Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie LovettThe Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
⭐⭐
Expected Publication Date: January 3, 2017


Wow! Thank God that's over! I almost gave up on this book when I was at the halfway point because it was so awful and with so many good books out there waiting to be read I had a really hard time justifying making myself suffer through one that I didn't enjoy at all. But I hate leaving any book unfinished, even a bad one, so I stuck with it and luckily the second half was slightly better but still a painful experience. This is a book that I've seen on a lot of reader's TBR shelves and I was really excited to recieve an advanced readers copy since the book doesn't actually come out until January 3rd so I'm thankful I didn't waste my money on purchasing a copy.

The title, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is a bit deceitful because the book is actually about a girl who was a couple years younger than the popular Lizzie, named Hawthorne Creely (named for the tree that she was conceived beneath). Hawthorne envied and admired Lizzie and her seemingly perfect life, hoping to be noticed and accepted by her but in reality she was just the little sister of a guy that Lizzie used to date and hardly received a second glance. After graduating high school and moving on with her life Lizzie goes missing when on a camping trip with her boyfriend and Hawthorn becomes somewhat obsessed with her disappearance, determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her. This is where the book loses me and I don't want to give anything away but I will say that Hawthorn's theory is that Lizzie turned into a werewolf and is gallivanting in the woods somewhere, howling at the moon and what not. Seriously? And let me be clear by saying this isn't a ya fantasy where something like that is expected and accepted, it's actually a ya contemporary, so I found it impossible to take seriously from that point on. There were other specific issues I had with this novel but I can't get into those while keeping this review spoiler free but I will say that I didn't enjoy the storyline, it was an incredibly weak plot, the characters were flat and uninteresting and the novel as a whole was really poorly executed and seemed like it had just been thrown together in a hurry, in my humble opinion anyway. I was really disappointed with this book, I didn't enjoy anything about it and I really regret wasting my time by picking it up. Maybe it would appeal to a younger audience although I doubt it and I can't in good faith recommend this book to anyone.

I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Woman No. 17Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Expected Publication Date: May 9, 2017

I was very intrigued by the title, cover and the synopsis of Woman No. 17 and it turned out to be a very unique, interesting and well written book describing the complex dynamics of, and the emotions surrounding, the relationships of a woman. I've been very lucky in that a majority of the books I've read lately, particularly ARC's, have been exceptional and most have received 4 or 5 star ratings from me personally, and excellent reviews in general, well this book was no exception. I'll admit that it was a little slow getting started and I really wasn't expecting what I got, partly because I had seen this book classified in the "mystery" genre which I don't think is accurate, but once I started to get to know the characters I quickly became very interested and invested in their stories.

This story gravitates around the lives of two women, Lady Daniels and Esther "S" Shapiro, and the chapters alternate between each of them. The book begins when S becomes employed by Lady as a live in nanny to care for her two year old son and the two woman strike up a friendship and it turns out they both share a common appreciation, and talent, for art. I really loved the way art was incorporated into this story and I was really able to see into the mind of the artist and understand what a particular piece represented and how it connected to the life of the artist on a very personal level.

There is just so much more to this book than I can reveal in a simple review and I know I wouldn't do it justice if I tried, but it's really well written, very personal and raw and honest and was clearly written from a females perspective and Lepucki did a wonderful, beautiful job capturing the emotions and insecurities that women experience. I highly recommend this book to any woman out there who is looking to read a very well written, interesting book with a lot of depth and a lot of insight into the different relationships that women have. This was easily a 5 star book and Edan Lepucki is a talent to be watched!

I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I also received a physical ARC from a Goodreads giveaway.

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Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas (McDonald)

Dangerous GirlsDangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication Date: July 16, 2013

I've been meaning to read this book for some time now. It was originally published in 2013 so it has been out for a while but recently I've seen several reviews of it on booktube and they were really intriguing so I actually went to my local library, signed out a copy, and read it in less than 24 hours. I was really impressed with everything about this story and frankly I'm kind of surprised there hasn't been more hype around it because I thought it was just that good. I want to be very careful to not say to much to risk spoiling this reading experience for anyone because although I watched a "spoiler free" review of Dangerous GirlsI think in a way I had an idea of what to expect because of what was said in the review and that took away from my reading experience so I will recommend going into this book knowing as little as possible and just see where it takes you and enjoy the ride!

I will say that although this is considered a YA novel, and the characters in this book are mainly teenagers, it's not one of those PG rated YA books with the squeaky clean Pollyanna types, because honestly, nothing annoys me more then when that happens. On the contrary, these teens were realistic and believable, they drank, partied, had sex, went on spring break in Aruba without parents present - all things that I would expect out of seniors in high school, relatable to my own high school experience and I appreciate that. Haas doesn't sugarcoat and she really captures the dynamics of the relationships and emotions that teens experience when discovering their independence and coming into adulthood (minus finding their BFF stabbed to death, of course).

Along with the authenticity of the characters, I also appreciated the way the story was set up, it's all told from Anna's point of view but it jumps all over the place to different points in time to really give a well rounded account of her perspective and I don't think I've ever read a book that is told in such a way but I think the execution was both brilliant and beautiful. This book is pretty thick but it was a really fast read, the story line kept me guessing and needing to know more and more so I couldn't put it down and overall I just really enjoyed reading this book and I highly recommend it! There is another book by Abigail Haas called Dangerous Boys but from what I understand the two books don't go together although I believe that the style of writing is similar in both- but don't quote me on that. Either way I'm very impressed with Dangerous Girls and look forward to reading Dangerous Boys very soon.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

Falling UpFalling Up by Shel Silverstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication Date: January 1, 1996

Here's a fun little blast from the past!
Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite authors as a child, he introduced me to poetry and certainly helped significantly in nourishing my love of books and reading. I will always hold fond memories of all of his books very near and dear to my heart and Falling Up is certainly no exception. I was in sixth grade when this book was published and I think it was the last book by Silverstein that I acquired but certainly not the least. After reading through this book again as an adult it brought back so many memories and emotions of my childhood and tween years, with such nostalgia, and I found I could still recite some of his poetry by heart because they were so ingrained upon me. Not only is the writing, in and of itself, fantastic, the illustrations are also absolutely wonderful and provide an excellent visual aid for a developing imagination.

This is just such a wonderful book for children of any age as well as a book that parents can enjoy while reading with their little ones. I think that Falling Up, as well as any publication by Shel Silverstein, is an essential addition to every child's library. It's a timeless classic that they will love and cherish well into adulthood and one day read with their own children, and grandchildren, for years to come.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

The Lauras by Sara Taylor


The LaurasThe Lauras by Sara Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication date: August 4, 2016


I'm a little bit conflicted on how to rate and review The Lauras because, for one thing, I think it's a bit better than a four star rating although not quite a four, if that makes any sense at all, so I guess the right thing to do would be to round up and give it four stars since half a star isn't an option. I really did enjoy this book quite a bit and again, this was a book that I went into without any knowledge of what it was about, if it had received positive ratings and reviews, and I'd never before read anything by this author- all though, I have heard really great things on Goodreads about the debut novel by Sara Taylor, The Shore so I definitely plan to read that one soon. This was a good book, it held my attention, was well written, I enjoyed the storyline and the characters and it was a quick- less than 24 hr - read, however, I did have a couple issues with this book and was left with unanswered questions upon finishing it and nothing frustrates me more than a stand alone book that leaves me confused and/or hanging. I'll get to that shortly, in this review, but first let me give you a brief summary...
The Lauras was about a teenage named Alex whose free spirited Mother takes off in the middle of the night from their family home, leaving her husband and brings Alex along for an extensive road trip around the country. During the trip Alex's mother reveals details about herself and her past and tells the stories of The Laura's" dear friends that she met throughout different points in her childhood and teenage years, all sharing the same name and leaving a major impact. This novel describes the troubles and triumphs of their journey both for Alex as and individual and the relationship between mother and child. It's definitely a coming of age type of novel that illustrates gaining strength from ones struggles and embracing individuality while being true to oneself in the face of diversity. It had a great message and it was raw, unapologetic and realistic to life in this day and age and it touched on issues with parenting, relationships and sexuality that most authors don't go near so I really enjoyed and appreciated that. It's difficult to say a lot more about this book, or express my complaints and questions about the storyline, without including spoilers in this review, something i usually don't do however, in this case I'm going to make an exception so if you haven't read this book yet than stop reading this review now!

**Spoiler Alert**
One issue I had was that I was continuously trying to figure out if Alex, the main character, was a teenage boy or girl. I assumed because of the way he/she was describing his/her fascination with masturbation that they had to be a male...but I couldn't be sure. Then later on in the book it addressed the issue head on, after dancing around it before, and Alex stated that he/she didn't identify with either gender. Whatever that means. Now I'm an open minded person and I can accept anyone. I'm familiar with plenty of members of the LGBT community but I've never met anyone who doesn't identify with either so this book was a little frustrating to me because regardless of what Alex identifies with and what pronoun Alex uses, Alex was born with anatomy of one gender and I wish the book had at least described which that was. I get that the whole point the author was trying to make was not labeling Alex as either gender, or as both, but I wasn't a big fan of that approach, only because it left me wondering and I never received any answers which is always frustrating for me. The second thing that confused me about this novel was which Laura, from her childhood, did Alex's mother go move in with in the end....or, were all the Laura's she spoke of actually only one girl? I remember when Alex asked his/her mother this very question, which one of the Laura's was it and the mothers response was "if you've been listening you should already know"...well I was listening so maybe it just went right over my head but I didn't catch the answer to that one. If anyone out there knows...please reply in my comments and enlighten me...I'm literally losing sleep!  

So anyway, aside from those two issues I really enjoyed this book a lot and I highly recommend it. It would have easily been a four or five star rating were it not for those two minor complaints but I still think the book deserves 3.5 and since that's not an option I'll give four by default. It was a really interesting story with captivating characters and a unique plot.

I received a copy of this publication from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

Lola Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Expected Publication Date: March 21, 2017


I just finished reading Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love and it wasn't a book or an author that I was at all familiar with so I basically had no preconceived expectations for this book and honestly, I think I prefer it that way because I really get to read a book with an open mind and form my own opinions when there are no outside influences to factor in. I basically was just drawn to the cover, read the synopsis and found that to be intriguing and decided to give this book ago. I guess it's not surprising that I hadn't heard of this book or author considering the book doesn't officially come out until March and this is Love's debut novel. I'm always excited to read an author's first time publication, especially if it turns out to be enjoyable (obviously!) and this particular book didn't disappoint.

This was completely unlike anything else I've read in a very long time in terms of characters and setting and plot. Although, several years back I went through a phase where I read a lot of, what my friends and I referred to as, "hood books", although I'm sure there's a more pc term for them...urban fiction perhaps? Books like The Cartel(series) and The Prada Plan by Ashley Antoinette and JaQuavis Coleman where the characters are usually African American or Hispanic and usually involved in a profession that is not widely accepted by society (not to mention illegal) like selling drugs, gang banging, Pimpin' hoes, to name a few. These books always take place in inner city, high crime areas and often the main characters will start out in the ghetto and work their way up to a very lucrative, albeit illegal, career affording them fancy homes and fast cars in gated communities, or the end up dead or in jail. Very predictable outcome but I found them entertaining, almost like a soap opera would be where you don't take it seriously, you don't admit to enjoying it but sometimes when no ones looking you can't help but indulge in the guilty (shameful) pleasure. They were also very quick, easy reads and I could read one from cover to cover in one setting and again, we're not talking about intellectually stimulating literature by any stretch, just trashy, fun entertainment. I found that Lola reminded me a lot of those types of books although it was on a much higher literary level, much better written with much more depth and overall content then the typical "hood book" but the tone and the theme along with the characters and the setting was very urban and very street.

Lola is about a 20 something Hispanic woman, born and raised in South Central Las Angeles who learned from a very young age how to fend for, and protect, herself. Her mother is a heroin addict who would pimp Lola out to drug dealers for a fix and as a teenager Lola caught her mother offering her seven year old brother, Hector, heroin to try for himself. That was the last straw for Lola and she moved herself, and Hector, in with her gangster boyfriend who is the leader of a local street gang that called themselves "The Crenshaw 6". It doesn't take long before Lola earns the respect of the gang members and eventually they come to accept her as their leader although, as far as anyone else knows that title belongs to her boyfriend because as a woman she doesn't have the street credibility or the respect that she would have were she a man.

As the story progresses The Crenshaw 6 and Lola find themselves in conflict with rival gangs, law enforcement, a district attorney, a white drug dealer, and their own family members to name only a few, so there isn't a lack of difficult decisions that could easily mean the death of Lola or those closest to her if she makes the wrong choice of an ally vs. adversary. There is also a five year old girl, Lucy, who is introduced into Lola's life when she runs away from home because she was being abused by her drug addicted mother's boyfriend so Lola takes her in. I loved reading about her relationship with Lola and I think she added a cute dynamic to the story and brought out the softer side of Lola. As did Valentine, the pit bull she rescued from a dog fighting situation and now treats her just like she's Lola's own child which absolutely makes me melt! I am the biggest softie ever for animals, especially dogs, so I loved reading about Lola's and little Lucy's interactions with Valentine.

I think this book stayed very true to its setting and characters and Love did a great job painting a realistic picture of a lifestyle that is so foreign to me while making it believable and in the same time empowering the lead female character who was stuck in a man's world with all its limitations but still found away to overcome the odds and be the head bitch in charge! I loved the way Lola lived what society would call a "bad" life doing "bad" things (like murder and selling drugs) but I was still able to perceive her as a morally good person who was a product of her environment trying to do the best she could with the hand she'd been and never once did she complain or appear to feel sorry for herself. I found Lola to be a very strong, likable character and I enjoyed reading about her struggles and triumphs and gained a great deal of appreciation for her courage and strength. I can't imagine what it would be like to be born into a life predisposed to so many awful things with so much stacked against you at no fault of your own but that was the reality that Love illustrates throughout this novel and, considering the circumstances, I think Lola was pretty remarkable despite her flaws and imperfections. I'll be looking forward to reading more work by Melissa Scrivner Love in the future. I'm rating Lola with four out of five stars and this is a book I would definitely recommend to anyone.

I received an advanced reading copy of "Lola" from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

The Origins of Benjamin Hackett

The Origins of Benjamin Hackett The Origins of Benjamin Hackett by Gerald M. O'Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐
Expected Publication Date: February 6, 2017

I just finished reading The Origins of Benjamin Hackett and for such a short book it took me a surprisingly long time to read (almost 4 days!). I just couldn't fully immerse myself into this novel and I found my mind was continuously wandering while I was reading this book so I'd have to go back and reread multiple parts because I just wasn't retaining it the first time which doesn't make for an enjoyable reading experience. I like to be completely captivated by, and fully engaged in, the novels that I read and this one just didn't do it for me, it was almost painfully boring in some parts and so unbelievable and unrealistic in others that it was a struggle for me to finish.

I have to admit that I went into reading this book completely blind with no expectations because I have never heard of this book previously, nor have I ever read any other works by its author, Gerald M. O'Connor, so at least I wasn't incredibly disappointed as far as that goes. The book begins with a young man, Benjamin Hackett, turning 18 years old and finding out, from the couple who he has always thought of as his parents, that he was, in fact, adopted. Let's just say that he doesn't take the news well and has no details about his biological parents so, along with the help of his best mate "JJ", he embarks on a mission to discover the history of his origins (hence the title) with every intention of greeting his biological parents with a punch in the face. The book follows Benjamin in this quest, a coming of age story, if you will but I found a lot of the scenarios he and JJ find themselves in, and some of the characters they encounter along the way, to be completely far fetched and unrealistic to the point where it was almost insulting to the intelligence of the reader and I couldn't take the book seriously as a result.

This book takes place in Ireland, mainly in the city of Cork, and much of the language throughout the novel reflects that, which I actually enjoyed very much. I've always been a big fan of reading British books and picking up on words or phrases they use that differ from those of Americans and this book had several examples of just that, including: the use of "tinnies" which refers to cans of beer, "box" meaning a television, "torch" for flashlight, and "holdall" was the word used to describe a backpack. Luckily I read this book on my Kindle so whenever one of these questionable words was used I was able to look up the definition immediately, a tool I utilized quite a few times while reading this book.

Having said that I have to be honest in that this was definitely not one of my favorites to say the least and with so many excellent books out there waiting to be read I'm quite disappointed that I wasted my time on this not-so-good one and I can't, in good faith, recommend this to anyone else. I'm giving it three stars because it wasn't horrible, the writing wasn't bad but the storyline was just so unbelievable and the characters were really unremarkable and they didn't leave an impression on me one way or the other. If I had to use one word to describe my feelings towards The Origins of Benjamin Hackett it would be "indifferent".

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Nix

The Nix The Nix by Nathan Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐
Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Wow! That was a long one. Honestly, I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to end. I listened to the Audio version on Audible and, I mean, it wasn't a bad book but 22 hours of narrative is almost a full day of my life and if I'm going to invest a day of my life, that I'll never get back, listening to a book than it had better be great. I wouldn't classify this one in the category of greatness. It wasn't awful but it was so long, with so many moving parts and characters to keep track of and overall I liked the general plot but I feel it could have been achieved in about half the book. The characters were great, I loved the college girl, Laura, and I loved hearing about Samuel's childhood with Bishop and Bethany and how those relationships played out and affected Samuel as an adult and the whole unfolding of his mothers story was brilliant but there was a lot of in between chatter that I could have done without.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Puppy Steps...by Rebecca Ashbook Carrell

Puppy Steps: Practical Training for Your New Best FriendPuppy Steps: Practical Training for Your New Best Friend by Rebecca Ashbook Carrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication Date: August 1, 2016

This was a practical, informative book, especially for first time novice dog owners who recently introduced a new puppy into their family. My own "puppies", my two Chihuahuas named Kobe and Lilly, are one and a half and three years old so a lot of the teachings suggested in this book have already been implemented into their daily lives such as sit, lay, speak, roll over and basic manners and going to the bathroom outside, however, there is always room for improvement so I read this book in order to find tips on how to improve their overall well being, manners (especially around new dogs) and to focus on a few basic commands that they don't know or need to improve.

In general I found this book to be very informative and helpful and I agree wholeheartedly with the positive reinforcement approach which encourages teaching your dog by focusing on, and rewarding, positive behaviors while ignoring the negative. There's nothing I find more upsetting or disagreeable than to be at the dog park and see someone yelling at, or physically reprimanding, their dog. I know my little Chihuahuas are the sweetest little things and they would do anything to please me so if they aren't understanding a command then the fault is in my delivery and the last thing I would ever do is raise my voice and get angry or upset with them and I was happy to read that the author shared that view, as would any professional who works with k9's. This book referred to it as "positive-only training, opposed to negative training which can create a dog with lower confidence. All of the basic commands and desired behaviors were covered in this book, anything I could think of that would apply to my dog and they were organized by chapters and paragraphs that included clear, detailed, step by step instructions and real life examples and scenarios of when and how to implement the teachings. It also includes a lot of cartoon illustrations which I wasn't really a big fan of. It was nice to have a picture to reference but I wish they had been actual photographs of real dogs.
As a whole this little book contained A LOT of information and I've only begun working on a few basic things with my dogs, specifically my younger dog who really needs improvement with "stay", "heel" and "come" and with the help of this book I've noticed he's progressing nicely. This is a book that I will keep and reference throughout my dogs lives and although the title is specific to puppies I think it's a handy tool for the owner of dogs of all ages to have.

I received a copy of this publication from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

The Girl BeforeThe Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Expected Publication Date: January 24, 2017

I just finished reading this and overall I was very impressed. I'm also excited to learn there will be a movie adaptation coming out, directed by Ron Howard, which is impressive in its own right especially considering the book won't be officially released until next month so apparently someone has faith in its success and I don't disagree.
The Girl Before was a fast-paced, psychological, thriller that alternates point of view and narration between Jane Cavendish, in present tense, and Emma Matthews, a previous resident of the house Jane is now renting who died tragically at the residence under suspicious circumstances. Both women find common ground at One Folegate Street, an architectural wonder, designed, owned and dictated by Edward Monkford but aside from that and their striking physical resemblance the two women have little in common. Emma is deceitful and manipulative and dishonest to the core, where Jane is good hearted and well meaning, trying to recover from a recent still birth and uncover the history of the home she now lives in and the mysterious deaths of several of its former inhabitants. The home itself comes with many rules and regulations that the renter must agree to and follow under strict supervision of Edward Monkford. In a way this reminds me loosely of Fifty Shades of Grey even though I didn't like the Fifty Shades Trilogy at all and I thorough enjoyed The Girl Before, however there were definitely similarities. The dynamic between Edward and the women in his life for one, his narcissistic personality, his obsessive compulsive tendencies and need for absolute control, to name a few.

I really liked the contrast between Jane and Emma. J.P. Delaney did a great job creating realistic, three dimensional characters and I found it was easy to become invested in them because they were so real, despite their character flaws.

This was an ending that I didn't see coming, in more than one way actually, and that's something that I considered absolutely necessary in a good thriller. I will say that I found myself a bit disappointed at the very end. [**spoiler alert** I don't want to say too much but I personally wasn't pleased with the choice Jane made at the very end. Perhaps it was the noble thing to do, however, if Edward had given me the same choice if I were in Jane's shoes I am quite confident I would have gone in the opposite direction then Jane went and I was hoping she'd do the same. I don't want to give to much away so I'll leave it at that.

I read a lot of books from this genre and I can honestly say this one can hold its own amongst the vast competition out there and I'd definitely recommend it and look forward to seeing the movie version when it comes out.

 I received an advanced reading copy of The Girl Before from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


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Spring 2016 Debut Fiction Sampler by Bill Beverly

Spring 2016 Debut Fiction SamplerSpring 2016 Debut Fiction Sampler by Bill Beverly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication Date: February 17, 2016

This is a difficult publication to review...obviously it's not my typical fiction read but I wanted to include it on my blog all the same because it's a wonderful little reference for readers out there, one that I've grown very fond of and slightly dependent upon. I received this little gem courtesy of Netgalley, and rely on it to gain insight and ideas for what to add to my "to read" shelf and in deciding what to read next. It's made up of a group of different books that were recently released and includes the first couple chapters of each. It's a great way to learn of new releases and get an idea of weather or not a book is going to be enjoyable before purchasing the entire novel. The only problem is when a book starts off so intriguing that I'm frustrated that I don't have the entire publication to enjoy! But I suppose that's a good problem to have.

I received a copy of this publication from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About KevinWe Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: 2003

This book has been out for a long time...it first published in 2003...and I've been meaning to read it for some time and just recently got around to it. I really loved this book although I do question how realistic it actually is...can children really be born evil to the core, as I believe Kevin was in this novel? I'm not completely sure of the answer to that but this book certainly addresses the age old question of nature vs. nurture and leaves me wondering how much responsibility, and blame, if any, should be placed upon parents when their child does something horribly wrong like massacring his classmates. I suppose the answer to that differs from case to case but in the example of Kevin, I don't believe that his mother, Eva, was in any way at fault or responsible for the actions of her son and like I said- the boy was basically the devils spawn and evil through and through. Shriever did a great job with the character development in this book, particularly with Kevin, because I can honestly say I absolutely hated him from the time he was only a toddler and I found myself extremely satisfied when Eva threw 6 year old Kevin across the room after he intentionally shit his pants for the third time in an hour. That must make me sound horrible to those who haven't read this book, wishing harm upon a 6 year old, but he was such a calculated, manipulating, vindictive, mean spirited little twit that I couldn't help myself. And was he ever smart! The way he took the divide and conquer approach on his parents, outsmarting his father and playing him like a fiddle while his mother, who saw him for the monster he really was, was made to look like a heartless, unstable, crazy person because of it! As Kevin grew older and the little girl, Celia, was born and victimized by him I grew to hate him even more. Why Eva didn't take that sweet, kind, innocent little girl and run as fast and as far as she could from her evil son, who continued you grow progressively worse with age, is a mystery to me. I was appalled that she still continued to visit her son after he was incarcerated. If he had killed only his classmates (not to minimize the severity of that tragedy one bit) that would be one thing, but the fact that he killed his father and sister, Eva's husband and daughter, seems absolutely unforgivable for any parent, ever! Not to mention he didn't have one single iota of remorse for anything he'd done and continued to bask in the glory of his fame, comparing himself to other teenage killers and gloating about it when Eva visited him. The fact that she was ultimately willing to forgive him and had a room in her home ready and waiting for him to move into after he was released from his slap-on-the-wrist seven year sentence made me sick to my stomach. It was far from the ending I would have concocted for Kevin had I been the author. I found the need to remind myself quite often while reading this book that it's just a story, this didn't really happen, Kevin doesn't exist, and there's no point getting upset and angry over a fictional character, lol! That's one reason why I love this book so much, because it is very convincing and able to evoke such strong emotions, what more could anyone ask of a book? Directly after I finished the book I watched the movie adaptation on Netflix and that was extremely disappointing. There was so much left out of the movie that I feel sorry for those who didn't read the book and only watched the movie because so much would have been missed, overlooked and unexplained, like reading cliff notes instead of an entire novel. I guess the general message was still there but it was so much more powerful, with much better delivery, in print format, imo. Again, I struggle to think of this book as realistic because it's truly scary to think some children are just born rotten to the core but it's certainly a great form of birth control because I would rather remain abstinent then risk bringing a child like Kevin into this world.
I gave this book an easy five star rating because although I didn't agree with the way Eva continued to support her son and even forgive him, ultimately, this was undeniably a thought provoking and emotion evoking novel that was well written and extremely compelling. I highly recommend it!

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White Fur by Jardine Libaire

White FurWhite Fur by Jardine Libaire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Expected Publication Date: May 30, 2016


I just finished White Fur now, at 4am, so I'm trying to process my thoughts and feelings so I can give an accurate review. Wow, what a good book! I have to admit this wasn't what I expected. I was really looking forward to an ARC of this title because there's been a bit of buzz about it lately and what I've read, mostly the reviews of others, has intrigued me very much. However, once I obtained a copy and began reading it myself, my initial impression was that I wasn't going to like it. I think the first half of the book really dragged slowly for me but in hindsight it might have been necessary to really give the characters depth and dimension, and the second half picked right up and it was one thing right after another until the end.

White Fur is a Romeo and Juliet type of story where two young adults from different worlds are brought together by fate and circumstances and are basically forced to go to war with the world in order to defend their relationship. It was really a touching and beautiful story, very well written, and honest and heartbreaking. It really makes you recognize the vast divide between social classes, keeping segregation alive and well when children are taught from a young age that they are either better than, or less than, building the foundation of their image and ideas about themselves and others. This was the case for Jayme who was born to a prominent family with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was attending Yale with a promising career and a bright and lucrative future mapped out before him and image and reputation meant everything to everyone he surrounded himself, especially his "lilywhite" father. Then there was Elise, a biracial, high school dropout from the wrong side of the track who lived every day like it was her last without giving second thought to her image or her future. The two begin seeing each other and try to figure out how they can fit into each other's world when their lives are so fundamentally different and they soon learn that it won't be without sacrifice and compromise. I don't want to get to in depth with this review and give anything away that would spoil another's enjoyment of this wonderful story but I will say that this is a book worth reading, and sticking with even if it starts out slow. It picks up quickly in the second half and so many things happen, it's such a beautiful journey these two good hearted, well meaning, star crossed lovers embark on and I enjoyed it so much I was sorry it had to end.

I'm rating White Fur with four out of five stars and the only reason I'm not giving all five is because I did think the beginning was a little slow. But seriously, this is a great book! Definitely worth the read and I highly recommend it.

I received an advanced copy of White Fur from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: April 30, 2013


I don't venture into the horror genre that often but in honor of Christmas fast approaching, I decided to give this one a try and I'm glad that I did, although, this certainly isn't a Dickens type of Christmas story! It's a supernatural suspense about a girl who can travel on her bicycle to other dimensions to retrieve lost items via an old covered bridge, who crosses paths with an ancient vampire serial killer who abducts children in his Rolls Royce Wraith and drives them off to Christmas Land. It turns out NOS4A2 is the adaptation of a German word meaning vampire.
It was definitely a unique, one of a kind, creation unlike anything I've read before but it wasn't as ridiculous as it sounds...okay it was, but not in a cheesy, bad way though. This book was well written, entertaining and it certainly held my attention. I listened to the audio version on Audible and the narrator was fantastic and totally brought the nightmare to life! I wasn't familiar with Joe Hill prior to reading this book but I'd happily read more by him and after seeing his photo on Goodreads there's certainly no question who is father is (Stephen King)....the talent must be hereditary!

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The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

The Magnolia StoryThe Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: October 18, 2016


I never read biographies or memoirs or that sort of thing, typically, but I absolutely love this couple and I love their show and therefore I had to read their story and I'm so happy that I did. They are such an inspirational family who truly represent their faith and values in all that they do, a power of example and a breath of fresh air. I would give this 10 stars if that was an option.

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The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

The Prince of TidesThe Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: 1986

Amazing

This was without a doubt one of best books I have ever read and will remain an all time favorite for years to come I am certain. I was expecting an old fashioned love story but this was nothing at all what I had expected. I was enthralled and completely captivated both by the story and by the way it was written. Pat Conroy is a genius, with a poetic grace that made this story flow like a song. I'm going to read every single one of his books consecutively and can only hope they're even half as good as this one was. If you have not read this book you are truly missing out. I recommend it to anyone and would rate it ten stars if I could, it is that good!

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: September 4, 2013


This book was absolutely magical! I can't even articulate how much I enjoyed it and my absolute love for the characters especially the lead character, seven year old Elsa. The grandmother was fantastic as well she made me wish so badly that she had been my Grammy when I was a little girl so I could listen to her wonderful fairytales, escape with her on cloud animals to the land of Niamas, and share all the other adventures Elsa and Grammy experienced together. I don't want to give away any spoilers but this book was all together enchanting! It was hilarious, insightful, heartbreaking, heartfelt, and so touching. It evoked so many emotions the way I wish all books would but very seldom do. This is a gem of a read and I had high expectations after reading "A man called Ove", another five star book, so I was so impressed that this not only measured up to, but slightly surpassed, my hopes and expectations! I just bought the audio version of "Britt-Marie was here" and I can't wait to listen to it. Britt-Marie's character was already introduced in this novel, she wasn't the main character but she was definitely significant and I'm looking forward to hearing more of her story but for anyone who hasn't read either yet I'd recommend reading this first. I don't think A man Called Ove is related to these characters so that can be read before or after but definitely check it out because it's a great book. Fredrik Backman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors!

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Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was HereBritt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: May 3, 2016


I loved everything about this book! It's about an older woman, Britt Marie, who recently left her cheating husband to venture into the world on her own for the first time in her life to gain independence and really learn who she is, and what she's made, of in the process. At first Britt Marie comes across as a very cynical, closed minded character who is so set in her ways and opinions that she cannot see anyone else's point of view, however, as the story progresses the layers of Britt Marie begin to lift away and a sweet, caring, grandmother-type is revealed, as are the reasons for her hard exterior, as her past is explained. Britt Marie ends up taking on a job at a recreational center in a forgotten little town that has gone bankrupt where very few residents still remain. While there she unexpectedly finds herself elected as the new coach for the children's youth football (aka ⚽️ soccer in the US) and shortly discovers that she needs the underprivileged but well meaning children in her life just as much, and possibly more, then they need her, and an unlikely friendship is formed. The dry humor and ironic wit that Fredrick Backman is notorious for makes this book hilariously entertaining but it also has a softer side that really touched my heart and drew out a few tears. I haven't read one of his books that I didn't absolutely love and this is certainly no exception! His characters are unique, unforgettable, and impossible not to adore and his writing style makes his books impossible to put down even though I never want them to end!

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Ordeal by Linda Lovelace

OrdealOrdeal by Linda Lovelace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: January 1, 1980


OMG! This book is not for the faint of heart that's for sure, it makes 50 shades look like Beatrix Potter! It's raw, graphic and so filthy you'll need a shower after reading it but for all you freaks out there (in practice or in fantasy)...this one's for you. I couldn't put it down and finished in one setting. It's a lot like a gruesome, car crash - it's horrifying to look at yet you can't take your eyes away. I give this book five-stars because I'll be the first to admit that I loved it. But I will add that I don't for one second believe that Linda Lovelace was the helpless, voiceless victim she tries to claim. Give me a break! I think she was broke as a joke because she wasn't educated enough to negotiate a contract back when she was making adult films she tried to sell her story in book form. At this point I think she's come out with several books already, and they're all complete contradictions of Ordeal but I suppose she had to come up with some new and interesting material to keep those books selling. That's my guess anyway. I was a little put off how she dedicated the book to her son, that seemed odd to me and almost implied that he would be reading the book one day which is absolutely horrific! Anyway, Linda Lovelace passed away in a car accident several years ago so may she Rest In Peace.
But Ordeal is definitely worth the read and it's a short, quick read but don't expect the typical memoir, this is XXX rated!

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The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The Crane WifeThe Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: April 4, 2013

I expected so much more out of Patrick Ness.

I can quite honestly say that this was one of the worst books I've ever read. Maybe I just didn't get it. Maybe there was some deep, profound, metaphorical meaning that just flew right over my head but from what I gathered it was literally about a bird who fell in love with, and married, a volcano. It was boring, stupid, and practically painful to finish. The only good thing I can think of to say about this book is that it was short. Thank the Lord for small mercies! Starting out it was hard to follow and it skipped around a lot, then it dragged on to a weak climax and even weaker conclusion. This is NOT a book that I enjoyed at all and I would definitely NOT recommend it. To anyone. Ever!

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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: September 2, 2014


I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with this novel especially after all the positive reviews I've heard about both Cloud Atlas and David Mitchell as an author. I'm wondering if perhaps I picked the wrong book by Mitchell to read first, or if I would have been just as disappointed no matter what title I began with. Having said that I still fully intend to read his other works and let me add that The Bone Clocks wasn't horrible but it felt almost rushed and even a little half-assed, to me, like maybe it wasn't quite as put together or developed as it could have been because it's writer was under contract and had a deadline to make...but that's just my personal speculation.

Over all this book was a bit all over the place and hard to follow. There were many different moving parts and for me they just didn't fit together well at the end, as one would hope for and expect. The conclusion was very disappointing, far fetched, and hard for me to wrap my head around.After reading this book, I felt, simultaneously, that I was still missing some pieces and that there were several chapters that could have been completely cut from this novel. It was a long slow read for me and a big let down.

With that being said I still haven't given up completely on David Mitchell yet. I will t the very least give Cloud Atlas a go of it and see what influence that has on my overall opinion of Mitchell which, sadly to say, isn't very high at this point in time.

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11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: November 8, 2011


I am a little bit embarrassed to admit that this is the first Stephen King book I have ever read (aside from Rose Madder which I began reading when I was about 11 until my mother asked me before bed one night "what's this about, honey" and I described it in great detail and she immediately vetoed that selection right out of my life) and being a fellow Maine native who grew up about 30 minutes from King's hometown of Bangor, frequently driving by the King mansion just to peep the gargoyles keeping watch on the front gate, this is even more shameful of an admission. In fact, Stephen King was a former English teacher at my high school, Hampden Academy (go Broncos!), although this was many years before I was a student there, and my childhood best friends father, who was "a friend of Bill's" as they say, used to see King at local meetings of the anonymous variety. With so few degrees of separation between me and the famous author you would think I would have been inclined to read one of his books much sooner especially considering I've enjoyed many of the film adaptations and always appreciate the local references that only a native would pick up on, so why it is that i'm just now completing one of his legendary books is beyond me. But after reading 11/22/63 I wish I had done so much sooner. This book was fantastic!

11/22/63 isn't really from my typical genre of choice, although I find that I'm saying that so often in my reviews lately that maybe i really don't have a genre of choice any more or at the very least I can say I'll try anything once. Considering Stephen King wrote this book I was expecting a horror novel but this wasn't the case, at least not in the typical blood and gore and haunted house sense. It was more scary because it made you think about the repercussions that particular events, even very small and seemingly insignificant ones, can have on the future of not only our own lives but the fate of the whole world. The butterfly effect was brought up several times throughout this book- the theory that a butterfly's wings fluttering on one side of the world could result in an earthquake on the other- and it really makes one think about cause and effect and actions having reactions and honestly that can be much more frightening than any Hollywood produced horror if the results are negative.

In general this was a story about a guy named Jake who is introduced to a way to travel back in time to 1958. No matter how long he's stays in the past when he returns to 2011 only 2 minutes will have passed but, by returning, he also "resets" everything in the past as if he'd never been there and whatever changes were caused by his presence will be undone thus giving him infinite chances to change the past... but at what cost to the present (refer back to the butterfly effect)? So Jake goes back with the mission to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating President Kennedy on 11/22/63 with the assumption that will make the world, past, present and future, a better place. This turns out to be a difficult task as he quickly learns that the past has a way of protecting itself and the larger the event that he is trying to change the more the past will resist.

During the 5 years that Jake is in the past he meets and falls in love with a young lady named Sadie. She beings to question if he is who is says and quickly suspects he is keeping some major secrets from her. I found this part to be a little far fetched. See Jake as assumed the identity of George Amberson, he gets a teaching degree from a degree mill and forges his references and gets a job teaching at a high school where he eventually meets Sadie. Her suspicions arise when he frequently uses phrases from 2011 that she has never heard used before and peak when he hums a song with lyrics that would have been banned from radio in the conservative early 60's. I wasn't entiley convinced that this would have actually been a game changer in their relationship and I feel like Jake (aka George) could have easily explained it away as the way folks spoke back home in Wisconsin, where he claimed to be from. But that wasn't how it went down and I don't want to give away any spoilers in this review but just for the record that was my only real complaint about the novel and it's a very minor one.

All together I found this book to be excellent. It held my attention and often kept me right on the edge of my seat. Just when I thought I had it figured out something completely unexpected happened and looking back there is no way I could have predicted the outcome and I feel like I definitely got my money's worth. Being a child of the 80's myself I also got an adequate history lesson about what life was like in the late 50's early 60's, communism, Russia, Cuba during the reign of Castro, the missile crisis and threat of WWIII, the crookedness of J Edgar Hoover and friends, and a little bit about politics but from what I can see, in that regard, only the names have changed. In the "Afterward" chapter King said that he tried to keep the historical facts as accurate as possible and that extensive reserarch went into this novel and I was very impressed with the authenticity of history and the way he incorporated it into a page turner. If only my high school history class could have been so engaging.

I highly recommend this book, look forward to binging on the mini series adaptation of it on Hulu, and will definitely have to include many more Stephen King's book in my "read" shelf in the near future.

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Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: May 14, 2013


This book was, eh, okay. It was a typical Dan Brown book. A fictional story with a lot of historical facts, a mixture of science and religion, a sexy female sidekick with an above average IQ, and an ongoing scavenger hunt where one historical landmark reveals a clue revealing the next historical landmark/clue (remarkably, these clues can only be deciphered by the brilliant Robert Langdon). It wasn't really believable, the ending was predictable, but it was semi-entertaining and it held my attention enough that I did, at least, finish the book and will probably even watch the movie even though I expect it will be somewhat disappointing, mediocre at best just like the book, typical Dan Brown. However, I have continued to read Dan Brown books because I can still remember reading (and loving!) The Da Vinci Code. I couldn't put it down. So far the rest of his books have paled in comparison and with exception to TDC, if you've read one of his books, you've read them all. Again, Inferno was ok, not horrible, definitely nothing fantastic but it passed the time and held my attention and I didn't hate it. Would I recommend it, not really, only to those who LOVED all the other books in the Robert Langdon series and want to read another book EXACTLY like all the rest. Personally, I'm ready to throw in the towel.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: August 16, 2011


This was not my typical read...I'm not usually into sifi novels but this was kind of hard to catalogue into one specific genre. I guess it was more of a futuristic/dystopian/sifi, packed full of 80's trivia, and it had some realistic possibilities with the way technology continues to advance.

The whole book took place in a future United States where our society, and our planet as a whole, is falling apart after years of abuse and neglect from humans (not an entirely far fetched prediction, unfortunately). Gasoline and energy are precious resources, few and far between and extremely expensive, so most humans find there escape and refuge in a virtually reality world called the OASIS where many people spend the majority of their time working, playing games or going on quests, attending virtual school, shopping, exploring the 29 sectors of countless planets, all from the anonymity of the personal avatar of their design. The main character, Wade aka Perzeval, is trying to find the ultimate Easter egg, hidden in the Oasis by its founder, J. Holiday who informed every Oasis user of its existence and that he had hidden it somewhere within his vast creation. Whoever finds this hidden gem will inherit Holidays entire fortune worth multi billions! However, the nemesis of Perzeval, and all other Gunters (a term defining gamers who search for the egg professionally) are called the "Sixers", an organization also trying to find the egg so they can take over the Oasis, commercialize it and begin charging everyone who uses it a fee. The sixers are a powerful rival with many members, nearly endless resources, and they are willing to do anything to find Holiday's egg, including killing not only Avatars in the Oasis, but also the actual players controlling the avatars IRL.

One thing I loved about this book, being a child of the 80's myself, was all the 80's references and there were tons! From video games to movies, music, computer models, cartoons, toys, even cereal prizes, it was very nostalgic.

However , one thing that bothered me, and this really isn't a spoiler because it's mentioned in one of the first chapters, maybe even the first chapter, is that we are told right from the beginning that Perzeval won the inheritance by finding the hidden egg. The rest of the book is just an account of how he did it. I don't know why the author set it up like that, maybe because it would have been so obvious that that was what was going to happen he didn't want to insult the readers intelligence so he just put it out there, but whatever the reason it took away all the suspense and anticipation when you know from the beginning how a book is going to end. Regardless of that one little complaint I still really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone even if you're not into video games or sifi because this book really does have something for everyone. I have read there is going to be a movie adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg I believe, and I can't wait to see that not only because I loved the book so much but also because I can't even imagine how they will translate all the details of Cline's digital world from book to movie format. There will definitely be some crazy over the top special effects and, if I had to guess, I'd be inclined to assume it's going to be fantastic, especially if the book is any indication! I gave this book a 5 star rating because it was such a fun, unique, creative read and completely unlike anything else I've ever read before (in a good way) and even though nothing like the OASIS exists today, Cline did such a great job describing it that I feel like I've been there myself, seen and experienced it, and can still recall it in my minds eye when I think back on this book.

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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorThe Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: August 23, 2016


I thought this was overall a good book, I'm tempted to go so far as to call it a very good book. It was your typical psychological thriller with adequate twists and turns and suspense. Just when I thought I had it figured out there was a new development, another layer peeled back and my theory was proven wrong . This was a quick read, I finished it within 24 hours, and it definitely held my attention to the last page with a surprise twist of an ending that left me hanging a little bit when a new dilemma was revealed, although the basic mystery of the plot had been satisfyingly uncovered and addressed. I know that sounds pretty vague but I'm reluctant to include any spoilers in my reviews if I can help it because, personally, I look to reviews prior to reading a book to get a better idea of weather or not it's something I want to read, therefore, I prefer reviews that don't give away any spoilers and try to stay consistent to that with my own reviews as well. I will say that I do find the title a bit misleading and probably not the best choice for this story but that's a very minor consideration overall. For a debut author I was certainly impressed and will look forward to reading more books by Shari Lapena as they are released. I gave this book a solid four stars and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoys quick, entertaining, fast paced, suspense novels, full of twists and turns till the very end.

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Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not to BreatheTry Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: February 23, 2016


I've heard so many new thrillers/suspense novels being compared to The Girl on the Train (or Gone Girl), lately, that I don't even take the comparison seriously anymore BUT I think it's safe to assume that if you liked the one than you will like the other as well. This reminded me so much of  The Girl on the Train, although I admit I liked that book slightly better than this one, but only slightly, still there were many similarities. Both had British main characters who were 30 something's and severe alcoholics, each still holding onto a failed marriage while trying to solve a crime and quit drinking simultaneously. Both were somewhat obsessed, or at the very least they had not yet gotten over, their ex husbands, although said ex had moved on to remarry and have a baby, and both had issues around wanting a baby but being unable to have one. ...To name only a few of the very obvious parallels.

I enjoyed this book very much. It's basically about a young woman, named Amy, who was badly beaten at the age of fifteen and since then has been in a semi conscious state, similar to a coma, except she is aware of her thoughts and what is said to her, and doctors believe to have found a medical breakthrough in which she can communicate through a MRI. A journalist, Alex (earlier referenced in first paragraph of this review), is writing an article about Amy connects with Jake, who was Amy's bf at the time of her attack, and both are emotionally invested in finding out who hurt Amy, as the case remains unsolved and long forgotten by police. I guess it sounds like every other suspense move out there when put in those terms but I thought it was entertaining, not blatantly obvious or predictable, and there were sufficient twists throughout to keep me guessing and enough sub plots going on to keep things interesting.


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Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing AmeliaReconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: April 2, 2013


This book has actually been out for over three years, however, I'm just now getting around to reading it after seeing it recommend on a blog that I follow where it was advertised as an excellent suspense/thriller and, I'm happy to say, I wasn't disappointed.

This was overall a decent book. It kept a good pace and the tension continued to build until it reached a decent climax and, sadly, a not so satisfying conclusion. The ending was pretty disappointing but there were several turns and twists leading up to it that I didn't see coming. This book is told from alternating points of view of past tense, 15 year old Amelia, and present day Kate, Amelia's mother, as she try's to uncover the truth behind her daughters alleged suicide. I would probably have given this a five star rating except I just stayed so annoyed with the brainwashed, spineless, Pollyanna persona that Amelia embraces throughout this book. Maybe she is an accurate example of a typical, weak minded teenager who just desperately wants to fit in somewhere but I couldn't find an awful lot of sympathy for her because she was just such a doormat and she had so many supporters around her that only needed to reach out to for relief. I found it unrealistic that she would have not confided in at least one of them while she was being bullied and manipulated. That was very frustrating for me but I still enjoyed the overall story all the same even though I think 3.5 stars would be more appropriate but since that isn't an option I guess I'm forced to round up to 4. I think if I'd gone into this book expecting a YA it would have been less disappointing but I didn't realize that was the case and thought it was a typical thriller/suspense that came with great reviews and a lot of positive hype which always seems to set decent books up for disappointment when the bar is so high...all that being said I really did like this book although I know this review might sound pretty negative... it wasn't a bad read it just wasn't as good as I was hoping or expecting...but they can't all be 5 stars can they?

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The Sister by Louise Jensen

The SisterThe Sister by Louise Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: July 7, 2016

This book was recommended by one of my favorite bloggers (TheBookGeek), as one of the best thrillers of the year, and it's right up my alley in terms of genre and plot, so I was really excited to read it. Unfortunately, after finishing it last night I have to admit I'm not overly impressed, to put it mildly, and to be honest I'm very disappointed with the book as a whole.

To sum this book up, very generally and briefly, it is about Grace, a twenty-something who lives with her boyfriend Dan, and is trying to cope with the death of her best friend since childhood, Charlie. The two girls grew up together and were as close as most sisters, closer than some, but Grace finds out that there was quite a bit she didn't know about Charlie after her death and she goes looking for answers which leads her to Anna, Charlie's long lost sister. Here's where the book starts to veer off the path of realistic and believable, in my humble opinion. Grace then invites Anna, a virtual stranger mind you, to move in with her and her boyfriend, Dan, and is completely oblivious to the red flags waiving all around her - from Dan's reaction to, and behavior around, Anna, to the way bad things begin to happen in Grace's life as soon as she invites Anna into it- and any connection between the presence of Anna and the storm of problems that follows her around like a dark cloud and rains down on Grace's life with hurricane force is completely lost to Grace. That was a bit unbelievable for me and as the tension built so did my frustrations with how apparent it was that Anna was a problem and how ignorant Grace remained to the obvious. Furthermore, I can't understand why no one else in Grace's life, particularly Dan, threw her a heads up about hurricane Anna when anyone could see the negative impact she was making on Grace's life even if Grace was to blind (or stupid) to see it herself. I kept saying to myself ...there has got to be a twist or turn coming up at some point, otherwise this is going to be the most obvious, predictable, outcome in the history of EVER...and that's exactly what it was.

Now I usually don't like to include spoilers in my reviews for the simple reason that when I read a review it's usually because I'm trying to gain insight on whether or not a particular book is one that I would enjoy and would want to read, therefore, I prefer reviews that don't contain spoilers. Of course that's not always the case. For example, after I read a book, especially one that I have particularly strong feelings about I always like to peep the response of others to see if they shared my reaction and I've found I gain a lot of insight about a book just from hearing someone else's perspective of it and of course, in that case, spoilers aren't an issue, in fact, I appreciate the dissection of the entire book, including, and often especially, the ending. Anyway, I digress, but my point is that this review contains spoilers so consider yourself warned. I found the climax and conclusion of this story so utterly ridiculous and outrageous, not to mention an insult to the intelligence of the average reader with half a brain, that I can't not mention it in this review. Just the fact that it took so long for Grace to realize that Anna was the reason bad things kept happening to her was frustrating enough, I thought okay, it's so obvious that Anna is the culprit that there's going to be some twist and we'll find out it's actually the boyfriend, or someone else, it CANNOT be that obvious! But it was. Then when Grace finds herself chained to her bed with one remaining handcuff that eventually gets filled when Lexi just happens on up and Anna kidnaps her at knifepoint as well, chaining her next to Grace... at that point I just continued to read on autopilot because the book was almost over (thank God for small mercies). When they were able to pick the locks on the cuffs with a bobby pin, or something of the like, I can't honestly say I was surprised. Of course they did. It was almost comical at that point and if there had been any hope at all of me taking the book even a little bit seriously (which there wasn't) it was gone out the window right then. Now I get that this genre is for entertainment and not known for having profound, thought provoking, intellectually stimulating effects on a reader, and that's fine, but this book had the depth of a kiddie pool and I fear that I might actually be dumber for having read it. Not a good feeling. That might be a bit harsh but I feel that I completely compensate for the harshness by giving The Sister a three star rating which is possibly more than it deserves but I think I'm being fair. And in all fairness, I did enjoy the way the chapters alternated from presant day to before Charlie died allowing the reader to really visualize the relationship Grace and Charlie shared but overall this book left a lot to be desired, in my opinion. The writing itself wasn't horrible and I'd probably give Louise Jensen one more try, but the plot was something I'd expect to come from a high school English student not a published author.



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I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb

I'll Take You ThereI'll Take You There by Wally Lamb
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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Publication Date: November 22, 2016

Not one of Wally Lamb's best books...in fact, when considering the greatness that is Wally Lamb, who set the bare extremely high with works like She's Come Undone and l Know This Much is True (two of my all time favs!) this might have actually been his worst so far. Now that's not to say it was a bad book, necessarily, but I was expecting more.

I was really looking forward to this book when I heard it was out because Wally Lamb has been one of my favorite authors since I first read She's Come Undone when I was 15 years old, and have since read, and loved, every single book he's come out with since, including the composition of short stories written by inmates at a women's prison where Lamb taught a writing class. I think he's an amazing, often under appreciated, talent and one of the best writers of our time. This new book just didn't do him justice although it was very well written it seemed more like a novella than an actual novel and I would have liked it to have been at least twice the length with a more developed plot and that something special that I can't quite articulate but his books have always contained it, the "x-factor " if you will. The characters were well thought out, relatable, and complex but I didn't feel as connected or invested in them as I usually become when reading Lamb. Overall I was glad to have read his newest publication, it was certainly worth the short time it took to get from cover to cover and I would recommend it to fellow fans of Lamb. However, to those out there, (who live beneath a rock), who haven't read his other works yet I would highly recommend reading those first because he can do so much better, be so much more powerful of a writer, than one could ever tell from reading this particular novel.

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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Publication Date: August 9, 2016

I honestly don't know where to begin or how to accurately review this book. I can only speak for myself, obviously, of my own thoughts, feelings and opinions that this book inspired and I thought it was absolutely wonderful! Now let me be perfectly clear when I explain that that doesn't mean I necessarily agree with all of the topics discussed within this book, but I enjoyed reading it very much and there's no denying that and I don't feel ashamed or sorry or a bit of bad about it either!
This book was so great I just don't know where to begin. Just read it! It's touching and beautiful and heartbreaking and horrible and sweet and wonderful and above all else it's absolutely real! Real life at it's rawest, real emotion and heartbreak and perseverance, real characters full of flaws that made them so beautiful and endearing because of, not despite, their imperfections. Life is so imperfect and unconventional and this book is a perfect reflection of all the details that make life and love both ugly and wonderful.

Praise be to the title (how perfectly appropriate) and praise be to the author for daring to go there and doing so with eloquent grace and undeniable talent. I can easily recommend this book to any and every reader because this book was really that good and I feel lucky to have experienced it. Don't let the subject matter distract you from the underlying message or discourage you from enjoying it. This is a book that I will remember. This is a book that affected me. This book is a perfect example of why I read!!!
I cannot articulate a synopsis or review that will give this novel the justice it deserves, so I'm not going to try any further but if you only read one book this week, this month, this year, read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Seriously. I finished this book in less than 24 hours but I know it's one of those books that I will continue to think about and reflect upon for a long time to come and it will remain with me indefinitely.

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The Widow by Fiona Barton

The WidowThe Widow by Fiona Barton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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Publication Date: February 16, 2016

I was extremely disappointed in this book. I was really looking forward to this read as there has been so much hype surrounding it. I've heard it referred to as the next "Gone Girl " comparing Fiona Barton to Gillian Flynn to which I was skeptical seeing how those are big shoes to fill and Flynn is one of my favorites and a very tough act to follow. Unfortunately, the rumors were false and The Widow paled in comparison. Perhaps it's unfair to compare the two books/authors but regardless, had I read this book without any pretense I doubt I would have liked it any more.

The story is about a widow who's recently deceased husband is suspected of kidnapping and murdering a little girl who went missing and was never found, alive or dead. Detectives are trying to determine what involvement, if any, the widow had in the disappearance and hoping without her husbands influence she will reveal the location of the little girl. In addition, a local reporter has obtained an exclusive interview with the widow in hopes that the more she talks about her marriage and her secrets, the more questions will be answered. The narrative alternates between the widow, the detective, and the reporter as the truth eventually reaches the surface once the husband is laid to rest and the widow finds her voice after years of oppressive silence. I will admit that I really liked the way the narration was set up but sadly there wasn't much else that left a good impression on me.

I found this novel to be completely predictable, the were no plot twists or unexpected surprises, no edge-of-my-seat page turning suspense, I wasn't unable to put this down because the anticipation was killing me and I had to read what happened next...no, The Widow was nothing like Gone Girl and furthermore, it wasn't even a good book in its own right, in my humble opinion. The plot was extremely week and transparent, the characters were flat, extremely unlikable and not relatable in the least. I honestly can't understand what all of the hype, surrounding this book, is about, why it is getting so much attention, and what it is that readers are drawn to and enjoying here because I couldn't find anything that left a positive impression. I gave this book 3 stars and that may be more than it deserves but to be fair I did set my expectations incredibly high because of the positive reviews I had read. Had I read it with a more open mind and no preconceived notions I might have enjoyed it a little bit more, or at least been less disappointed, so I think 3 stars is a fair review. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone but obviously there are others out there who enjoyed it so to each their own but don't pick this book up expecting anything like a Gillian Flynn novel or you will only be sadly disappointed.

I received an advanced reading copy of The Widow, from Penguin Random House, in exchange for my honest review.
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