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Monday, September 25, 2017

The Unquiet Past | Book Review

The Unquiet Past

Written by: Kelley Armstrong
Number of pages: 245

Average Rating: 3.6/5 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published: September 2015
Read in September 2017


Summary According to Goodreads

You can only hide from the truth for so long.

Tess has always been tormented by waking visions that make her question her sanity. When the orphanage she lives in burns down, she decides to face her fears and find out once and for all what is wrong with her. She believes the truth must lie with her parents, and so, armed with only an address and phone number, Tess travels to a crumbling mansion in rural Quebec, where she discovers evidence of mistreatment of mental patients. She ale makes an unlikely ally and gradually unearths her family’s sad history - and finally accepts the truth about her paranormal powers.


My Thoughts

I have owned so many of Kelley Armstrong’s books throughout the years, so I am beyond excited to have finally picked one up. I support Canadian authors 100%, and was so excited to read about cities I have travelled through. I bought this recently, and was drawn to the plot as my first fall read. 

This novel was so engaging, I read it in a day off from work. I was hooked on the plot, and the many psychology references just continued to enhance my reading experience. I was so interested in this young girl who had a psychic ability, but showed itself in creepy ways. An abandoned mental hospital and she can still hear the screams of the patients? Yes, please! It was a relatively short story, but she still managed to develop a strong plot line, and write believable characters. I loved the constant banter between Tess and Theo, they supported each other but also couldn’t stand each other. 

As much as I loved this, there were a few reasons that I couldn’t give this novel five stars. The biggest reason for my dropped star is that the ending felt very rushed. There was almost 250 pages of lead-up to a big reveal that only lasted about a page. Kelley wrote this novel in a way that focused so heavily on the psychological plot, but then almost changed her mind and chose to be more character-driven. I would have loved to see more visions, but I thought the ones we did get were written very convincingly. 

I am in love with this idea for publishing a series. When I first picked up this novel, I was sure it was a standalone but then I became fascinated with the work put into connecting them. Seven novels all written by different authors, but connected at the base plot line. They read in any order, as individuals, or as a whole. Am I the only who can't get over how brilliant that is?

Overall, this was a great novel! It was my first experience with this author (thank you Kerri), and it definitely won't be my last! This novel was the perfect read for me: psychological plot lines, a teeny tiny bit of romance, and a Canadian setting. I will definitely be continuing on with this "series", but have yet to decide in what order I'll read them. I almost wish I didn’t start the series with this novel, just because I feel as though they won’t be as great!


Monday, September 18, 2017

The Suicide Plan | Novella Review

The Suicide Plan

Written by: Emma L. Clapperton
Number of Pages: 81

Average Rating: 3.92/5 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Published: May 2017
Read in September 2017


Summary According to Goodreads

Standing up and welcoming everyone to the spiritualist church is something Patrick McLaughlin does most evenings. Most of the faces in the audience are familiar to him, except one. David Hopkirk walks into the West End Spiritualist church in Glasgow and slits his own throat in the middle of a demonstration. But why?

Patrick is then catapulted into a case, which sees the death of a child, a failed court case and a family torn apart. Soon Patrick will have all the pieces of the puzzle but will he be able to fit them together in time?


My Thoughts

I found this short-story to be very captivating, and a great introduction to a series. I love the idea of a novella that allows the reader to decide if they like the characters, the plot, and the writing before diving into a series. 

I love intense novels like this one precedes, as it centres around a man (Patrick) trying to solve the murder of a ten-year-old boy. Some people said it was an accident, some accused the father, but Patrick is able to get the truth from the victim himself! There weren’t any moments that surprised me, it seemed to follow a pretty generic plot line but I don’t read a lot like this so I enjoyed it. 

There isn’t much I can say about it negatively or constructively, because it was so short there was no character development or anything that I usually look for and appreciate. I am going to assume that if I read the full-length novels in this series I will have a better connection to the characters, and a deeper plot line, so I am rating this as a three because I enjoyed it.

Overall, this is worth the read. I didn’t expect to find a new series, but that is what is great about this novella! You can get this short story for free on Kindle, so if you are interested in mystery stories I would recommend it! It hooked me enough that I will be checking out the rest of the series!


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Confess | Book Review

Confess

Written by: Colleen Hoover
Number of Pages: 305

Average Rating: 4.25/5 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Published: March 2015
Read in September 2017


Summary According to Goodreads

Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin.


My Thoughts 

I had been holding onto this book for quite a while, and I think I let my expectations build too high. This is an author I have read from before, and really enjoyed, but this one fell very flat. There was nothing outstanding about it, and not much I can really say about it.

I didn't really connect to any of the characters, and I didn't find them to be unique in anyway. I do have to praise the character development from Auburn, even if it took majority of the novel to get her there. She always mentioned that she wouldn't let people get close, but then the ones she did let in pushed her around. It was nice to see a supportive "relationship" between her and Owen, but I felt like his dishonesty was a bit much. 

If this is a novel that interests you, don’t pick it up based on the synopsis. It is fairly misleading in the fact that Auburn doesn’t have her life planned, she doesn’t take control of her life, and let’s everyone make decisions for her. Also, this was the fastest case of insta-love I’ve ever read. The two characters even acknowledged the fact that they’d seen each other only seven times before getting physically involved. They were rash, hormonal twenty-year-olds, and I think she could have done much better on this one.

The plot was very generic, and didn't have any major twists. It was nice to get some looks into the pasts of Auburn, but she came across as very dramatic. There isn't much I can say about the plot: guy meets pretty girl, pretty girl has secret past, a couple of dramatic twists keeps them apart, they have sex and live happily ever after. A lot of moments were very convenient, but a few others I found to be problematic. I don't usually have issues with her novels, but found this one to be very male-dominant, even if that's the vibe she was going for. I really loved the art aspect in this novel, and the confessions that tied into them.

Overall, it was a very quick read that I enjoyed. I was anxious to finish it just to see how it all wrapped up, but it was as typical as any other new adult novel out there. Thankfully she has a very smooth writing style, so it is very quick to read, but nothing that will blow your mind. If I'm being honest I will probably forget what this is about in a couple weeks, so if you want to check her out I'd recommend starting with Ugly Love! That novel remains one of my favourites from her. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian | Book Review

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Written by: Sherman Alexie
Number of Pages: 230

Average Rating: 4.11/5 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published: September 12, 2007
Read in September 2017


Summary According to Goodreads

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the store of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.


My Thoughts

This is a novel I have been looking at for a while, and one that has come so incredibly hyped both online and in-person. I went into it not really knowing what it was about, and I think that made it more fun to read through. It is a young adult contemporary mixed with realistic fiction, depicting the life of an Indian boy taking his life in his own hands. It’s told from a teenage boys perspective so naturally there is a bigger focus on girls, sports, and “looking cool”, but there was also some deeper plot lines following family and education.

I appreciated that it wasn’t exactly told in a diary format, but instead was written in short chapters and used a voice that was casual enough to be diary-like. Some of the plot points were dramatic, but being told from a young perspective, you have to remember that they generally make everything seem “over the top”. I felt as though all of the reactions were warranted to what was happening in the story, and that it was overall well-rounded.

There was some character growth which I expected, nothing major but enough to show that changing schools was having an impact on how he viewed life. It was difficult to remember that he is only 14 years-old, because some of the mannerisms were a bit older. This is a child who watched his family suffer financially, his friends suffer mentally, and his community suffer from alcohol addiction but was able to know that wasn’t the life he wanted for himself. As the title suggests he did go through a complex deciding where he fit on the spectrum, and I think that made it very relatable to readers. Even if we all don’t go through something like this from a race perspective, it could be sexuality, religious beliefs, or even something as small as moral beliefs. 

The little cartoons were such a fun addition to the story, and each was relatable into what was going on in the story. I can’t think of why I didn’t give it a full five-stars, but just some part of me knows it wasn’t perfect. There isn’t anything specifically I can put my finger on, I think just an overall feeling that there was room for growth.

Overall, I did really enjoy this novel. It was a fun, quick read that also spotlights a diverse minority, and gives the reader some things to think about. It was not the best piece of literature I’ve ever read, but I don’t believe it was supposed to be heavy in either the writing style, tone, or topic. It is a young adult novel that conveys the important messages, and is an interesting read.

“The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not."


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Shooter | Book Review

Shooter

Written by: Caroline Pignat
Number of pages: 320

Average Rating: 4.09/5 stars
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Published: May 3, 2016
Read in September 2017


Summary According to Goodreads

A lockdown catches five grade 12 students by surprise and throws them together in the only unlocked room on that empty third floor wing: the boys’ washroom. They sit in silence, judging each other by what they see, by the stories they’ve heard over the years. Stuck here with them - could anything be worse?

There’s Alice: an introverted writer, trapped int he role of big sister to her older autistic brother, Noah. Isabelle: the popular, high-achieving, student council president, whose greatest performance is her everyday life. Hogan: an ex-football player with a troubled past and a hopeless future. Xander: that socially awkward guy hiding behind the camera, whose candid pictures of school life, especially those of Isabelle, have brought him more trouble than answers. 

Told in five unique voices through prose, poetry, text messages, journals, and homework assignments, each student reveals pieces of their true story as they wait for the drill to end. But this modern-day Breakfast Club takes a twist when Isabelle gets a text that changes everything: NOT A DRILL! Shooter in the school!

Suddenly, the bathroom doesn’t seem so safe anymore. Especially when they learn that one of them knows more about the shooter than they realized. 


My Thoughts

As many of you probably already know, I am fascinated by the psychology behind what leads people to commit crimes - specifically school shootings. Fewer of you may know that I had started writing my own novel, with the plot surrounding a shooting. I do rate these types of novels harder, because they are so personal in today’s society, but also because I know what I would do with it. 

Because of my strong interest, I have read many novels (both fiction and non-fiction) from this plot, and this might be one of the worst that I’ve read. It is portrayed as five students stuck in a bathroom during a lockdown, but instead of focusing on the shooter, it focuses on the lives of these people and how they’ve been wrongly judging them over the years. 

I didn’t like any of the characters, they were typical and flat, and were dealing with generic senior year problems. I feel like the author just thought of the four most generic types of high school students, and picked one from each group to build her cast: the popular one, the loner, the nerd, and the bad boy. Oh, and then added an autistic brother to make it more diverse. Each chapter rotated through being told in their perspectives, but a couple of times I would forget whose I was reading from and had to flip back to see. 

The plot was just as flat as the characters were, with the big reveal, being nothing special. There is random details thrown in from each of these kids, and it almost came across as “who can give the biggest sob story?” All of the dramatic stuff happened right at the end, and was over before the reader knew we were finally getting somewhere. I never once felt as though these students were afraid for their lives, and instead felt their boredom seeping off the pages. When I was in school I had done plenty of lockdowns, and even if you know it is a drill, it brings a certain anxiety with it but that was lacking in this novel.

So I can tell you exactly why I gave two stars: One star for being set in a Canadian school. One star for the different writing styles, that made it a lot easier to read and kept the plot going. This novel is set within an hour (and then a bit of the aftermath), so it is a fairly quick read because you want to know what is going to happen to these kids - as basic as they are. 

Overall, this was mediocre. This author has written many novels so I expected more out of her writing and plot development. I didn’t bring anything away from this story, and it will not be making an impact on me or my reading experiences in any way. I wish I had just picked it up from the library, and will be un-hauling it so someone else can hopefully enjoy it more than I did. If you are interested in school shooting novels, I would stay away from this one, or go into it with low expectations. 


Monday, September 11, 2017

Don't Look Back | Book Review

Don’t Look Back

Written by: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Number of pages: 369

Average Rating: 4.11/5 stars
My Rating: 5 stars

Published: April 14, 2014
Read in September 2017


Summary According to Goodreads

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all - popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Same is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her - even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the truth about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory - someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of the fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?


My Thoughts

I have been eyeing this novel for a while, and have actually owned it since September of 2014. I figured three years was enough time for it to sit on my shelf, and decided to give it a read. And OH BOY what a read it was. 

This was not my first experience with Jennifer L. Armentrout, I read her new adult novel Wait for You, a couple years ago but I didn’t love it. Reading this makes me want to give that one another read, because her writing was so smooth and so easy to read. There was the perfect amount of suspense, the right amount of romance, and even some humour thrown in. 

I love thrillers, and this one did not disappoint. It was engaging from the very first page, and only increased its intensity from there. There were some plot points that were predictable, but I did not guess the ending at all. This novel was written so well, that readers can be so torn between who the suspect was and be kept on their toes until the very end. 

The characters were fairly well-developed considering they were high school students, but my two favourites were Scott (her brother), and Carson (our love interest). It was clear that our main character had strong support systems around her, but everyone had motive to hurt her or Cassie so she couldn’t put her complete trust in anyone. Samantha did make some naive decisions, but given her circumstances I think they were done with the best of intentions. 

This was a difficult novel for me to rate. I originally rated it four stars, but ended up bringing it up to a five. There were a couple of character faults I didn’t like, but they all ended up being justified through the plot. There was nothing I would have changed, nothing I would have liked to see - it was great. 

Overall, this novel has made it onto my favourites list, and I am already looking for another by this author to add to my shelf. This was a great one to kick off the fall weather, and I would recommend it with Halloween coming up!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Welcome Home | Book Review

Welcome Home

Edited by: Eric Smith
Number of pages: 350

My Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Published: September 5, 2017
Read in September 2017


Summary According to Goodreads

Welcome Home collects a number of adoption-themed fictional short stories, and brings them together in one anthology from a diverse range of celebrated Young Adult authors.


My Thoughts 

I received an ebook copy of this book to review on behalf of NetGalley, but that does not affect my opinion. In fact, I loved it so much I purchased my own physical copy.

I need to be honest right off the bat: I do have a personal connection to adoption. Not myself, but a family friend adopted two young girls, and I was able to see how they became a family. I went into this novel knowing what an emotional journey and process adoption is, but this novel handled many aspects of it beautifully. 

I loved that each of these authors had their own connection to adoption and it's process, and it really reflected it all of their writing. Some were better done than others, but they all mostly came with a good lesson or insight. 

I was introduced to many authors I didn’t know of, but also others I have considered reading from. This was a great collection for YA readers that are interested in adoption stories. 

Since this was an anthology, I thought it would only be far to rate each story individually, and share any thoughts I had. You’ll find all stories listed below!

• Carlos and the Fifteen Year-Old Heart by Adi Alsaid: 3 stars

     - I hadn't read anything but this author before, even though I've been eyeing his works for a while. Enjoyed this one, but didn't connect to it as much as I would've liked to.

• Strong Enough by Karen Atkins: 4.5 stars

     - Why wasn't this longer?? I loved this so much, I could've read an entire novel about Gracie. I'm not one for superhero tales but I need more!

• The Sign by Erica M. Chapman: 3 stars

• Up a Million by Caela Carter: 5 stars

     - This was perfect. It was so simply short but packed so much emotion. In less than 10 pages I was able to connect to this mother-daughter pair, and understand their relationship. It was just so heartfelt and pure, I cried.

• Mama's Eyes by Libby Cudmore: 4 stars

     - Wow, this novel had all the feels. It was a great look into the harder sides of adoption, and the risks it could put children in. Just didn't care much for the way her dad handled things.

• A Kingdom Bright and Burning by Dave Connis: 4 stars

     - This is one that I sat and thought about after I finished reading it. There were so many hidden messages and symbolism woven in, that you just have to take a moment to appreciate it all.

• The Inexplicable Weight of Mountains by Helene Dunbar: 2 stars

• Webbed by Julie Esbaugh: 2 stars

• Life: Starring Tallulah Grey by Lauren Gibaldi: 3 stars

     - This was okay, I enjoyed the writing style but it felt unfinished in a couple of ways.

• Salvation by Shannon Gibney: 3 stars

• Twenty-Seven Days by Jenny Kaczorowski: 5 stars

• Ink Drips Black by Julie Leung: 3 stars

• Upon the Horizon's Verge by Sangru Mandanna: 5 stars

• Lullaby by Matthew Quinn Martin: 2 stars

• Census Man by Mindy McGinnis: 2.5 stars

• Invited by Lauren Morrill: 5 stars

• Empty Lens by Tameka Mullins: 3 stars

• A Lesson in Biology by Sammy Nickalls: 4 stars

• Tunneling Through by Shannon Parker: 4 stars

• These Broken Stars by C.J Redwine: 2 stars

• The Snow-Covered Sidewalk by Randy Ribay: 3 stars

• Deeply by William Ritter: 2 stars

• Meant to be Broken by Stephanie Scott: 3 stars

• Moving the Body by Natasha Sinel: 4 stars

• In Pieces by Eric Smith: 3 stars

• Peace of Paper by Courtney C. Stevens: 4 stars

• Happy Beginning by Nic Stone: 3.5 stars

• The Take Back by Kate Watson: 5 stars

     - I LOVED this one so much, that I read it twice. The characters were so rich and deep I wanted to cry with them. Such a good, well-rounded story that didn't feel like it was lacking, but instead showed so much room for more.

• Jar of Broken Wishes by Tristina Wright: 5 stars

Overall, I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. I was so connected to characters that only had 10 pages, but was able to develop a whole new appreciation for adoption. It was so beautiful on so many levels, and I am so excited for there to be more adoption awareness. It is not an easy journey for anyone involved, so I appreciated that this novel was able to show all of the different sides.