Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint AnythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am new to Sarah Dessen but I really enjoyed this novel. I felt it was very realistic about the lives of teenagers. The dialogue and characters felt realistic and true. I found this book to be a thoughtful exploration of family, self-discovery and friendship.

I feel like this quote really summed up some of my favorite parts of this book -
"I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn't shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That's the thing though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are."
I often felt invisible as a teenager and often struggled with the fact that I was so unnoticed and how that was good and bad at times. I felt this book really honored the feelings that a lot of teens have ... and it did a great job of showing how teens often rely on their friends when their family isn't meeting their needs.

I really liked this one and felt it was more mature than some YA that I've read. I enjoyed the reading experience. I recommend to YA fans!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was eager to read this follow up to Me Before You and it delivered about how I expected it to ... it was good but not nearly as good as Me Before You. I'm glad that I read it because I enjoyed spending time with Louisa again and seeing where things go for her.

I love the characters and this book continued to make them interesting and charming. I loved getting to see how things are for all of them and watch them grow. I also enjoyed the new characters that were introduced in this novel and found them to be good additions to the original cast of characters.

The same warmth and charm that permeated Me Before You is here in this one. And if you enjoyed the first one, definitely take the time to pick this one up. You'll be glad you got to see where Louisa goes and where she ends up. It's definitely worth the read. I think it explored loss and healing in a really effective way.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review: This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such an interesting book ... unlike most books that I've read. It was unique in many ways - the narrator, the way the story was told, how everything unfolds, etc. Harriet is a character that I don't think that I will be soon to forget! She is so fascinating and interesting. I loved how the book unfolded from the perspective of different times in her life. It gave the story and character development such depth.

I don't want to tell you much about this one because I think it was nice to come to it with no expectations or idea of what I might be reading about. I think this is a novel that anyone would enjoy as it's ultimately about universal theme of coming to terms with your life. I definitely recommend this one to everyone ... you will love spending time with Harriet Chance!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby (Jackaby, #1)Jackaby by William Ritter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How did I miss this book when it was released?? When the second in the series came out, I learned of this one and grabbed it up. And I'm so glad I did. I really loved this book!

This novel's main character is Jackaby who is like Sherlock Holmes but with supernatural abilities. And he is fantastic! Loved getting to know him and read about his work. His relationship with Abigail (a woman who comes to work for him as an assistant) is so interesting. I loved the mix of mystery, supernatural and the fact that there is NO ROMANCE. I was worried at first that it would become a romance but thank goodness it's didn't go that direction.

I can't wait to read the next in the series and get to spend more time with Jackaby and Abigail. Someone called this one a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who and I'd say that's a good description. I definitely recommend this one! I really enjoyed the entire experience of reading it!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: What Lies Between by Charlena Miller

What Lies BetweenWhat Lies Between by Charlena Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am almost always attracted to novels that take place in Scotland. I believe I heard about this particular novel from a list that someone put together for fans of Outlander. Although this is no Outlander, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. It is a contemporary fiction novel with some suspense elements.

I found this novel to be well written and the story itself interesting. I liked the characters and found their development was well done. I loved the descriptions of Scotland which felt true to my own experience of visiting. The mystery of the novel was well done and the suspense pacing was handled well. There was romance but it wasn't even remotely all about romance. I'd say it was a really interesting suspense novel with a bit of romance.

I definitely recommend this one if you enjoy contemporary novels or you enjoy novels set in Scotland.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. I think this novel tells a really sweet story that made my heart feel good. If you liked The Fault in Our Stars, you might want to check this one out. It's a teen love story that centers around an illness. The voice of the teens in this book felt very accurate and real to me. Some of the sentiment expressed about their feelings for one another felt real and true to how I felt at the same age.

I think this is a novel that adults will enjoy as much as young adults. It's not overly sweet or unrealistic as some YA can feel. I think it's just a nice story about interesting characters. It was a fairly easy read and didn't take me long to finish. I was happy to see that the main character was diverse (half black/half Japanese) which I think is something that much YA lacks. I also enjoyed the formatting of parts of the story (notes, IMs, e-mails, etc). I thought it added a whimsy to the story that was interesting.

There is a twist of sorts that I didn't see coming (in part because it felt a bit like a cop out to me). It didn't ruin the book for me but it did make me pause for a moment (and give it 4 rather than 5 stars).

All in all, I definitely recommend this one! It's a nice little story that I think many will enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

The Ice TwinsThe Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a creepy book! As a mother of twins (although not identical twins), I found this entire story fascinating. There was such a great senses of place which reinforced the creepy nature of the novel. The character development was well done as was the pacing of the story. It's interesting how Tremayne tied the various creepy aspects into one cohesive narrative. I thought it was well done. There is definitely a strong atmospheric element to the novel which made it interesting throughout.

I did have some issues with the book but they were mostly small things that didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the novel. I found it hard to believe that a parent wouldn't know which twin was which as occurred in this novel. The characters (although well developed) were not easy to like ... they were not nice people, there were few redeeming qualities in either of them for me. The ending didn't entirely work for me but not enough to ruin the overall book.

This is a particularly good suspense novel so if that's up your alley, you may want to give this one a shot! It was definitely a creepy read!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

House of EchoesHouse of Echoes by Brendan Duffy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned about this book on a Book Riot podcast where they were recommending creepy books that had a sense of foreboding. And boy does this meet that requirement! This book got under my skin and totally creeped me out (and intrigued me)! This is a great book to read at this time of year!

The basic story is about a family that moves to a big, old house near the town where his grandmother grew up. They hope to fix this house up and open an inn. But, things don't quite work out as planned and the story goes from there.

There is something going on in this town and in the woods near this home but you don't quite know what it is until the end of the novel and all of the pieces come together. This novel is great reading, completely engrossing! I didn't want to put it down! This isn't horror in a traditional sense ... it's really much more of a suspenseful novel. But, I don't think a horror label is wrong, just that it's not traditional horror.

I definitely recommend this if you're looking for really great suspense that will keep you guessing! It's a really good read!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

EileenEileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wish I'd liked this book as much as some of my bookish friends. Although I thought it was good, it didn't quite make it over to great for me.

This is a good character study ... the characters, particularly Eileen, are what makes this novel successful. Going deep into Eileen's head while reading this novel was disturbing in every possible way. The level of disturbing that I found this book to be is a testament to Otessa Moshfegh's writing. She puts you in the head of a truly despicable and difficult to take person. And she does it very, very well.

If you love psychological thrillers, this might be worth your picking up. It is certainly one of the most in depth explorations of the psychology of a sick person that I think I've read. If you aren't a fan of characters that are difficult to like, then you should definitely avoid this one. It's very disturbing and dark. It's not for everyone.

It fell short for me in two ways - I didn't think the story itself was particularly engaging, there wasn't enough there to capture my imagination and keep me interested over the scope of the novel AND I wasn't a fan of the ending. It felt stilted and a little weak.

If you enjoy books that make you uncomfortable and ask you to confront dark things, this is definitely one you want to pick up. Although it didn't quite deliver for me, I know many readers have enjoyed the psychological exploration that this one allows a reader!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

** Probably more of a 4.5 star book **

I don't normally do this but I'm going to quote another review here, one that expresses my feelings about this book more than I think I could.

Here is a review written by Kelly Jensen over at Book Riot -

"Earlier this summer, I talked about fat phobia in YA and noted that I hadn’t yet read Dumplin’ but had read a lot of positive reviews of it. It’s everything I wanted and more. This is a book where Willowdean, a fat girl who knows she’s fat and owns her body as such, but it’s a story about grief, about family, and about Dolly Parton impersonators. There is a sweet relationship that develops here, and I thought the experiences Willowdean had as a fat girl were realistic, honest, and vulnerable — a key element that so many of these books lack.

Willowdean has a real voice, and her voice isn’t 100% confident all the time. Despite being comfortable in her own skin, she has moments of absolutely feeling crushed beneath the expectations the world around her has for her and her body. And those things rang so painfully, authentically true.

We rarely get stories where the fat girl gets to be funny, have friendships, have romances, and have challenges unrelated to her body/”health” of her body. More, we rarely get them where the voice is key. And that’s because as a society, we silence fat people. We make them invisible. We make them make themselves disappear (and I say this as someone who has certainly seen the looks people give when you are climbing into an airplane seat or a bus seat and are made to shrink yourself, as to not take up space that you paid for and can fit perfectly within). So that Murphy gives Willowdean that voice? That’s powerful as hell, and teen girls who read this….FAT teen girls who read this…will see that they matter. That they are seen. That THEIR lives matter and are important and they are welcome and encouraged to take up all the space in their lives that they need to.

I only wish I could hand this book to my high school self. But I’m so glad it’s there for today’s readers."

I highly recommend this for young adults and adults alike. It's such a fantastic read. In addition, it's one of the few books about the overweight that felt true or real to me. I think there are very few books out there that tell a honest, unflinching view of obesity and how it impacts lives. Anyway, go read this one. I don't think you'll regret it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: X by Sue Grafton

X (Kinsey Millhone, #24)X by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say up front that I'm a huge fan of this series and love to see what Kinsey is up to when a new one comes out!

There were a few different 'mysteries' being explored in this book and they were all pretty fantastic. I enjoyed each of the threads. I loved revisiting some of my favorite characters from the series! It's like visiting good friends after a long break!

Now that I've read X, I'm getting sad because that means there are only 2 books left in the series ... I've so enjoyed the series! If you haven't read it, I definitely recommend it. Although they can be read as stand alone novels, I think they are much better read from the beginning as they build upon each other!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Review: Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in AmericaGhettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I highly recommend this book and think it gives the reader a really interesting perspective on being black in America as well as the impact of murder on communities. It's really good. It is certainly a powerful and moving book that gave me a great deal to think about, particularly given the current state of race in America.

I think this, along with Coates' Between the World and Me, is a critical book to read as we try to understand the impact of racism on individuals, communities and our overall culture. I hope my exploration of these themes in my reading will help me to be more aware and more diligent about learning how to help change things.

I loved how this book made the victims truly come alive, off the page. It added to the impactfulness of the narrative.

I highly recommend this one ... in fact, I think it should be required reading for Americans today. It's an important book that explores issues that are critical to what is taking place in our country today.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Black-Eyed SusansBlack-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you love a good suspense novel, you should definitely pick this one up. It's so well written - the suspense is so well done due to expert plotting and good writing! The chapters are short and keep you on the edge of your seat! It's not in any way a difficult read but it does keep you guessing! It really made me think about memory in new ways. I love how this novel came together and I'm being cagey on purpose so as to not ruin the book for you!

I highly recommend this one ... such a great read, definitely worth picking up!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Review: The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

The Fair FightThe Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard good things about this one but the description didn't exactly grab me so I didn't read it for awhile. But, now I'm kicking myself because this was such a great book! Although it's certainly historical fiction, it's so much more! It's just fantastic reading!

The story centers around two women in Victorian England - one who is born in a brothel and is making her way by boxing and one who is wealthy and has all of the status one could hope for. This story brings these two women together and they must each fight for every single thing they want ... mostly from the men in their lives.

SO SO GOOD! It's bold and realistic. It clearly tells the ins and outs of life as a woman in Victorian England. The writing is fanatic. The story itself is really great. The story is gritty, compelling and bold in so many ways.

I really can't recommend this more, especially if you like historical fiction or are interested in exploring the state of women in Victorian England. But, frankly, I think this is a book anyone could enjoy regardless of what you typically read! I definitely recommend picking this one up!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: The Girl Who Slept with God by Val Brelinski

The Girl Who Slept with GodThe Girl Who Slept with God by Val Brelinski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a compelling story about a fascinating group of people! In truth, this is a coming of age story but it's so much more. It's about identity, religiosity, finding a family of your own, science vs. religious doctrine and MORE. This novel was so much more than I expected it to be. The basic premise is that it explores the experiences of a fundamental Christian family in the 1970s. One of the daughters who is extremely devout returns from a mission trip pregnant and insists it's God's baby. This incident has an incredible impact on all of the members of this family and other members of the community. The unfolding of the story was so well handled, told in a very non-judgmental but questioning way. It felt realistic to the time period as well as the place (rural Idaho).

I was completely engrossed in this novel, didn't want to put it down as I found the struggles of this family and how each family member dealt with this fascinating and frustrating and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend this novel. It explores very timely things despite it being placed in the past. I found it compelling and thought-provoking.

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