July 2018 Mini-Reviews, Part 1

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Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary/Romance/Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Boston Public Library
Release Date: June 13th, 2017
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book deserves so much praise, but I really don’t think I could do it justice. Instead, I’ll post links to the reviews that made me pick up this book in the first place.

Check out reviews by:
meltotheany
destiny @ howling libraries
Rachel (rachandbooks)


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Title: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller
Publisher: Crown
Source: Boston Public Library
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

“Nothing exists. All is a dream. God—man—the world—the sun, the moon, the wilderness of stars—a dream, all a dream; they have no existence. Nothing exists save empty space—and you…. And you are not you—you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought.” 

This book was twisty and turny and weird and crazy, but the craziest thing is probably that this is a science fiction novel and I loved it. I usually steer clear of sci-fi at all costs, but this book sounded so good that it’s actually been on my radar for awhile. I finally grabbed it from the library, and I’m so glad that I did.

“I’ve always known, on a purely intellectual level, that our separateness and isolation are an illusion. We’re all made of the same thing—the blown-out pieces of matter formed in the fires of dead stars.”

In Dark Matter, the main character, Jason, must navigate through an infinite amount of worlds to return back to his family and the life that was stolen from him. Some of these worlds are nearly identical to our own, while others couldn’t be more different or (pun intended) out-of-this-world.

Ultimately, this is a story about the meaning of happiness and the path not taken. It is about looking at the choices we have made and how they have brought us to where we are. Do we regret the choices we have made? Would we be happier if we had chosen a different course? At the end of the day, these choices make up who we are as humans.

“I can’t help thinking that we’re more than the sum total of our choices, that all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity.” 

My favorite part of the book was the world-hopping scenes. I loved all the dark and disturbing places that Jason and Amanda encountered while trying to find their way home. I chose to give this four stars instead of five because I thought the ending was a little too easy, but I found the entire book incredibly fast-paced and enjoyable.


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Title: Practice Makes Perfect
Author: Julie James
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Source: Boston Public Library
Release Date: March 3rd, 2009
Rating: ðŸŒŸðŸŒŸ

Seeing all the five-star reviews from people I usually agree with, I really thought I was going to love this. Especially because I was in the mood for a romance novel, and this book has been compared to The Hating Game, one of my favorite romance books ever. Unfortunately, I just didn’t like this. There was very little romance and a lot of arguing and miscommunication. I didn’t think it was funny at all, just very over the top silly. I usually love romantic build-up, but it took so long for the two leads to finally get together. When they did, it wasn’t a satisfying pay-off.


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Title: Bird Box
Author: Josh Malerman
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Ecco
Source: Boston Public Library
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Rating: ðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸ

So, here’s the thing. I’m a horror movie buff. I love Halloween and all things scary.

And this book terrified me.

In the world of Bird Box, there are creatures that humans and animals cannot look upon without going mad. A group of survivors, including the pregnant Malorie, have blocked the windows and locked the doors, surviving on their dwindling food supply and their blindfolded walks outside for water and provisions. They lose hope of survival with each passing day, relying on the optimism and leadership of a man named Tom. All of these events unfolded in the past, while in the present (four years later), Malorie must escape down the river with her two children to an unknown safe haven. A few different timelines are intertwined, connecting the past and present while keeping you guessing as the events unfold.

I’ve never thought a book could be genuinely scary, but apparently I was wrong. This book is loaded with atmosphere, tension, and paranoia. The characters are blindfolded, so you are just as in the dark (literally) as they are. We are given the sounds and smells of the characters’ surroundings. We feel the same fear, paranoia, mistrust and confusion that they do.

Is it gray? Have the trees gone mad? The flowers, the reeds, the sky? Is the entire world insane? Does it battle itself? Does the Earth refute it’s own oceans? The wind has picked up. Has it seen something? Is it mad, too?

I recommend reading this book, but I don’t recommend reading it before bed.


 

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.


Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Dutton
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: July 3rd, 2018
Rating: ðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸðŸŒŸ

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two Truths and a Lie
1. This book kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
2. This is the perfect summer mystery read.
3. I’ll never read another Riley Sager book.

Obviously, the last one is a lie. I loved this so much that I need to get my hands on Riley Sager’s Final Girls.

The Last Time I Lied is about a girl named Emma, who went away to a summer camp when she was thirteen and stayed in a cabin with three older girls. She becomes very close to the queen bee, Vivian, who calls Emma her little sister and who Emma idolizes/obsesses over to the point of copying her every move. One night, the three girls slip out of the cabin without Emma and never return. Their disappearance is never solved. Fifteen years later when the camp reopens, Emma is asked to return as an instructor. Wanting to find the truth, Emma agrees, but it is obvious from the moment she arrives that something is very wrong.

There are plenty of generic mystery/thriller novels out there. They might still be fun to read, even as you see all the twists coming and make accurate guesses the entire way through. That wasn’t the case with The Last Time I Lied. This book will keep you guessing, but none of the reveals are obvious. I had so many different theories and none of them came close to the truth.

There are two timelines. One is from the perspective of modern-day Emma, while the other is the perspective of Emma fifteen years ago. They are interspersed in such away that we are able to see how the past is connected to the present. Everything comes full circle.

I also thought it was interesting to see how Emma’s obsession of Vivian extends into her adult life. She still wonders what Vivian would think as she reaches for a donut or buys a pair of sunglasses, which just goes to show how toxic friendships can be.

I loved the writing style of this book. It’s fast-paced, compulsive, and so, so fun. It’s deceptively simple. You’ll be sucked right in, and the atmosphere will creep you out in the best possible way (seriously, I had chills).

I would recommend this for anyone who loves mystery and thriller novels and is looking for the perfect summer read!

Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

32454291In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.


Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy/Mythology/Retelling
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux Books
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

I was hesitant to review this book, only because I wasn’t sure if I had everything to add to what’s already been said. I also don’t feel like I could ever do Circe justice, but I’ll try.

This book drew my eye very early on. I love Greek mythology and retellings, and Circe is such a fascinating character to me. I’ll admit, this book took me a long time to read. Three months, to be exact. I kept finding myself putting it down and moving on to other books, then coming back to it. It wasn’t because it didn’t interest me, but rather that it is a very character-driven, inner-monologue focused, slow-burn story. I couldn’t skim or speed-read; I needed to absorb every single word on the pages.

“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

A majority of this book is spent on the island of Aiaia where the goddess Circe is exiled. If you are unfamiliar with Greek mythology and the Odyssey, like I was, much of the content in this book will be new for you. Centuries and generations of Greek myths are folded into this book, but they are told in stories by visiting characters. We don’t actually see any of the action, but action and adventure is not what this story is about.

“My divinity shines in me like the last rays of the sun before they drown in the sea. I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now that they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”

This is the origin story of Circe and her development over centuries of love and loss. She is a goddess with the voice of a mortal, who empathizes with mortals and loathes the ways of all other self-serving gods and goddesses. This is not a happy story. She suffers greatly, but everything that happens to her helps shape her into the strong, powerful, and somewhat jaded witch that she is. She isn’t perfect; at times she is a villain, at times she is a heroine, but it’s interesting to see how she grows from these experiences.

“Her eyes held mine, gray and steady. It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”

The underlying theme in Circe is how the stories of men are often glorified, while the heroines are undermined no matter how prominent their own role was. This is a very women-empowering, sex-positive book about finding yourself in a world where men are given agency, and women are reduced to being in the background.

“The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…


Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Berkeley
Source: Book of the Month
Release Date: June 5th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

This book is so unique, captivating, sexy, and important.

I love romance novels, but I’ll be the first to admit that many are generic, corny, and sometimes problematic. What makes The Kiss Quotient different is that it’s the first romance I’ve read with an autistic female protagonist. Not only are her quirks and differences prominent throughout the entire book, but they’re also addressed in a way that is positive: there’s nothing wrong with Stella, she’s just a unique person. She is incredibly smart and accomplished, and loves working with data to the point where she chooses to go into work on weekends. She is also extremely sensitive to smells and sounds, gets overstimulated very easily, and has a routine that she can never break from without getting anxious.

“What would he think if she told him how difficult it was for her to do things like dancing and drinking? Going out was supposed to be fun. For her, it was work—hard work. She could interact with people if she wanted to, but it cost her. Some times more than others.”

The way Michael (the love-interest, who also happens to be a mixed-race male escort) treats Stella is also important. He pays attention to her needs and makes adjustments without belittling her or making her feel like she’s different. Consent is also a big thing for him, as there were several times when he would ask for permission or immediately stop what he was doing if Stella appeared uncomfortable. He’s not perfect, but he wants to be a good person and do the right thing. This makes it tricky for him, as his job requires that he keep his “clients” at an arm’s length and not get too attached. Things are different with Stella though and he finds himself falling for her.

I found it very easy to empathize with Stella. Being in her head, we’re given a firsthand perspective on the way she feels in certain situations and why she does or say what she does. At the same time, I understood how other characters could be confused by her behavior and have negative feelings about the way she interacts. This is most apparent in a scene where Stella meets Michael’s family and manages to insult/hurt them without even realizing she was doing it. Scenes like this were hard to read, but helped me to understand how Stella’s mind works differently than other people’s.

The romance is super cute and this book is chock-full of super steamy scenes. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who liked The Hating Game (which I loved), as I got a similar vibe with these two books.

I also loved Helen Hoang’s note at the end of the novel, where she addressed her own experience with autism and provides resources for others who want to know more about it. I never realized that such a large portion of women with autism go undiagnosed because they learn to fake “normal” behavior, even though its exhausting for them.

The Kiss Quotient was such a heartfelt, refreshing read. I feel so warm and fuzzy after reading this book!

Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

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A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.


Title: Legendary
Author: Stephanie Garber
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: eBook
Release Date: May 29th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

This book was so, so fun!

I adored the first book, Caraval, and this book definitely exceeded my expectations as a sequel. It was such a magical, whimsical ride, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved returning to this world.

The writing is poetic and sucks you right in:

“The air tasted like wonder. Like candied butterfly wings caught in sugared spiderwebs, and drunken peaches coated in luck.”

Donatella Dragna is everything I want in a main character. She is strong, brave, and levelheaded. She likes attention, flirting with men, and knows that she’s pretty, but above all else, she isn’t ashamed to admit it.

“One look at her honey-blond curls, her girlish smile, and her pretty dresses, coupled with the fact that she liked to enjoy herself, and people dismissed her as a silly girl. Tella might have been many things, but she was far from silly or worthless or whatever labels people liked to affix because a person was young and female. Tella liked to think that was where much of her strength came from. She was bold. She was brave. She was cunning. And she was going to come out of this triumphant – no matter the cost.

I enjoyed being in her head more than her sister Scarlett’s, who was the main character and point of view of Caraval. I also enjoyed the romantic aspects a little more than Caraval. This book certainly had enough steamy scenes to satisfy my immoral soul.

“Good was the word people used to describe how they slept at night and bread fresh out of the fire. But Dante was more like the fire. No one called a fire good. Fires were hot, burning things children were warned not play with.”

I absolutely adored Dante.

(Side note and potential spoiler: I see hints at a future love triangle which is usually a huge nope from me, but in this case I’m actually okay with it slash completely living for it).

Legendary messed with my head. I was second-guessing and third-guessing until my head was spinning in circles and I couldn’t even read the words anymore. There were so many possibilities and so many potential outcomes, that I can’t even say if any of my predictions came true. Legendary will do it’s best to mislead you, so I eventually gave up guessing and just went along for the ride.

I loved the morally grey, semi-villainous actions of each of the main characters. No one is really the hero and no one is really the villain; everyone has their own agenda. Even Tella admits that she might be the villain in her own story.

Scarlett was kind of a mess. I liked her perspective in Caraval, but there wasn’t much of her in this book and what I did see was just confusing and kind of obnoxious. There wasn’t as much as a sibling emphasis in Legendary as there was in Caraval, and I hope that changes in the next book. Scarlett’s actions in this one just really bothered me, so I think I would be completely okay if the third book is once more from Tella’s perspective, or even a dual POV.

All of the characters we know are still around, as well as some new ones. Scarlett and Julian’s story continues in the background from where the first book left off, and I’m interested to see how it continues for these two in the third one.

I gave this book four stars out of five, because I thought the ending was a little predictable. Still, Legendary was the most enjoyable read for me so far this year, and I can’t wait to see what Stephanie Garber has in store for us with Finale!

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.


Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: May 29th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is my second Ruth Ware book, and I’m starting to think she may be becoming the queen of the mystery/thriller genre.

Harriet (Hal) Westaway finds out that she will be receiving a legacy from her wealthy grandmother who has just recently passed. Hal has never met this grandmother, and after some digging, finds out that she is not the right person. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures, and with piling bills and looming threats from a loan shark, Hal decides to pretend. She goes to the funeral and meets Mrs. Westaway’s three sons, all the while pretending to be the daughter of their estranged sister. Soon, she discovers that everything is not as it seems at Trepassen House, and finding out the truth may be more important than money.

Admittedly, it took some time for me to get into this book. The writing is phenomenal and the beginning was definitely interesting, but it is a slow-build book that only increases in tension the further along you get. There is an overwhelming sense of wrongness throughout the entire story, and the creepy, eerie descriptions only add to the foreboding atmosphere. You will sense that something the story is building to something big, and can I just say, you will not be disappointed. The story changed for me at around the 60% mark, and from that point on, I could not peel my eyes from the pages.

I was guessing every character’s motive. It was impossible to tell who to trust. Who is lying, and who is telling the truth? Truth and lies is a major theme of this book, and one that comes full circle. The chapters are interspersed with occasional diary entries from Hal’s mother, which gives you just enough insight to draw your own conclusions but not enough to give any sort of clarity.

I loved the tarot card readings and the way that the cards were used to predict and symbolize aspects of the story. I also liked that Hal never put too much stock in the cards, but rather used them to give herself and others the opportunity to find their own answers. Hal is a great main character. She’s strong, brave, and intuitive, and I enjoyed witnessing the story unfold through her eyes.

All in all, a great read. I didn’t know how much I needed a good mystery novel until I had this one in my hands. I look forward to reading more Ruth Ware books in the future!

Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.


Title: Sky in the Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: April 24th, 2018
Rating: ★★

I’ve seen this book described as being action-packed, with three-dimensional characters and a strong protagonist. I feel like I must have read a completely different book.

The beginning sucked me right in with the opening fight scene, but this book didn’t hold my interest much after that. A large portion of it is spent on pastoral activities like peeling garlic and cleaning armor. I didn’t think it was action-packed at all, but rather just some action scenes mixed in with the day-to-day life of Eelyn as the enemy’s prisoner.

The romance is so incredibly bland. Fiske is uninteresting as a character, and him and Eelyn had absolutely no chemistry. One minute he’s shooting her with an arrow, while the next minute she’s blushing and trying to ignore whatever “connection” they have. The enemies-to-lovers thing didn’t make any sense. I also thought that Eelyn’s acceptance of the Riki happened far too quickly. She is captured by the enemy clan that has fought and killed members of her own clan for years, becoming their slave to be bought and sold. She is given a metal collar and is brutally mistreated by the Riki, but somehow grows to love the family that owns her. For a character who is supposedly a vicious warrior, her subservience doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In general, the characters are bland and lacking any depth or complexity. Familial conflicts were mentioned but then never properly resolved. The writing style is awkward and clunky, which kept pulling me out of the story. There’s a lot of telling-not-showing and a lot of passive voice used: two of my writing pet-peeves.

Overall, I thought Sky in the Deep was shallow and unimaginative. This book would have been great had there been a little more world-building, better character development, and maybe a few more rounds of edits. After all, a Viking-inspired world with a warrior main character would usually be right up my alley. The execution just wasn’t up to par with my expectations.

I always feel bad giving one or two star reviews to books that other reviewers raved about. My opinion should be taken with a grain of salt, as I’m clearly in the minority.

Review: From Lukov With Love by Mariana Zapata

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If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.


Title: From Lukov With Love
Author: Mariana Zapata
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Self-published
Source: eBook
Release Date: February 1st, 2018
Rating: ★★

I wanted to love this. After reading other reviews, I really thought that I would. Unfortunately, it was just okay for me.

First, the things I did like:

1. The figure skating
2. Jasmine’s take-no-shit attitude
3. Creative use of swearing
4. The banter was fun, for a little while

Now, the things I didn’t like:

1. The constant mention of characters blinking. This is my biggest complaint about this book. The constant mention of Ivan and Jasmine blinking at each other was just surreal to me. It was described like it was a voluntary action instead of an automatic human reflex. There was literally a line in the book that went something like “I blinked. He blinked. Then it was my turn to blink.” Wtf? Once would be enough, but lines like this were spread throughout the entire book.

2. The banter and sharp comebacks were fun, at first. I love hate-to-love romances, a la The Hating Game, but the bickering kept going until the very end. After awhile, it just seemed childish. Like when Jasmine was sick and Ivan was caring for her and trying to get her to take her medicine, and she just kept fighting him over it. I wanted to reach through the book and shake her like bitch just take the medicine you keep saying you want to get better so just fucking do it ugh.

3. The whole “we’re only partners for one year” thing seemed like a contrived plot device that was just kind of brushed away in the end, and Jasmine was made to feel stupid for thinking it was true, even though Ivan repeated it several times throughout the book like it was his mantra.

4. Too much of Jasmine’s inner monologue. I don’t think this book needed to be as long as it was. It seemed like there were massive chunks of text in between each bit of dialogue, which slowed down the pace and resulted in a lot of skimming from me. In contrast, there were a lot of scenes that were briefly mentioned in passing, though I feel like they could have added more to the book. Skating was a significant aspect, but very little time was actually spent on the ice.

I really did enjoy reading this book, for the most part. There were just too many things that bothered me, and I couldn’t really get past that

Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?


Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author:
Alice Feeney
Genre: 
Psychological Thriller
Publisher:
Flatiron Books
Source: 
Hardcover
Release Date: 
March 13th, 2018
Rating: 
★★★★★

There are three things you should know about this book:
1. There are three timelines.
2. The twists will probably melt your brain.
3. Not everyone will feel the same way I did.

Oh, you crazy little book. What is this mind-fuckery? Those twists. That ending. I feel like I just did mental gymnastics and I haven’t quite recovered from it.

“There is always a moment before an accident when you know you’re going to get hurt but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself. You can raise your arms in front of your face, you can close your eyes, you can scream, but you know it won’t change what’s coming.”

Amber is in a coma, but is aware of everything going on around her. She has no memory of the accident that put her in this state, but has her suspicions. Was her husband involved? Her sister? What about the mysterious man who visits her at night?

By listening to the voices around her, Amber tries to piece together the events that lead to her coma. The present day timeline is interspersed with the events preceding the accident, as well as childhood diary entries.

I’m usually pretty good (annoyingly so) at guessing the twists and reveals before they happen. That wasn’t the case with this book. This story is written in three different timelines, all of which tie perfectly together in a way that will keep you guessing. For me, everything was a surprise. As soon as I began to believe one thing, it would be crushed in the following chapter. All of the plot twists were so delightfully unexpected. None of the characters were particularly likable, even the narrator. You can’t trust anyone in this story. Everyone lies. Everyone has secrets.

“There are always ripples in the water before a big wave. I’ve learned already to just let it take me; far easier to surrender and let it wash me up when it’s good and ready. I fear one day the dark water will swallow me down for good, and I won’t always be able to resurface.”

I really liked that this book is relatively short (it’s less that 300 pages). The pacing was fast, instead of there being a drawn-out plot that would give you too much time to speculate, which I feel like is the case with many psychological thrillers. Every chapter is important.

With that being said, I think that there were some loose ends left for the imagination that may bother some people. I could have used a few more answers (and an explanation for that shocker of an ending) but this didn’t make the story any less mind-bending or enjoyable.

The less you know going into this book, the better.

Review: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.


Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Genre: Contemporary/Magical Realism/Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

This book was beautiful, heart-wrenching, devastating, and hopeful.

Leigh is half-Asian, with very little connection to her Asian heritage aside from a very small knowledge of Mandarin. When her mom commits suicide and her spirit turns into a bird, Leigh follows clues left by her mom’s spirit to Taiwan, where she meets her grandparents for the first time. What follows is a series of flashbacks as Leigh comes to learn why her mom left Taiwan in the first place and how she had been hurting for a very long time. The topics of mental health and suicide are not glorified or sugar-coated. Instead, we are shown how these issues can affect a family, but how that family can learn to let go and continue on.

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I loved the setting. It was a beautiful glimpse into Taiwanese/Chinese culture, from the food to the customs to the language. Since Leigh is half-Asian, we are shown how she is perceived in America (fetishized and stereotyped) and then how she is perceived in Taiwan (being pointed out by strangers for being “mixed). We also see how there is a stigma surrounding mental illness.

The flashbacks were my favorite parts to read. I loved getting to see Leigh’s family history, from the time her grandmother was born to the time her mother met her father. We also saw the development of Leigh and Axel’s friendship, and how it evolved over time to become something more.

There are some heavy topics in The Astonishing Color of After, but it ends on a hopeful note. I thought that everything was handled beautifully, and the magical realism never felt over-the-top. Some of the reveals at the end were completely unexpected.

Don’t go into this expecting a light read, but if you are in the mood for something a little sad, a little hopeful, and a little magical, I would recommend The Astonishing Color of After.