the dilemma of reading

the dilemma of reading

"Oh, all stories are the same, aren't they? Men and women fall in love or out of love. People are born; people die. It all ends happily or it all ends sadly, and the difference matters only to the people involved.”

--Gabrielle Zevin, Margarettown

Review
2.5 Stars
Death of a Bachelorette/Laura Levine
Death of a Bachelorette (A Jaine Austen Mystery) - Laura Levine

Freelance writer Jaine Austen thought working for a knock-off reality show in the tropics would be paradise. But when she and her kitty Prozac find themselves trapped between a dimwitted leading man, catty contestants, and a cold-blooded murderer, the splashy gig becomes one deadly nightmare...
Jaine's life has been a royal pain since she started penning dialogue for Some Day My Prince Will Come--a cheesy dating show that features bachelorettes competing for the heart of Spencer Dalworth VII, a very distant heir to the British throne. As if fending off golf ball-sized bugs on a sweltering island wasn't tough enough, Jaine must test her patience against an irritable production crew and fierce contestants who will do anything to get their prince...
But Jaine never expected murder to enter the script. When one of the finalists dies in a freak accident, it's clear someone wanted the woman out of the race for good--and the police won't allow a soul off the island until they seize the culprit. Terrified of existing another day without air conditioning and eager to return home, Jaine is throwing herself into the investigation. And she better pounce on clues quickly--or there won't be any survivors left...

 

While this book was pretty outrageous and at points juvenile, it was still a fun read.

Strange would probably be the best way to describe the concept of this book. From strange natives with strange ceremonies to strange producers with strange ideas of success, the story was riddled with oddities and unexpected absurdities.

 

I was not Jaine's biggest fan--she's not the brightest, and she's pretty ditzy at points. However, she was the fun type of ditzy and I was amused by her antics and by her drama queen attitude that somehow managed to be less obnoxious than that of the remaining few competitions.

 

This isn't necessarily the book for you if you're a huge fan of reality TV shows as there was surprisingly little to do with the show actually mentioned. The plot was insane, however, and there was definitely drama within love that was quite entertaining.

 

I wasn't the biggest fan of this book. There are chick flicks out there with more character building and believable premises. But if you're into super absurd things, you might enjoy this.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
Here and Gone/Haylen Beck
Here and Gone: A Novel - Haylen Beck

Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother's desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she's pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they're gone than she must have done something with them... Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

 

This book was quite harrowing, and had my nerves all over the place as I read it and became invested in the lives of all involved.

 

From the very beginning, I was scared for this family--the opening scene has Audra driving through arid desert with few inhabitants, looking over her shoulder at every turn. Surely enough, as we know it will, the worst happens. I couldn't put this one down--it sickened me and I was desperately anxious to reach the end and have good things happen to these characters.

 

This wasn't particularly a mystery novel as we knew throughout what had happened, how it had happened, and why. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to race through this book to find out what would ultimately occur.

 

Underneath the ultimate plot of kids disappearing, there were some interesting tropes. Abuse was handled well in this book, and Audra's background with her husband was sickening. A lady who she stays with plays a role I did not expect and had a fascinating personality.

 

I felt like Danny, the man mentioned in the blurb, was kind of unnecessary. I wish he hadn't existed or that he'd been better worked into the plot. Though this is not at all a romance, it felt very much like a knight-in-shining-armour trope. His background was interesting to read about though, and I would have enjoyed more of him instead of less.

 

There were two children who I felt received the unfortunate end of the stick and I would have liked to have seen this resolved; however, this might have been out of the scope of the book so I can understand why their ultimate fates weren't included.

 

Overall, this was a really engaging read that I recommend quite highly

.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4 Stars
Single-Minded/Lisa Daily
Single-Minded: A Novel - Lisa Daily

Alex has planned and executed her life with laser focus since she first met her future husband at the play-doh table on the first day of kindergarten. They have a terrific life, a gorgeous house on the bay, and fantastic careers they love. There’s only one problem: Alex’s husband Michael is gay, a fact he neglected to mention in the 23 years since they first met.

Now, Alex’s perfectly planned life has completely fallen apart, her biological clock is starting to feel like the timer on a nuclear device, and she finds herself drooling over her completely-dreamy-but-definitely-off-limits client, a star chef opening a hot new restaurant. Armed with dating guidance from her oddball collection of advisers—including her gay ex-husband, a foul-mouthed political consultant, a perkily masochistic yogi, and a pot-smoking octogenarian—Alex navigates the booby-trapped world of modern dating, in her search for a second chance at love.

 

Daily is a splendid writer and my heart was in my throat through many of the scenes of this book. I think at heart this book stood out to me as a romance, though it did also address issues of self-worth and how one can view and value themselves as the world around them changes.

 

I can relate to Alex in how driven she is and in how she plans for things to go in a certain way so that she can meet success. I definitely would have liked to have seen more about her business--the scenes were she had events that could make or break it were really interesting and I was fascinated by her job as an environmental psychologist and wanted to learn more.

 

I loved seeing her entering the world of dating. I generally enjoy this, but it was especially great as she was a very put together character who just simply had never really been on a date in her life and because of that, there were many pitfalls that she had to work with throughout.

 

Her first "Tinder"-esque dates especially were intriguing, and I was curious about her friend's idea of needing to date a certain number of people of certain types before being able to marry. The "fish" especially resonated with me--that most people will have one person that is perfect in many ways, but there's something that just makes the relationship incompatible.

 

I felt like several scenes were sped through and could have used more detail to build up suspense and to really put me in the scene. I also wish there had been more resolution about a certain intriguing portrait.

 

This is a lovely women's fiction novel that I found to have quite a satisfying romance. I recommend it as a light read.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
Crimes Against a Book Club/Kathy Cooperman
Crimes Against a Book Club - Kathy Cooperman

Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.

 

Hilarious and a little bit absurd, I really loved this one!

 

The plot is so very strange but so very novel and engaging. I absolutely adored the way that it unraveled and how all of the elements introduced in the beginning came together quickly. The plot alone could have carried me easily through this book as I was immensely curious to see what would happen.

 

But the characters added another whole layer to it. They were all strangely lovable, even the ones that I simultaneously disliked. The manner in which everything came together was quite clever. At times, it reminded me of high school drama books but for adults and it definitely had the cliquey prestige that we all love to hate.

 

The morals of this book were questioning and questionable and immensely fascinating to me. I was highly entertained by the conflict between Annie and Sarah and how their friendship evolved and changed, as well as by the family dynamic that surprised me near the end.

 

For a light drama and a fun women's fiction read, I recommend this.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2 Stars
No Turning Back/Tracy Buchanan
No Turning Back: A Novel - Tracy Buchanan

You’d kill to protect your child – wouldn’t you?

When radio presenter Anna Graves and her baby are attacked on the beach by a crazed teenager, Anna reacts instinctively to protect her daughter.

But her life falls apart when the schoolboy dies from his injuries. The police believe Anna’s story, until the autopsy results reveal something more sinister.

A frenzied media attack sends Anna into a spiral of self-doubt. Her precarious mental state is further threatened when she receives a chilling message from someone claiming to be the ‘Ophelia Killer’, responsible for a series of murders twenty years ago.

Is Anna as innocent as she claims? And is murder forgivable, if committed to save your child’s life…?

 

While the premise of this book was quite interesting, the successive plot was wrapped up in a way that relied a lot on believing a coincidence that I just couldn't buy.

 

I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. I enjoyed the sentiment behind how passionate Anna was as a mother, but I felt like she wasn't well developed as a character otherwise. She's got a career as a radio presenter, but she has to take a lot of time off. This isn't her fault, but it takes away a lot of her interest.

 

I will definitely say that I was surprised by the ultimate end; I did not see it coming at all. But I was surprised and I didn't really buy it because it didn't fit in with anything I'd read to that point. It was a unique ending, but not one I was particularly pleased by.

 

I guess I just feel like the police should have handled this one. Anna wasn't the one investigating. The novel focused on how the events affected her, but I just didn't really care. I wanted to be in the action.

 

This is worth a shot, but it was sadly not my cup of tea. It took me forever to read it because I kept getting distracted by more engaging books.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4.5 Stars
Mad/Chloé Esposito
Mad: A Novel (Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know Trilogy) - Chloé Esposito

In this compulsively readable debut, set between London and Sicily over one blood-drenched week in the dead of summer, an identical twin reveals the crazy lies and twists she'll go through to not only steal her sister's perfect life, but to keep on living it.

Alvie Knightly is a trainwreck: aimless, haphazard, and pretty much constantly drunk. Alvie's existence is made even more futile in contrast to that of her identical and perfect twin sister, Beth. Alvie lives on social media, eats kebabs for breakfast, and gets stopped at security when the sex toy in her carry-on starts buzzing. Beth is married to a hot, rich Italian, dotes on her beautiful baby boy, and has always been their mother's favorite. The twins' days of having anything in common besides their looks are long gone.

When Beth sends Alvie a first-class plane ticket to visit her in Italy, Alvie is reluctant to go. But when she gets fired from the job she hates and her flatmates kick her out on the streets, a luxury villa in glitzy Taormina suddenly sounds more appealing. Beth asks Alvie to swap places with her for just a few hours so she can go out unnoticed by her husband. Alvie jumps at the chance to take over her sister's life--if only temporarily. But when the night ends with Beth dead at the bottom of the pool, Alvie realizes that this is her chance to change her life.

Alvie quickly discovers that living Beth's life is harder than she thought. What was her sister hiding from her husband? And why did Beth invite her to Italy at all? As Alvie digs deeper, she uncovers Mafia connections, secret lovers, attractive hitmen, and one extremely corrupt priest, all of whom are starting to catch on to her charade. Now Alvie has to rely on all the skills that made her unemployable--a turned-to-11 sex drive, a love of guns, lying to her mother--if she wants to keep her million-dollar prize. She is uncensored, unhinged, and unforgettable.

 

My mouth hung open throughout the reading of this book, which definitely pushed its limits.

 

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this and my boyfriend probably has a bruise from the amount of times I poked him in order to get his attention because I just had to share the amount of hilarious things that were written.

 

Alvie is abrasive. She's over the top. She's ridiculous. She's absurd. You're not meant to like her. I loved her--I loved to hate her, really. I cannot fathom so much as contemplating the actions that she took or having her priorities and desires, but she sure cracked me up.

 

I felt like the latter half kind of got too much for me--I enjoyed the lighter side of things, but the mafia did get involved, there were guns, and there was blood. I laughed less and was open-mouthed more with incredulity at the absurd events that were taking place. Very few of the characters in this book were actually as they seemed or as I had predicted them to be.

 

The plot similarly became ridiculous. The book started off as a more explicit sort of Kinsella novel with a less likable protagonist and much stranger scenarios, but then turned into a kind of mystery, then to a thriller, then just to an absurdist telling of a story.

 

Put your judgemental side away and read this book right now--it's sure to have you in hysterics. I'm cautiously but eagerly anticipating the next book.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4 Stars
The Heirs/Susan Rieger
The Heirs - Susan Rieger

Brilliantly wrought, incisive, and stirring, The Heirs tells the story of an upper-crust Manhattan family coming undone after the death of their patriarch. Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him.

In disconcerting contrast, their mother, Eleanor, is cool and calm, showing preternatural composure. Eleanor and Rupert had made an admirable life together -- Eleanor with her sly wit and generosity, Rupert with his ambition and English charm -- and they were proud of their handsome, talented sons: Harry, a brash law professor; Will, a savvy Hollywood agent; Sam, an astute doctor and scientific researcher; Jack, a jazz trumpet prodigy; Tom, a public-spirited federal prosecutor.

The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty - a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find Eleanor's sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood has let her cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, and the brothers begin to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.

A riveting portrait of a family, told with compassion, insight, and wit, The Heirs wrestles with the tangled nature of inheritance and legacy for one unforgettable, patrician New York family. Moving seamlessly through a constellation of rich, arresting voices, The Heirs is a tale out Edith Wharton for the 21st century.

 

For anyone who adores characters and the way that each person's history might contribute to a larger picture, this is a must read.

 

This was a gorgeous exploration of the spiderweb way that one man's connections interact with the world and, without having the clichés found in a butterfly effect novel, the way that the decisions people make affect generations to come.

 

This is split up into chapters that loosely focus on characters and the way that the main events had played into their lives. Rupert and Eleanor had five sons, each of whom is well drawn and has a distinct personality from the others. Rieger's ability to create people that feel absolutely real is astounding, and while I was excited to read about new characters, I also found myself aching to know about the interplay between them all.

 

I enjoyed the general atmosphere of this book and the way that it read. While there wasn't a clear and distinct plot and it felt at points like a collection of short stories, I enjoyed the way it begun and the succinct way that it wrapped itself up, simultaneously giving answers and creating questions.

 

Rieger's talent for breathing life into characters is one I look forward to seeing again in the future.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
Practicing Normal/Cara Sue Achterburg
Practicing Normal - Cara Sue Achterberg

The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.

The Turners know in their hearts that they're anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors' homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger's who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.

And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett's secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.

Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That's what happens when you're practicing normal.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

 

I often say that I'd like to read about the everyday lives of well-developed characters simply because people are interesting and the way that they interact with the world is intriguing. This book brought me that in a satisfying way, though it had a distinct plot as well.

 

While reading this book, I truly got to know Kate and her daughter Jenna. I came to understand Everett and the way that he thought. And I came to appreciate and adore JT with his Asperger's and his unique way of viewing the world. The family itself is very insular, but I got to know secondary characters too through the ways that they interacted with the family.

 

Jenna was my favourite character--she has a tendency to break into houses and came to know many of her neighbours in that fashion. She's also quite intelligent and aware of what's going on. I loved the way she was vulnerable as she started exploring romance despite the cynicism of her grandmother.

 

And her grandmother, wow, she definitely kept things moving and provided a source of much of the conflict within this book. Her character also raised important questions of depression and the way we treat the elderly that I found to be quite poignant.

 

The plot wasn't quite interesting--if I described it to you, I'm not sure that it would persuade you to read this. In theory, it focused on a mystery of birth, and in Kate's sister trying to find their long-gone father. But instead, the strength of this book came from more of an exploration of characters as they navigated certain situations.

 

Nonetheless, this book was quite enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to more from Achterberg.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2.5 Stars
How To Survive a Summer/Nick White
How to Survive a Summer: A Novel - Nick White

A searing debut novel centering around a gay conversion camp in Mississippi, and a man's reckoning with the trauma he faced there as a teen.
Camp Levi—nestled in the Mississippi countryside—is designed to "cure" young teenage boys of their budding homosexuality. Will Dillard, a Midwestern graduate student, spent a summer at the camp as a teenager, and has since tried to erase that experience from his mind. But when a fellow student alerts him that a slasher movie based on the camp is being released, he is forced to confront his troubled history and possible culpability in the death of a fellow camper.
As past and present are woven together, Will recounts his "rehabilitation," eventually returning to the abandoned campgrounds to solve the mysteries of that pivotal summer, and to reclaim his story from those who have stolen it. With a masterful confluence of sensibility and place, How to Survive a Summer introduces an exciting new literary voice.

 

I wanted to love this book so much more than I did, but it was unfortunately juvenilely written and hard to slough through.

 

One character aptly assumes at one point that our narrator doesn't want to talk about his story because he may feel it's just another example of a gay boy growing up and getting out of a small town, moving from a rural area to a metropolitan area and not terribly worthy of sharing. This was the most poignant moment of the novel, because I think a lot of people do feel this way when they should know that their perspective is also important.

 

I don't know. I was so psyched for this book but it didn't captivate me or compel me. It wasn't as gruesome as promised, not that I wanted to see gruesome specifically, but I expected there to be more shock factor for how the book was sold. There was one character who was very fucked up and I think that this was much more the problem in the story than the idea of "stomping out the gay."

 

I feel like there could have been more. Will's current life is very strange and aimless and could have better been written into its own story. His relationships with a guy he's interested in and a friend who's more a mentor were both very strange and were described as more intimate than they really are.

 

I kept getting bored and wanting to give up. Ultimately, the ending was super unsatisfying also, and I was left in limbo wondering what I had just read. While I think this topic matter is important, I would have liked to see this story differently done in a manner that would be much more captivating. I felt like the title was false advertisement, honestly.

 

This was disappointing. If you're interested in the topic manner it might be worth your time, but it was far from the slamdunk I was hoping this would pull on my emotions.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
3.5 Stars
The Idea of You/Robinne Lee
The Idea of You: A Novel - Robinne Lee

Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things.

What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solène and Hayes navigate each other’s worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways in Paris and Miami. For Solène, it is a reclaiming of self, as well as a rediscovery of happiness and love. When Solène and Hayes’ romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solène must face how her romantic life has impacted the lives of those she cares about most.

 

While this book was overtly explicit in places, Soléne's tone made the book a lot of fun to read.

 

If you're not comfortable with a relationship with a significant age gap, then don't read this, simply put. I thought this book did a great job of exploring the double standard of age relations and for confronting why many of us have an inherent opposition to a specific type of relationship between two consenting adults.

 

Soléne was an intriguing character simply in the way she handles herself. On one hand, she has a really fantastic job that she's persevered at for years and has found a lot of success with, even in a challenging world, but on the other hand she seems to be constantly worrying about needing to have a man in her life and how she's too old to find a new man. I did adore her tone and realism, however. She had a lot of dry humour and deadpanning that highly amused me.

 

I had a lot of fun also seeing the person behind the face of a boy band. There's a moment where the band is nominated for a Grammy award that really struck me--Hayes was so genuine in that moment. He had a tendency to believe that he could buy whatever he wanted, also, and in a way he grew up through this book.

 

I adored the emotions of first love, of motherhood, and of being thirteen, which were all realistically and adeptly portrayed. Isabelle was a standout character; I could see myself several years ago in her and in the way she handled the relationship. She was surprisingly mature yet very real.

 

Kudos for the Kehinde Wiley reference--I enjoyed the art gallery aspect of this book a lot. And that ending, wow. There was a lot of very explicit scenes which wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I was able to read through them.

 

Though it wasn't a complete standout, I enjoyed this book for the depth of emotion the characters felt.

Review
3 Stars
The Last Place You Look/Kristen Lepionka
The Last Place You Look - Kristen Lepionka

Nobody knows what happened to Sarah Cook. The beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton—black and from the wrong side of the tracks—was convicted of the murders and is now on death row. Though he’s maintained his innocence all along, the clock is running out. His execution is only weeks away when his devoted sister insists she spied Sarah at an area gas station. Willing to try anything, she hires PI Roxane Weary to look at the case and see if she can locate Sarah.

Brad might be in a bad way, but private investigator Roxane Weary isn’t doing so hot herself. Still reeling from the recent death of her cop father in the line of duty, her main way of dealing with her grief has been working as little and drinking as much as possible. But Roxane finds herself drawn in to the story of Sarah's vanishing act, especially when she links the disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl.

The stakes get higher as Roxane discovers that the two girls may not be the only beautiful blonde teenagers who’ve turned up missing or dead. As her investigation gets darker and darker, Roxane will have to risk everything to find the truth. Lives depend on her cracking this case—hers included.

 

Very much a detective novel, this book was kind of all over the place in the topics it covered but was a solid read.

 

One of my initial thoughts about this book was "wow, this chick drinks all the time." Thankfully, while this started off as overtly descriptive, it turned into an interesting facet that allowed Roxane to grow up a little bit throughout the novel. I never really gained an appreciation for her, however, and though she was sympathetic and tough, she simply never resonated with me.

 

I liked that her two major relationships never turned the novel into a romance but had plenty of elements of adult relationships. They were rather different in nature but each again had her maturing a little and contributed to her backstory. I really loved that she was bisexual but that she didn't have to talk about it.

 

More so than the mystery itself, this book was driven by the relationships. She also formed a cool friendship with Shelby, a teen who managed to be caught up in the drama. It was definitely more a detective novel, but the parts I mainly cared about were by far these relationships.

 

This book aptly demonstrated all the problems that can happen with corruption in the government and was quite alarming at some points but hopefully could serve as a wakeup call.

 

I'm not over the top about this book and am not likely to read the sequels, but it was a fairly solid detective story.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2.5 Stars
Perennials/Mandy Berman
Perennials: A Novel - Mandy Berman

At what point does childhood end and adulthood begin? Mandy Berman’s evocative debut novel captures, through the lens of summer camp, a place that only appears to be untouched by the passing of time, both the thrills and pain of growing up.

Rachel Rivkin and Fiona Larkin used to treasure their summers together as campers at Camp Marigold. Now, reunited as counselors after their first year of college, their relationship is more complicated. Rebellious Rachel, a street-smart city kid raised by a single mother, has been losing patience with her best friend’s insecurities; Fiona, the middle child of a not-so-perfect suburban family, envies Rachel’s popularity with their campers and fellow counselors. For the first time, the two friends start keeping secrets from each other. Through them, as well as from the perspectives of their fellow counselors, campers, and families, we witness the tensions of the turbulent summer build to a tragic event, which forces Rachel and Fiona to confront their pasts—and the adults they’re becoming.

A seductive blast of nostalgia, a striking portrait of adolescent longing, and a tribute to both the complicated nature and the enduring power of female friendship, Perennials will speak to everyone who still remembers that bittersweet moment when innocence is lost forever.

 

I enjoyed the overall theme of this book and the portrayals at the end but otherwise, this was another readable YA book.

 

The blurb does not lie in that Berman really captures the beauty of summer camp, both for younger kids and for the older counselors, young adults coming into their own. The inclusion of foreign counselors made the book all the more interesting for me.

 

I enjoyed the way this dealt with race and issues of socioeconomic status within the younger campers. Seeing how this played out, seeing how the scholarship kids made it and didn’t, was important and added a layer of depth. I was definitely rooting for those kids.

 

A perennial is unchanging and never truly ends. I adored the way that this theme recurred through the book and how it ultimately came to fruition and truth at the end. This dealt with growing up very well and really provoked thought about youth and how it fades.

 

If you adore the summer camp vibe or need a solid YA, this is a good contender. Ultimately though, the theme was the only point that made this book stand out.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
He Said/She Said/Erin Kelly
He Said/She Said - Erin Kelly

In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.

But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.

The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?

15 years later, Kit and Laura married are living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.

From Erin Kelly, queen of the killer twist, He Said/She Said is a gripping tale of the lies we tell to save ourselves, the truths we cannot admit, and how far we will go to make others believe our side of the story.

 

I've got to say, this book did not play out at all the way I expected it too. Nonetheless, it had an intriguing plot.

 

And it was the plot that carried this book. I found it really hard to get into the story and to care about the characters. While I eventually became intrigued by the court case, I never really related to the characters at all. I couldn't understand their decisions and I struggled to see things from their perspective. The book mainly centres around a rape case.

 

Kit and Laura's love was very sweet but very intense. I appreciated it for the perspective it brought; however, they were incredibly judgemental and I found it hard to really care for them. I didn't comprehend the complete and utter terror they had, their fear to the point of crippling anxiety, even after the ultimate reveal. This could have worked with more setup or perhaps if I'd suspended my disbelief more, but while some incidents did happen, I expected a lot more horrible things to have occurred to have completely altered the way they lived their lives.

 

The final twist itself was pretty great, almost enough to carry the entire book, but the ending itself was incredibly strange and not really what I expected from those characters.

The most accurate portrayal in this book seemed to be of the rape case itself. I was intrigued by how all of the players were set up and by the ultimate results, which dealt with a very real world topic.

 

Ultimately, though this book didn't quite draw me in, plot was great and the twist was surprising, and I recommend this to those who enjoy thrillers.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3 Stars
Mr. Right-Swipe/Ricki Schultz
Mr. Right-Swipe - Ricki Schultz

Rae Wallace would rather drown in a vat of pinot greezh and be eaten by her own beagle than make another trip down the aisle--even if it is her best friend's wedding. She's too busy molding the minds of first graders and polishing that ol' novel in the drawer to waste time on any man, unless it's Jason Segel.
But when her be-fris stage an intervention, Rae is forced to give in. After all, they've hatched a plan to help her find love the 21st century way: online. She's skeptical of this electronic chlamydia catcher, but she's out to prove she hasn't been too picky with men.
However, when a familiar fella's profile pops up--the dangerously hot substitute teacher from work (Nick)--Rae swipes herself right into a new problem...

 

This book was as it promised to be--light women's fiction with a lot of laugh out loud moments. Though it wasn't the deepest, the humour was lovely.

 

Rae's tone was absolutely fantastic--she's super witty and it's hilarious. I loved how she commented on the world and how I could very easily imagine her as someone I knew in real life. The way she interacted with the app was highly entertaining, and I adored how she and her friends were first grade teachers--not exactly what I had expected. I'm not the biggest fan of characters who are writers trying to be published simply because it's overused, but she at least had a great tone.

 

I did feel like Rae had the tendency to be quite judgemental--there was one scene in particular where she finds one guy with something wrong with him physically, and it's never quite clear if he just had a bad circumcision or some birth deformity, but nonetheless, something about how he looked was enough for her to lose interest in him despite how she had been completely into him prior. It fits with her character, but sometimes she really passed too much judgement.

 

This is mainly a book about guys, but Rae at least acknowledges that. She has an inherent mistrust of men in general and doesn't think that she'll find love, yet she seems to spend most of her time thinking about them or at the bar trying to pick one up. Quite contrarily, the ultimate message of this book seemed to be that Rae was happy when she had a man.

 

This was quite opposing to her strong friendship with fellow female teachers. Though she wasn't particularly supportive at time and seemed to want to ignore problems, she did value them quite a lot. A few of the scenes at the end of the book were quite heartening.

 

Oh, and she strangely uses hashtags all over the place... and it's really annoying. Not sure why the author decided to do that.

 

While this book will not teach you any underlying messages, it's a quick and easy book with some lovely scenes.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4.5 Stars
All the Best People/Sonja Yoerg
All the Best People - Sonja Yoerg

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family's auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won't reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn't the television. She ought to seek help, but she's terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

I thought this book was really beautiful and eloquently written and a fine example of how women's fiction can be literary fiction, deep and moving with a great portrayal of mental illness.


It did take me several chapters to become engrossed in this novel and to get my bearings regarding who was who. Even then I felt I could have stepped away; however, the characters were intricately developed and crafted with each having their own and I thought of them affectionately.


This story has its origins in a real law case and though the rest of it is fictionalised I was impressed by the way that Yoerg set up the effect of the case on the generations to come. Additionally, the setting of Vermont was well done and I felt like this could have been memoir at points.


Classism was portrayed in such an incredible manner. I was fascinated by how we saw it slowly creep through the story to play a huge role, and the way that prejudice was so easily dismissed and explained away. The concept of bad blood coming back later through Carole's illness was so incredibly poignant and ironic, and I loved the way the last twist of information worked against those who'd used the idea.


The connection between Solange and Alison was honestly so sweet. Alison was an absolute delight to read about and was incredibly well-written; I could see aspects of my twelve-year-old sister in her. The way she talked about feeling lonely and forgotten leading up to how she comes to really appreciate her mother was incredibly touching.


Not all characters were 'good' and I appreciated the way this showed all facets of people--the good, the bad, and the ugly. I loved how even when I adored a character, they showed their flaws and did something I wouldn't expect.


Finally, and most importantly, I loved how this talked about mental illness. So often literature does no justice to this very important matter, but this showed how mental illness is real, how it needs to be talked about, and how it is something that we can live with.

Beautiful, beautiful novel. I highly recommend for those looking for a deeper women's lit read.

 

Review
4 Stars
The Girl Who Was Taken/Charlie Donea
The Girl Who Was Taken - Charlie Donlea

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.

 

Simply for the forensic pathology element, this book is worth the read. And the mystery was pretty great, too.

 

I absolutely adored the clinical perspective of this book. Dr. Cutty starts looking at living people and seeing how they might die, which was grotesque but at the same time terribly intriguing to read about and gave her a unique perspective on characters.

 

I was intrigued by the disconnect between how Megan viewed herself, how her parents viewed her, and how society viewed her. The way that the public so desperately wanted her to be okay was so heartbreaking, and it was also harrowing to see how it was hard for her to truly have her thoughts heard. Her psychologist hypnotises her in an immensely fascinating process to watch and learn about.

 

I thought the organisation was confusing and I found it hard to follow the separate timelines at points. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and a lot of girls that are hurt. I think it would have benefitted from seeing fewer points of view.

 

The ending was highly satisfactory, though sad and not at all what I expected. This book had my emotions going and the mystery led me in several different ways, yet the ultimate resolution was not as I expected, though it made total sense.

 

The relationships that the various characters form was the icing on the cake for this book. I didn't expect them to evolve as they did, yet all details were satisfying to hear about.

 

This book is definitely worth the read.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.