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 Stars
The Idea of You/Amanda Prowse
The Idea of You - Amanda Prowse

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?

 

This book just did not do it for me, unfortunately. I found it melodramatic and never became invested.

 

Let me start off by rewriting the blurb for this book: 40-year-old Lucy, recently married to successful car salesman Jonah, is upset when her new stepdaughter moves in for the summer, interrupting her desire to conceive a healthy baby after several miscarriages.

 

By ten percent in, I was bored and wanted to move onto another book. There's a "twist" near to the end of this one that the book builds up to through little asides. I wasn't impressed. I think I was supposed to be more so, but I hadn't realised that there was a mystery, so I was kind of like "oh okay cool."

 

I honestly just could not with Lucy. She makes me feel like a bad person because I should be sympathetic towards her, but I instead thought that she was melodramatic and selfish, always caring about herself. I can in no way relate to the pain of a miscarriage. But her friend could! And when her friend mentioned that she had had a miscarriage, Lucy's like "I don't care." Ugh.

 

Camille was the saving grace of this book and the one thing that made reading this not a complete drag. She's a teenager and she's very true to character. Her background ties into the way she acts, and I loved seeing her change around different people. She's melodramatic, too, just like Jonah and Lucy are, but she owns it. She works it. She is it. Lucy and Jonah are pretending to act like adults while secretly being super melodramatic which was boring.

 

I swear, the author mentioned at least ten times that Jonah likes soft rock and Lucy likes eighties. It was cute the first time. It was cute when Camille then joked about it. It was aggravating the third through tenth times. There were a lot of factors like this (I get it, chicken Kiev is a family joke...), a lot of tropes that were just endless. Poor Lucy, poor Lucy, poor Lucy. I want to see her stand up and appreciate something for once or do something good for the world other than bemoaning her life.

 

If you've been trying for a child or have considered adoption, this might be for you. Maybe even if you're a mother you'll have more of a heart or this than I did. If not, then I don't recommend this.

Review
3 Stars
Letters to the Lost/Brigid Kemmerer
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

 

I didn’t find this to be a particularly outstanding YA but it was very sweet and an easy read.

 

The book is predictable in the typical manner of YA romances, though it did have some depth to it. I enjoyed hearing the way that Juliet and Declan challenged each other’s stereotypes and found the way they grew as a result to be heartwarming. Though it does follow the good girl goes for bad guy archetype, it did so enjoyably.

 

The strongest point of this was really their parents—Declan’s relationship with his stepfather evolved in a thoughtful way and their interactions felt extremely real. Similarly, Juliet’s dealing with her grief over her mother and the decisions she had made was insightful. These aspects really made the book a strong read.

 

If you’re looking for an easy read, this is a good choice.

Review
3 Stars
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley/Hannah Tinti
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel - Hannah Tinti

A father protects his daughter from the legacy of his past—and the truth about her mother’s death—in this thrilling new novel from the prize-winning author of The Good Thief.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past—a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks. Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

 

Eloquently written, this book was lyrical and lovely yet for some reason I was never fully captivated.

 

The web of characters was well twined--from Loo's principal to her grandmother, I felt like they all fit into the web of a greater picture. Each had their own clear motives and intriguing backstories and in my opinion that was the most successful element of this book.

 

The timeline in which it is told works very well, and I had a lot of fun piecing together thoughts from the past and the present and seeing how pieces of the puzzle fittogether. In this regard, it's almost a mystery in that I was guessing while reading about how Hawley had come to be as he was, and about the mysteries of Lily's life.

 

This book contained a lot more action than I normally read, with violence and epic chases and very many guns. The latter was lost on me as I can barely tell a revolver from a shotgun, but the book definitely kept moving with a lot of excitement.

 

I have never had a child, yet I feel like this book was one of few that gave me a glimpse into the all-consuming love that parents have for children. The author portrayed this magnificently throughout various characters--normally I feel as though it is assumed that I understand this love, but this book actually showed me.

 

Yet I was never truly captivated by this book, and I put it down to read others and was easily able to forget about it. It didn't captivate me as much as I thought that it would. I liked the characters, but didn't love them. I was intrigued by the how Hawley had ended up in the present, but not enough that it kept me thinking after I closed the book.

 

I definitely recommend this, even though I failed to fall in love with it.

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

Review
4 Stars
The Promise Girls/Marie Bostwick
The Promise Girls - Marie Bostwick

Every child prodigy grows up eventually. For the Promise sisters, escaping their mother’s narcissism and the notoriety that came with her bestselling book hasn’t been easy. Minerva Promise claimed that her three “test tube” daughters—gifted pianist Joanie, artistic Meg, and storyteller Avery—were engineered and molded to be geniuses. In adulthood, their modest lives fall far short of her grand ambitions. But now, twenty years after the book’s release, she hopes to redeem herself by taking part in a new documentary.

Meg, who hasn’t picked up a paintbrush in years, adamantly refuses to participate, until a car accident leaves her with crushing medical bills. While she recuperates in Seattle, the three sisters reluctantly meet with filmmaker Hal Seeger, another former prodigy. Like them, he’s familiar with the weight of failed potential. But as he digs deeper, he uncovers secrets they’ve hidden from each other—and a revelation that will challenge their beliefs, even as it spurs them to forge their own extraordinary lives at last.

 

This book had a lot of heart and a lot of spunk and really drew me in.

 

I envisioned this to be a simple but unspectacular read and was surprised by how deeply I felt towards the characters and the extent to which they enveloped me.

 

The plot contained a little bit of a mystery, some strings that hadn't previously been pulled together that eventually came out in a very satisfying way. This increased my intrigue while reading and really kept my interest peaked.

 

Meg suffers from memory loss in her car accident. Usually this medical condition is extremely gimmicky, but Bostwick did a fabulous job of making this poignant and relevant. I loved seeing the way that she was able to revaluate her life and develop new relationships with her daughter and her husband.

 

The documentary that Hal creates adds another lens to the book that really works. Again, this could have been gimmicky, but the layer this contributed was immensely satisfying and I loved viewing the way that he created things.

 

The family dynamics of the book were gorgeous. All the characters were very different, normal but extremely quirky. They were rational and made decisions that for them made sense and I felt like by the end these people were friends I would have in real life--kind of all over the place, but spirited and alive. From the two teenagers and their teenage angst to motherly Joanie and sporadic Avery, I really fell in love with them all.

 

This book was absolutely adorable and I recommend it highly. Definitely going to look for more of Bostwick's books.

 

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

 

Review
4 Stars
Waking Gods/Sylvain Neuvel
Waking Gods: Book 2 of The Themis Files - Sylvain Neuvel

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she's dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer now than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.
 
Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

 

While I preferred the first book, this was a stunning sequel.

 

I have issues with series. I like to bingeread them. Even with the absolute best series, if I've forgotten the plot, I won't be excited about it. Though I knew I that I'd enjoy this, I put off reading this one because I kept meaning to go back and reread the first, which I loved, but then I found myself on a plane with no WiFi and sick of thrillers, so.

 

This book, however, could be read without the first and stand alone fine. It would be better, of course, to read the two in a row, but it would work. There was only one real act of deus ex machina that ruined the continuity, and, quite frankly, kind of ruined a lot of the believability for me as well as causing me to kind of be less invested or fearful of death.

 

Neuvel's writing style is still gorgeous and it caught me immediately. I enjoy the file aspect still, though I felt that this brought in fewer perspectives than the previous book. There are some points where it can be a tad confusing to follow dialogue without any tags, but I think that the payoff is worth it. When reading about "military squirrel applications" doesn't phase you, you know you have a winner.

 

I have no idea how the end worked. Well, perhaps an idea, but no certain knowledge or comprehension of how it operated. It was extremely exciting to read and I was on my toes throughout, but the actual concept of it went over my head. I'm not sure if that was because of the science aspect or if it just wasn't worth my brainpower.

 

Kara and Vincent are my favourites and are super cute for a science fiction novel. I love the personalities of the characters all the way through and how they deal with family and the idea of bringing kids up in the world.

 

Some of this book was confusing and I'm not exactly sure of how some characters came in, but this worked and was a gripping read.

 

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

Review
3.5 Stars
It Happens All the Time/Amy Hatvany
It Happens All the Time: A Novel - Amy Hatvany

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

 

Ugh, this book was so important and covered such an important and rare perspective that although I didn't actually like it that much, I so highly recommend it.

 

Hatvany does an extraordinary good job of transitioning between sections. The book is told from two perspectives across multiple stretches of time, and although the chapters didn't indicate explicitly which part of the year they were being told from, it was always completely clear to me, which I found to be incredibly effective. I didn't get lost ever and I felt like the author guided me very clearly through the story.

 

I think this book is important. I think it tackles huge topics. I think Tyler's perspective sheds so much light on similar people's thought processes. I think today's society needs this book.

 

But I didn't appreciate the events that prompted the ending. I didn't like how one incident, the one that opens the book, influenced my entire thinking. I would have liked to have seen the actions that one character would have taken had he not had this outside event impacting him. And for me, that seriously detracted from the book.

 

And I didn't find Tyler's character to be as sympathetic as perhaps I was supposed to. His friendship with Amber as he grew up didn't strike me as particularly meaningful. I wished Amber had reached out and found other friends, and I felt like when she was at university, she would have.

 

Mainly, I just never get particularly engrossed in this book. It was easy enough to read, but even though Amber was an extremely motivated and well-rounded character, the type I normally love, I found it hard to really get involved, and I felt like there were many points where I could have stopped reading and simply forgotten about the book.

 

So I recommend this book, I do, because it's important. But I think it could have been better executed.

 

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

Review
2.5 Stars
If Not For You/Debbie Macomber
If Not for You: A Novel - Debbie Macomber

An emotionally stirring novel that shows how obstacles can be overcome, differences can be strengths, and sometimes a choice can seem wrong even though it’s absolutely right

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she’s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not—and her parents’ worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who’s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn’t exactly Sam’s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.

But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam—who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived—Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital—even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.

Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam’s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she’s come to love.

 

Maybe I'm at the point where I've read too many Macomber novels, but this one just didn't quite sit right with me. I expect to be completely absorbed by her books, but instead I found myself rolling my eyes.

 

The conflicts between Sam and Beth felt really juvenile. I never had any doubt about whether they'd stay together. Sam acts like a grumpy bear and Beth takes it all in stride. And, spoiler alert, he has another woman's name tattooed across his chest. He is portrayed as kind of a playboy, but hadn't explained that to anyone until Beth. I don't buy it. He holds double standards to her and is passive aggressive when he has a problem. Sure, I'd buy their relationship long term, but they needed to work on it and grow together.

 

I couldn't help agreeing with Beth's mother when she commented on how Beth's spreading her wings led her straight into the arms of another saviour. I wish we had seen more of Beth moving to start with, about her getting her own job and teaching. There was a pair of students mentioned twice that I would have loved to see more of that would have given Beth more of her own personality.

 

And maybe I'm not the romantic I was, but I found it terribly challenging to believe the Sunshine subplot, of two very smart and capable people holding flames for thirty years over a relationship that lasted less than a year.

 

I wasn't a big fan of Macomber in a city setting. Her writing thrives with small communities where everyone knows each other. Here, she writes about Portland and Chicago but it feels like it could be absolutely anywhere else. Though I appreciate her branching out, I wish she had done more research into the feel of the cities to really capture the environment.

 

The role of the female in this book was another issue I had. There was very much the sentiment of thinking that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has children or love, preferably both. And that just drives me up the wall. There's talk about the independence of having a job, but the general sentiment is that a woman must have a man to be happy, and that really bothers me.

 

If you generally like Macomber, you'll probably enjoy this. I absolutely adored her last book and was really excited for this one, but I found it falling into the typical tropes of her older books.

Review
3 Stars
Next Year, For Sure/Zoey Leigh Peterson
Next Year, for Sure: A Novel - Zoey Leigh Peterson

In this moving and enormously entertaining debut novel, longtime romantic partners Kathryn and Chris experiment with an open relationship and reconsider everything they thought they knew about love.

After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris have the sort of relationship most would envy. They speak in the shorthand they have invented, complete one another’s sentences, and help each other through every daily and existential dilemma. When Chris tells Kathryn about his feelings for Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the Laundromat, Kathryn encourages her boyfriend to pursue this other woman—certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather a little side dalliance.

As Kathryn and Chris stumble into polyamory, Next Year, For Sure tracks the tumultuous, revelatory, and often very funny year that follows. When Chris’s romance with Emily grows beyond what anyone anticipated, both Chris and Kathryn are invited into Emily’s communal home, where Kathryn will discover new romantic possibilities of her own. In the confusions, passions, and upheavals of their new lives, both Kathryn and Chris will be forced to reconsider their past and what they thought they knew about love.

Offering a luminous portrait of a relationship from two perspectives, Zoey L. Paterson has written an empathic, beautiful, and tremendously honest novel about a great love pushed to the edge. Deeply poignant and hugely entertaining, Next Year, For Sure shows us what lies at the mysterious heart of relationships, and what true openness and transformation require.

 

This was a rather intriguing story with an ending I very much enjoyed.

 

The writing was challenging. It had little punctuation, with no quotation marks offsetting speech ever. While I think this can be an incredibly effective technique, it distracted from the actual premise of the book. Instead of adding meaning to the story, it made it feel as though the author were trying to be overly literary.

 

Emily as a character felt too perfect. I wanted her to screw up, to do something wrong, but she instead continually did what one would expect her to be doing as the perfect version of her character type would.

 

Kathryn felt a tad uninvited, and I was sad for her, too. She had lost friends because of a previous relationship and it took this book to see her really socialise again and even then she lost one of the few people who she had been close to prior. Reading about her felt a little bit depressing.

 

I really appreciated the honesty in Kathryn and Chris's relationship. It was refreshing to see characters talk about their crushes on other people and to understand that love isn't always linear. I was almost disappointed by the ending though I think it was well deserved.

 

If the concept really intrigues you, read this book, but despite enjoying the plot I found the actual telling to be dry.

Review
3.5 Stars
Close Enough to Touch/Colleen Oakley
Close Enough to Touch: A Novel - Colleen Oakley

One time a boy kissed me and I almost died...

And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years in the confines of the small town New Jersey house her unaffectionate mother left to her when she ran off with a Long Island businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition...

An evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart.

 

Though strange, this was a sweet book with an ending I adored that kept me engaged.

 

The concept of a woman who is allergic to people was quite fascinating, and I was impressed by the amount of research the author must have done in order to gain an understanding of the topic. It felt well researched and the challenges seemed quite realistic. I wasn't quite as skeptical of everything as I thought I would be.

 

I expected that there would be more to learn from this book than there was. Jubilee adjusted surprisingly well to society, and where I thought there would be more conflict, quite a few things went well for her. The biggest conflict was indeed the romance which seemed like a bit of a lost opportunity.

 

Eric's son was probably my favourite character of the book--though a middle school aged boy, he was an absolute delight and I was amused by his interactions with various characters. I think there was a lot to be gained by seeing his relationships with the adults and how they interacted with him. I also loved Jubilee's friend and the way their acquaintance evolved.

 

The ending of this was superbly written. Unlike other romances, I was never quite sure exactly how it would end, but it did a lovely job of wrapping up previous aspects of the story and bringing them together.

 

I recommend this to those looking for a chick-flick read with a little more depth.

 

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

Review
2.5 Stars
Gardenia/Kelsey Sutton
Gardenia - Kelsey Sutton

Kelsey Sutton, winner of a Best Teen Book Award from Kirkus, pens a suspenseful, heartfelt young adult novel, perfect for the readership of Rachel Ward and Kimberly Derting.

Seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live. Thoughtful and brooding, Ivy has been harboring a secret her entire life—she can see countdown clocks over everyone’s heads, watching their life grow closer and closer to the end with each passing second. She can’t do anything about anyone else’s clock, nor can she do anything about her own, approaching a zero hour before she even graduates high school. A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy tries to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep love for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister escape the realities of trailer park life. And she struggles to discover who murdered her best friend, another life she couldn’t save. Vanessa Donovan was murdered in the woods, and everyone in town believes it is Ivy who did it. In what time she has left, Ivy must put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa’s.

 

This book was a lovely excuse to not get out of bed all afternoon, though I did have Nickelback's Savin' Me stuck in my head the entire time...

 

A delightful mystery, I found myself in suspense through most of the book, which was quite realistic despite the supernatural elements. Ivy's bitter cynicism was ironically a breath of fresh air and I found her voice to be quite unique, for YA. She showed herself to be secretly, underneath it all, optimistic, and I felt like she'd be someone I'd really want to get to know in real life.

 

The romance was thrilling. I didn't analytically think it would be good due to my detesting of instalove, but the way Ivy talked about her significantly-more-off-than-on boyfriend Myers had my stomach in butterflies. Their history comes out slowly, but it's clear that the emotions Ivy feels are incredibly deep.

 

I loved the setting of this book. I loved that Ivy lived in a trailer park. I loved that her sister ran a website for men in order to have an income. I loved the nitty gritty elements of the family struggling yet, in one scene, each taking a day off to go bowling together. (Also, they have a parrot. Many kudos to the parrot.) I loved Ivy's art and the role it played.

 

A true suspense, I didn't see the ending coming until it happened. This was a mystery alongside a coming-of-age story and I was intrigued to read about how Ivy found clues and eventually came to the conclusion she did.

 

This was solid. Not spectacular, and I felt like there were some deaths that were glossed over, but a solid way to pass an afternoon, and I recommend for YA fans.

 

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

Review
1.5 Stars
Beautiful Broken Girls/Kim Savage
Beautiful Broken Girls - Kim  Savage

After two teenage sisters, Mira and Francesca, drown themselves in a neighborhood quarry, their next-door neighbor Ben receives post-mortem letters from Mira. This letter challenges Ben to track down the hidden, cryptic notes hidden in seven places alluding to where the two secretly touched. As Ben uncovers each note, he starts to unravel the hidden lies and secrets that these girls kept, and just how complicated their bonds with the outside world were.

 

This one fell flat. What did I just read? I'm not entirely sure. Lovely premise, but I think this author would find some talents with poetry over pose.

 

I'm still confused about Francesca and her role in the world. She has a strange relationship with a teacher and a strange relationship with her father, and just a strange overall personality. I'm not sure if she made the book fall into a fantastical world or if it was real world with religion, but I was just confused.

 

I never grew emotionally attached to Ben. He doesn't seem very emotional himself, so I never really deemed him worthy of becoming emotionally attached to. His background is unique, but is mentioned as a trope and I'm not really sure how it exactly contributes to this book. I don't really see why he's so obsessed with Mira; their relationship isn't really developed, although she does remember him after death.

 

At the beginning, I tried hard to pay attention because I feel like all the extraneous minor details probably have some purpose and were all connected to a bigger theme or symbol, but I got pretty bored relatively quickly and it took me a long time to get through.

 

Perhaps I simply missed the deeper message of this book, but I found it a chore to get through. Unfortunately, Savage's writing is not for me.

 

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

Review
3.5 Stars
Piecing Me Together/Renée Watson
Piecing Me Together - Renée Watson

A timely and powerful story about a teen girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it's trying to break her.

Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she's ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And she has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for "at-risk" girls. Except really, it's for black girls. From "bad" neighborhoods. And just because Maxine, her college-graduate mentor, is black doesn't mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

 

This book lent such an interesting perspective to the idea of opportunities for select groups of people.

 

I came away feeling like I had really grown from reading Jade's perspective. Her voice was well articulated and convincing, so that though, in general I agreed with her ultimate thoughts, her reasoning led to me completely following her trains of thought in the early stages of the book. She definitely showed the adults a new way to think.

 

While I didn't particularly love Jade at first, I grew more affectionate of her as I watched her grow. There were certain moments where she vexed me to no end, but she grew from those moments and I felt proud to see her maturing and learning to stand up for herself. Especially when she actually caused change, I respected Jade immensely.

 

As a white, middle class female reading this, I was intrigued by the challenges of blackness that Jade brought up that I quite frankly had not encountered. The ideas she raised will influence my future interactions and thoughts; for that alone, Watson deserves praise.

 

This was short and I felt like the author could have taken more time and covered more topics; however, as is, it was focused and a quick and easy read.

 

I definitely recommend this for anyone interested in education or looking for a unique YA book. I'll certainly be looking for more of Watson's books.

 

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

Review
3.5 Stars
The Nearness of You/Amanda Eyre Ward
The Nearness of You: A Novel - Amanda Eyre Ward

Brilliant heart surgeon Suzette Kendall is stunned when Hyland, her husband of fifteen years, admits his yearning for a child. From the beginning they’d decided that having children was not an option, as Suzette feared passing along the genes that landed her mother in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a different idea: a baby via surrogate.

Suzette agrees, and what follows is a whirlwind of candidate selections, hospital visits, and Suzette’s doubts over whether she’s made the right decision. A young woman named Dorothy Muscarello is chosen as the one who will help make this family complete. For Dorrie, surrogacy (and the money that comes with it) are her opportunity to leave behind a troubled past and create a future for herself—one full of possibility. But this situation also forces all three of them—Dorrie, Suzette, and Hyland—to face a devastating uncertainty that will reverberate in the years to come.

Beautifully shifting between perspectives, The Nearness of You deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.

 

Ahh, this one had so much potential and so many moments where I almost fell in love with it, but it simply covered too much ground in too little space.

 

Suzette was an absolutely fantastic character. She's an accomplished surgeon and there are many scenes that show her in surgery, and to me, that was just so darn cool. I had so much respect for her and as this is a piece of life I don't usually get through literature, I was excited to experience it. I also really respected her not wanting to pass on her genes due to her history of mental illness, yet her openness to having a child despite. She had so much strength, but she wasn't perfect and didn't always act as I thought she would. Seriously, I love Suzette.

 

The other characters I wasn't so into. Dorrie felt too simplistic and I was saddened by how she evolved during the book. Hyland gets a little characterization but I never really grow to care about them. While I normally adore having books told from many character's perspectives, I felt like there were too many perspectives in this one and it made it hard for me to really engage.

 

But ultimately my biggest issue with this book was how fast it moved. I normally have the opposite problem, yet in this case, I felt like there were many sections of life that needed to be expanded. The gap between the first and second parts was where the book really lost me; a significant period of time passes and I want to know how the relationships between the characters evolve in that section.

 

The prologue sets up the ending like a ciffhanger, but I felt like it was kind of obvious how the scene would be resolved. A plot twist came late that was cool and explained a little bit of Dorrie's motivations, but felt like it was there for shock value. I did love the entire concept of having a surrogate mother and the idea of motherhood, but this book simply attempted to cover too many points. Though it was an easy read, I think that if it had been twice its length, I'd have liked it twice as much.

 

Though I recommend this book for people interested in the topic, this book failed to capture me.

 

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

Review
3 Stars
Somebody Like You/Donna Alward
Somebody Like You - Donna Alward

A kiss to last a lifetime

Aiden Gallagher was only five years old when he appeared in a photograph on the Kissing Bridge. The town of Darling, Vermont, has used Aiden’s image on the famed bridge—local legend has it that a kiss there results in everlasting love—as part of its tourism campaign. Now, twenty years later, Aiden is asked to recreate the moment with the woman he once kissed: Laurel Stone.

Recently divorced, there’s nothing Laurel wants less than to pretend happily-ever-after with Aiden. As teenagers, their romance was no fairy tale—and Laurel has never quite forgiven Aiden for breaking her heart. But now that she is back in her hometown, and keeps bumping into police officer Aiden, Laurel can’t deny that there’s still a strong flicker between her and her old flame. Could it be that the Kissing Bridge is working its magic on Laurel and Aiden—and that all true love ever needed was a second chance?

 

Though a relatively simple, this was a sweet enough romance set with a small town background.

 

Laurel was by far my favourite character. She's feisty, and I appreciated how she was setting up her own business and taking a leap of faith. I also related a lot to her as she found it challenging to say no to people and I know how hard it can be not to put others first.

 

A subplot revolved around a minor character, George, which I found to be an intriguing way of both building up the main plot and their romance. He was homeless but Aiden had always showed him some kindness, which intrigued Laurel, leading to some development that was probably the most unique aspect of this book.

 

My main issue with this book was probably how Aiden seemed to lack a dating history and a personality. While it's made quite clear that he had one kind of serious relationship, it wasn't really clear if after that he was a total player or if he was very solitary.

 

I'm not enamoured with this book--though there was nothing bad about it, it was fairly predictable and had nothing outstanding.

 

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

Review
5 Stars
My Not So Perfect Life/Sophie Kinsella
My Not So Perfect Life - Sophie Kinsella

Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.
Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud.
Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.
Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.

 

I was sooooo excited to receive this book, and it exceeded my expectations! As kismet would have it, I received it one year to the day after I'd seen Sophie Kinsella speak in London (an experience that, if possible, made me fall even more in love with her!) I've yet to read a Kinsella book I haven't loved, and while this admittedly fell into her old patterns, it was nonetheless brilliant.

 

Sure enough, by the third page I had laughed out loud. Reading a Kinsella book is like having a chat with an old friend who gets you, putting on that sweater that's cosy and makes you look good, or sinking into a warm bubble bath. I felt like I knew Katie like an old friend and was rolling my eyes at her antics affectionately. She deals with the very real problem of having a not-so-perfect life that I totally related to.

 

One aspect of this book that I loved was how the entire romantic plot took more of a backburner than normal. Katie didn't let herself be defined by any men. I also had a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings inspired by her dad and her step-mom, and I loved the way Katie's feelings towards them and her relationship with them evolved.

 

Her career exploration was a lot of fun. The design details were much more interesting than I thought they would be. I have no desire to work in marketing, but Katie's descriptions of her work and the way she used her eyes for detail was really fun to read about. Her job search felt very real, as did her struggles with unpaid internships, long commutes, and expensive flats. Mainly, I thought that the job advice she received was important and widely applicable.

 

I went through a lot of emotions at the ending, but was ultimately disappointed. To be entirely ambiguous so as not to give spoilers, the ending flipped on me multiple times and I wasn't sure what was going to happen, which was a plus, but I texted my friend at 95% with a lot of excitement just to have what I thought had happened reversed. But then again, most readers I assume will find the ending very satisfying.

 

This addresses a lot of aspects of our world and how we portray it, and I really enjoyed how she made the book modern and relative to life today. She even threw in a reference to Trump, which could not be more timely. While a lot of books go overboard with texting and social media, I felt like this one had a stellar amount.

 

If you've liked any other Kinsella books, this will hit the spot. If you like any type of chick flick/rom com lit, you'll love this. Definitely something I'll read again, and I highly recommend it.

Review
3.5 Stars
Forever is the Worst Long Time/Camille Pagán
Forever is the Worst Long Time: A Novel - Camille Pagán

When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

As the years pass, James’s dreams always seem just out of reach—he can’t finish that novel, can’t mend his relationship with his father, can’t fully commit to a romantic relationship. He just can’t move on. But after betrayal fractures Lou’s once-solid marriage, she turns to James for comfort.

When Lou and James act on their long-standing mutual attraction, the consequences are more heartbreaking—and miraculous—than either of them could have ever anticipated. Then life throws James one more curveball, and he, Rob, and Lou are forced to come to terms with the unexpected ways in which love and loss are intertwined.

 

This book didn't go the way that I expected it to, but instead it was incredibly touching, leaving me in a bundle of emotions and tears.

 

Incredibly well written, this book actually made me go back several times to check that it was indeed a work of fiction and not a memoir. I enjoyed the occasional use of second person, which made me feel involved in the story and gave me another lens through which to read the story.

 

I can't say I was terribly fond of James as a character, but seeing him grow was nonetheless an intriguing experience. The way that he interacted with his dreams was so terribly realistic and very telling of what real people go through, but the way he ultimately chose an unexpected path was really sweet.

 

Lou, also, kind of irked me, but I think that's because of how James portrayed her. I appreciated her reality check when it came to the idea of love and how it lasts, endures, and changes throughout time, but in general James made her seem too perfect for no apparent reasons.

 

The way this dealt with death felt very poignant and realistic--from a scene early in the book to one near the end, I felt like characters dealt with death in a way that I could relate to, and the scenes were touching. James makes a lot of poignant observations about how humans grieve.

 

As long as you don't mind crying, I recommend this book.