Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Publication Date: March 20, 2018     |     Rating: 5-STARS!!!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is pretty much perfection in my opinion. This book exceeded my expectations in every way possible. I went into this book knowing two things: prep school for girls/mystery. This book is so much more than that. The novel is replete with a gothic atmosphere that transports you in time and place into the storyline. It is the perfect blend of mystery/thriller with extra special paranormal goodness sprinkled the whole way through!

The main portion of the story alternates back and forth between 1950 and 2014, following different girls/women in and around Barrens, Vermont, and more importantly Idlewilde Hall. I do not want to say too much about the story itself, as I wouldn’t want to risk giving anything away to potential readers. Just know this – I put off reading this book for many months. I don’t know why – I can’t explain it – it just kept getting shuffled down the ole’ tbr. Now, I can say, I am physically distraught at not having read this as soon as I got it. Okay – that may be taking it a little far but I do wish I would have picked it up immediately. I honestly do not have even one constructive criticism of this. Because of that this will be a very short review: This book is incredible. This book wants you to read it. This book will keep you up nights after…read it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy to review. I apologize to you, as well as to myself, that I didn’t get to it until now. I am even going to run out and buy myself a copy so that I may read it again and share it with others – I love it that much!

Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oates

Publication Date: May 3, 2016    |    Rating: 4.5-stars!!!

I enjoyed this so much – I listened to the audio to complete some challenges for Retellathon. This book hadn’t even been on my radar (and I LOVE retellings) but I needed an audiobook to get through the week and SCRIBD had this one. After seeing that the overall Goodreads rating was only around a 3.6, I didn’t have the highest expectations going in. I didn’t read any of the reviews in advance, so I have no idea what the issues are with this one after listening to it.

This is essentially an origin story for the Queen of Hearts. I love retellings from the villains perspective, that’s honestly one of my favorite subgenres of YA, and who doesn’t love an origin story? This one felt very true to the atmosphere of the original story but brought a lot of new concepts and unique twists. I loved the deep, dark overall feel of the tale. There were parts that were very gritty and creepy – blood, gore, torture – it’s all in here but not in an obnoxious way. IMO it all works perfectly with the story. Alice in Wonderland is not a feel-good tale; it is dark and scary with twisty-turny, upside-downy things that just make you feel on edge.

I loved the relationship between Dinah (the Queen of Hearts) and her Father. He is a demonic, evil, spiteful little man and I really hope he gets his in the next book! Speaking of the next book, I ordered this and the second book this morning from Book Outlet and I need them like yesterday! This left off on such a cliffhanger – I cannot wait to see where the next book takes Dinah.

Another thing I enjoyed about this was Cheshire. He is an aide to the King and you can tell he is all kinds of devious. I’m not sure at this point what his true motivations are but he sure is a tricky one! He is described with similar qualities to the Cheshire Cat from the original, yet in this tale, he is a man. We also meet Dinah’s main caregiver, Harris, who is just such a sweet man, who loves her like her Father never has. He is just a pure and precious gem who I hope survives the wrath that is the King of Hearts! For Mad Hatter fans, have no fear, he is in here too; as are all the cards, the croquet games and general royal chaos.

Overall, I feel like this book needs some more love. I definitely plan to get the entire series and will probably even read this one again. I am majorly geeking out over this right now. I am going to go back now though and read other reviews; I am really curious to see what others didn’t enjoy about this one!

SIDE NOTE:Retellathon Book #3: I am using this to meet two challenges. The first is challenge #3 ‘Faraway Land’ (to read a retelling that is based off a story from your heritage) – I am choosing to go with my Irish heritage for this challenge. At the time Alice in Wonderland was written, and a time when my ancestors were still there, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland so technically, this works. I am also using it for challenge #5 ‘Unhappily Ever After’ (to read a retelling with a dark twist) – as this is told from the villain’s perspective, the infamous Queen of Hearts, this works! BAM!

Review: Hangman by Jack Heath

Publication Date: June 12, 2018    |    Rating: 4-gritty STARS

WICKEDLY entertaining~ Sherlock Holmes meets Hannibal Lecter!!! I really enjoyed this one. It is so bizarre in theory but somehow it just works. Let me break this down: our main character is a cannibal (you read that right…a cannibal) who ends up making a deal with an FBI Agent that he will help with investigations in exchange for free bodies from death row inmates. Why? Why would an FBI Agent want this man working with him you ask? Well, the guy is a freaking genius of course! A modern day Sherlock Holmes with a photographic memory who obviously can see into the minds of criminals because, well, he IS one…oh, and of course, the cannibal knows about the Agent’s coke habit… Intrigued yet?

I would recommend this book to ANYONE who loves a new twist on the thriller genre. Obviously, you need to be a open-minded with the whole concept behind this but I tell you, that Timothy Blake (our MC) is pretty lovable. Honestly the first cannibal I have ever rooted for in a novel. But in addition to the weirdness of it all, this is actually a really taut crime thriller. There were a few times that I was convinced I knew what the answer was to the string of kidnappings that Blake was trying to unravel, but in the end, I turned out wrong every time and was surprised by the reveal. The writing style was fast paced and the mystery well developed. It’s definitely dark and gruesome, so if that is something you aren’t into, best to stay clear of this one!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review! I really hope that this becomes a series. I would hate to think that this is the last I am ever going to see of Timothy Blake. There’s more to his story, I can just feel it! I look forward to hearing other opinions on this book as well. If you have read it, what did you think??

Review: The Beast Within by Serena Valentino

Published: July 22, 2014   |   Rating: 2.5-☆s   |   Villains Series Book #2

Okay. This one was rough. There’s not a lot here and what is, wasn’t great for me. Ugh, this hurts my heart to write this. I have all the books in this series and am obsessed with the covers and naked books. I have read the first book in the series, Fairest of All, and gave it four stars. I don’t know if maybe the fact that Beauty & the Beast is my favorite fairy tale of all time made me judge this one differently -I just don’t know.

First, let’s get this right out of the way: I hated the Prince/Beast. There was nothing redeemable about him and his story arc was completely flat. I don’t feel he evolved as a character at all. Belle ends up with him and you’re like, gurl, NO! While reading his character, all I could picture in my head was Joffrey Baratheon, and any GOT fan knows that is not a pretty picture.

The story was all over the place. Some parts of the book were taken directly form the Disney movie (the original animated one that I have watched 2,568,401 times) which normally wouldn’t bother me, but the dialogue was exact and it didn’t explore any of the scenes at all. It felt so rushed and like there was no heart behind it at all. Picture: Beast saving Belle from wolves, here’s a library, Gaston & Beast fight, a kiss, THE END – in about 20 pages with no coherent connection or exploration of ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.

One thing I did enjoy was the friendship of the Prince and Gaston prior to him being cursed. That was interesting and I thought that added to the original story in a unique way. Even though this one let me down, I am definitely planning to read the rest of the books in the series. Maybe the others will work for me more as I am not as attached to the stories and characters. I would recommend this for a much younger audience; perhaps tweens wouldn’t feel so bent with it as I was! Thanks for reading my rant – I truly do not enjoy having to write a review like this. It makes me sad 🙁

As a side note, I read this book to complete one of the challenges for Retellathon, which I am currently participating in. I mentioned Retellathon in an earlier post – basically, the first challenge was to read a retelling of your favorite fairy tale. That being said, I really wish I would have enjoyed this more.  What is your favorite fairy tale? Have you ever read a retelling of it that disappointed you?  I want to know! Leave a comment here or contact me through the comment links to the right >>>

Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Publication Date: 1966    |    Rating: 5-stars!

A classic! An absolute masterpiece of true crime literature. Gritty and intelligent. This should be on everyone’s ‘books to read in a lifetime’ list. As many of you may know, In Cold Blood is the true account of the heinous murders of the Clutter Family in 1959 Kansas. In my opinion, the writing style of this account is absolutely flawless. Through Capote’s words, you are transported to this small town; you get alternating accounts from the family, from the killers, from other residents close to the crime. The account of the actual murders is bone-chilling and can disturb sleep, believe me!

This is my second time reading this book and I found it just as impactful during my reread. To me it is interesting to think about Capote compiling his research for this. He actually went and lived in this town, along with one of his closest friends, Harper Lee, and they painstakingly interviewed hundreds of people associated with the events. Just the sheer amount of data compiled and how it was intricately woven together fascinates me – yes, I know that is what nonfiction novelists do but this was a truly groundbreaking piece of journalistic writing at the time and should be appreciated as such.

Another interesting aspect of this for me is how interested Capote was in the psychology behind the killers motivations and actions, as well as their complex relationship with one another both before and after the crimes. I think anyone who enjoys true crime, criminology, psychology and even sociology will find this book absolutely captivating. If you have been putting off reading this for any reason, please stop, read this…now!

Do you like nonfiction books? If so, what is your favorite sub-genre within nonfiction? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below and you can reach me through the contact links to the right >

Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Publication Date: June 7, 2016   |   Rating: 5-glorious-stars

Why did I wait so long to read this? Bad life choices, I guess. I loved this so much – now I can FINALLY watch the movie! There really isn’t too much I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said. I think pretty much everyone knows the basic premise of this so I won’t reiterate that here. What I do want to touch on is how this book made me feel. I am in a long-term relationship, having been with my partner for 11-years this month. In the beginning of our relationship we were long-distance. A lot of our initial ‘getting to know you’ period was perpetuated through online correspondence, via email. I absolutely adored the use of mixed media in this, showing the emails between Simon and his love interest, known as ‘Blue’. It just made my heart sing reminiscing on that feeling you get when you see a new email has come through, opening it up to behold what the person you are crushing on has written you, seeing the initial low-key flirting and how that grows into more and more over time.

Ugh, I just can’t. It was so freaking great and I thought the transformation as they explored the boundaries of their relationship was really well handled. I liked Simon’s family a lot and in particular, I felt his relationships with his sisters were supportive, well-formed and great examples of kind sibling relations. I also enjoyed his interactions with his parents, in particular, his father. As far as Simon’s closest friends are concerned, I really enjoyed those relationships as well. At times I got a little frustrated with a couple of them, particularly Leah, for the way they were treating Simon. I felt at times he was treated a little unfairly by them, held to a higher standard so to speak, but maybe that was just because I was so attached to him, I instantly took a Team Simon stance. He was like a sweet, precious baby bird I wanted to put in my pocket and protect from all harm. If you have read this book, you can probably relate. If you haven’t read this book, what are you waiting for? 🌈💖☆☆☆☆☆

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Publication Date: March 8, 2018    |    Rating: 3.5-stars

I liked this one. Some aspects of the story I really enjoyed and others were just okay for me. There were moments, toward the beginning in particular, that I was a little confused as to what type of story this was trying to be. Thinking back on those early chapters, I am still a little confused by them. A literary sleight of hand perhaps; they got your brain going in one direction which, at least for me, ended up being flipped completely on its head. The book follows multiple perspectives but the two main ones being, Anna and Murray. Anna is a young woman who recently lost both parents to suicide. Murray, is a semi-retired criminal investigator, who ends up looking into Anna’s parents suicides when she begins to suspect that foul play may have been involved.

There were plenty of twists and turns in this and the end in particular was so wild in bordered on ridiculous. This being said, ridiculously far-fetched plot points aside, it was also wildly entertaining. It did keep me engaged the whole way through; I was particularly drawn to the chapters from Murray’s perspective. Although his chapters were not as wrought with turmoil as Anna’s, there was something very relatable and likable about his character and experiences. I also liked the way this book took classic societal gender roles and challenged them; it challenged what the reader would typically expect to happen. I really enjoyed that actually. I felt like someone had played a trick on me which made it very unique!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity! I had some fun with it and really look forward to checking out other reader’s reviews now that I am done.

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Publication Date: June 12, 2018   |   Rating: 3.5-stars rounded up to 4

Jar of Hearts is the first book I have ever read by Jennifer Hillier. I was immediately impressed with how the story was constructed. We follow the perspective of two main characters, Georgina ‘Geo’ and Kaiser. The narrative flows seamlessly between the two characters and also flows particularly well between past and present. For the majority of the book I was confident that I would end up giving it a solid-4 stars however, at the conclusion, I am somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4-☆ rating. I am going to round up to 4 because I think overall it lies closer to a 4-star read than a 3-star read.

Trigger Warnings for dating abuse/violence, date rape, rape and murder. Hillier definitely does not shy away from the gritty sides of this story and scenes of rape are described in vivid detail; if you are a reader who is particularly sensitive to these heavy subject matters please tread cautiously.

I feel a bit stuck with this review because it is hard to talk much about this book without giving anything away. For me, the build-up to the reveal was more exciting than the reveal itself. I think about 3/4 of the way through the end is pretty clear and plot points that make the ending possible are a bit far-fetched, to say the least, but overall, if you are just looking for a gritty psychological thriller with a bit of mystery and long buried secrets coming to light, you should definitely check this one out. It was fun and I would definitely read more from this author. She definitely knows how to spin a great web of intrigue.

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with a copy to review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to seeing other readers reviews now that I am done!

Review: A Whisper of Bones by Ellen Hart

Publication Date: February 27, 2018    |    Rating: Solid 4-Stars!!!    |     Jane Lawless #25

I received A Whisper of Bones as an e-ARC through NetGalley. The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. It’s gorgeous. I love the colors…and it’s a mystery, one of my favorite genres. I failed to note however that it was #25 in a series; completely blinded by the cover…again. However, I kept it in mind and kept checking reviews to see if I could read it as a stand-alone. I certainly didn’t have time to go back and read 24 books in order to get myself ready for this one. I was so psyched when I discovered that this series, like many adult mystery series, do not need to be read in order; think Hercule Poirot, Murder, She Wrote, etc. You could definitely read this as a stand-alone so if you haven’t read any other books in this series, please don’t let that deter you!

Jane Lawless, our MC, is a restaurant owner and a PI who is hired in this case by a young woman named Britt Ickles. Britt is looking for answers about what happened to her cousin, Timmy, who she only met once when she was very, very young. The answers dwell with Britt’s two old Aunts, Eleanor and Lena, who live together in a boarding house they own. Jane goes undercover and rents a room at the house for her investigation. Aiding her is her best friend, Cordelia Thorn, who was my favorite character of the whole book! She is an over-the-top theater director who brings so much joy and humor to the story that I laughed out loud during more than one scene that she was a part of! I seriously would read an entire series of just Cordelia Thorn books…honestly, I think the world needs that. Needless to say, a whole cast of wonderfully drawn out side characters arose, deep family secrets were revealed and it kept me involved as a reader the whole way through.

Another great element in this book, which I was unaware of going in, is the strong LGBTQ+ rep going on here. Jane is a lesbian and we get to read about her complex relationship with her on again, off again girlfriend Julia. I feel like sometimes it can be hard to find solid LGBTQ+ rep in Adult lit, particularly in the mystery genre, so this was a welcome change of pace and I definitely plan to pick up more books in this series. The good news is I have 24 more books I get to choose from! So, if you love a good mystery with a fun and engaging cast of characters and a great, classic whodunnit format, you should definitely pick up this book!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with the opportunity to read this book and provide my feedback. I am confident other mystery fans will enjoy it as much as I did!

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs    |    Publication Date: June 7, 2011    |    Rating: 4-stars!

What a wonderful time this was! I decided to read this book as part of my Unread Shelf Project 2018 – basically I am working backwards through my virtual GR ‘to be read’ list and picking one book per month to read off the backlist. I added this book to my tbr in November of 2015. I have no excuse really for not getting to it before now. Sometimes I do end up avoiding hyped books subconsciously; it’s a problem. I did attempt to watch the movie adaptation of this book but didn’t make it through.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this! I listened to the audio in conjuncture with also reading a hard copy so I moved through it really, really fast. I loved the unique storyline and the characters. Jacob, our MC, is so funny – I laughed out loud several times in regards to his dialogue or observations. Another aspect of this I really enjoyed was the use of so many antique (ahem, creepy) photographs that tie right in to the storyline. I have never seen that done in quite this way before and it was really refreshing. I am sure I am probably one of the very few middle grade readers left on the planet to not have read this one, so I am beyond the moon to be crossing it off my list. There are two other books in this trilogy and initially I was thinking I would stop with this one, but after completing it, I do think I will move on with the series. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, middle grade read – it was quite an adventure!

So, I mentioned a while back a bit about my Unread Shelf Project – just a quick update, the first book I selected for that official project was ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote, which I had added to my tbr in October of 2015. I am currently reading that and absolutely loving it. I had read this book in high school, or shortly after high school, but really didn’t remember anything about it besides that it is a classic true crime narrative. I am so glad that I am rereading it because Capote’s writing is just so brilliant and I don’t think I was really able to appreciate that the first time around since I was so young. Now, as an old goat, I can really take my time and enjoy the dramatic way he constructs this horrific American crime.

Next up for this project is a book I added to my tbr in December of 2015: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This is a fairly well loved post-apocalyptic novel that I am actually buddy reading with some friends from Bookstagram; so really looking forward to that! As luck with have it, my copy arrived in the mail today, so I should be starting it this week!

What are some books you are looking forward to checking off your tbr? I want to know! Leave a comment below or reach out to me through my contact links.

Cheers~