issues. Overall, the story was fast-paced but seemed to sacrifice on plot and character development because of this. I was quite disappointed with this novel and am probably going to have to give the rest of this series a pass.

Happy reading ~

Pretty Fierce by Kieran Scott

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

I love my badass heroines. So when I read the premise and saw that this novel was about a girl whose parents are assassins, and that she is on the run, I fell in love.

As the daughter of professional assassins, Kaia has faced her share of danger and will do anything to survive. After her parents vanish, Kaia spends a year in hiding, looking for her parents before finally realizing they must be dead. She tries to forget her past and blend in as a normal teenager. And the one person who makes her feel sane and normal is her boyfriend, Oliver. But when a hit man jumps her, and Oliver sees her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is revealed. In a split-second decision, she leaves everything behind and takes Oliver with her. With professional killers out for blood, can Oliver and Kaia protect each other long enough to discover the truth?

I really wanted to like this novel. The beginning of this story was full of excitement and I got a rush from reading about their hasty flight out of town. This story was told from the perspective of both Oliver and Kaia, which I thought was a nice touch; we get to see what the assassins’ daughter feels and the civilian. However, the longer I kept reading, the more incredulous I found the whole thing. There are so many things that happen to them, so many weird connections made, and things just didn’t add up. At various points in the story, I had to put the book down and just try to move past all of the inconsistencies. While there was definitely tons of action, I felt no connection with the characters, and just couldn’t get into this absurd plot. For me, this novel did not live up to expectations.

Happy reading ~

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicle #1

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got this novel. It seemed interesting enough with its amazing cover art and its blurb about assassins. I love all things dark and anti-heroes are my favorite, especially when they’ve got a pretty kick-ass revenge plot. I was quite excited to read this novel … and it shows because I stayed up until 4am in the morning to finish this book, and I forgot to eat lunch and dinner!

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Mia Corvere barely escaped her father’s failed rebellion with her life. With him executed as a traitor, her mother is sent to a prison with her younger brother, and Mia was sent to her death. She manages to escape and finds herself alone and friendless in a city built from the bones of a dead god. But she finds solace at the doors of a retired killer, who leads her to a future she could never have imagined. Now, Mia is sent to train with the deadliest group of assassins in the entire Republic: the Red Church. If she can beat her classmates in the areas of steel, poison, and the subtle arts, she will be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder – and one step closer to the revenge she seeks. But with a killer loose within the church, Mia may not even survive to initiation.

I find that the more I love a book, the worse I am at articulating what it is I like about the novel. I’m going to try my best to overcome that here.

This is not a novel that is light-hearted. You are reading a story about assassins and as such, this novel is grim and dark and full of complexity. Every person is a cold-blooded killer and you really cannot trust anyone. On top of that, there is a murder plot going on that becomes quite important as the story goes on. What I loved about this story was that it kept its theme throughout; the same intensity and darkness were maintained and the novel was engaging to read. I loved that the characters themselves were so dark and broken and messed-up – it made for such interesting characters. The author did a great job with creating the anti-hero and showing her growth. The story flits between her past and present in such a way that I felt like I knew her and also felt like she was an enigma all at the same time. Every character introduced has a purpose – but whether they are good or bad remains to be seen. This novel was a rollercoaster ride and it was one of the best rollercoasters I have ever been on!

I am not a fan of lengthy descriptions and overusage of metaphors and similes. But it worked for this novel. The first chapter that I encountered was written in alternating paragraph form, depicting 2 distinctly different scenes in a similar manner. It hooked me. It was such a unique and interesting way to write and as soon as I read it, I had to reread it again to make sure of what I had just read. It was one of those woah-epiphany moments for me, and after that, I was captivated by the writing style employed in this novel. I loved that there were footnotes included that gave little funny tidbits from an unknown sarcastic narrator. I enjoyed having glimpses between the past and the present, and the way the author wrote made it a mystery as to who is actually on Mia’s side and who is a potential threat.

Overall, I found this book spellbinding from the start, with its unique (and humorous) prose, its sinister plot, and its amazing characters. I am anxiously waiting to read Godsgrave, the next novel in this series!

Happy reading ~