Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

I really enjoyed this and would give it between a 4 and 4.5 ☆s. I was introduced to this book through Book of the Month Club (which, if you aren’t a member of, you should be) – although I didn’t select it in the month it was first offered, I ultimately got it in a later box after seeing it everywhere!

This is the debut novel for Krysten Ritter, most well known as Jessica Jones in the Netflix original series of the same name. I was skeptical going in, I will admit – that whole singers becoming actors, actors becoming writers thing…but was so pleasantly surprised with how engaging this book was. The story follows our MC, Abigail Williams, who is an environmental attorney in Chicago. Having ‘escaped’, quite literally it seems, her small hometown in a very rural area, she gets the chance to return in order to investigate Optimal Plastics, the largest employer in town. Once there, Abby is thrown back into her old life and memories arrive that lead her to start questioning events that occurred when she was still in high school. Through memories of the past and current events a vicious tale of corruption and betrayal is told. The pace of this book is excellent and I just flew through it. Due to the short length of the chapters it is definitely a book that has that, ‘just one more chapter…just one more chapter…’ way about it!

The format of the book itself is pretty standard mystery/thriller which reminded me a bit of John Grisham’s, The Rainmaker. There is nothing really groundbreaking or out of the ordinary about this book but it is very fun and overall, very strong storytelling IMO. I think this would be a great book to bring on vacation or to the beach. I hope Ms. Ritter keeps writing because I have a feeling her writing will mature and her books will continue to get stronger and stronger.

My only issue with the book, and it is a slight one, was that the ending felt a bit rushed. Personally, I think this could have been 20 to 40 pages longer in order to better explore the outcome of events that Abby reveals – both past and present. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys legal thrillers, particularly with an evil corporation twist!  What was the last book you read that pleasantly surprised you with how good it ended up being? Leave a comment below!

Review: Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Publication Date: February 6, 2018   |    Rating: 3.5-stars

Dark and lyrical, Shadowsong, brings to a conclusion the story of Liesl and her Goblin King. This second book in the Wintersong duology picks up a few months after the conclusion of Wintersong. Although I selected 3-stars, I would actually give this a 3.5-star rating if given the option. This is a tough book to describe and I definitely don’t feel it is for everyone. For me, it works; I love S. Jae-Jones writing style. She has a way of weaving together an eerie tale where you struggle to piece together reality and unreality.

Our MC, Liesl, is not really a likable character but somehow I still found myself caring about her. I wanted to shake her out of her funk multiple times but I know, with depression and other mental health issues, it is not that easy. She really struggles in this one, more so than the first, with her decisions, her past, her family relations. She is moody and brooding and honestly, kind of a dark cloud over the whole story, but in a way that contributes to the overall story line, in my opinion. I would say trigger warning for suicidal thoughts and ideation.

I love the atmosphere of this book. In Wintersong, we were pretty sedentary in our action; you were either at the Inn owned by Liesl’s family, or in the Underground. Here, our characters travel from home to find their brother Josef, who resides in Vienna. The city life is quite a change for Liesl and being far from the Goblin Grove certainly doesn’t enhance her mood any. After a swift turn of events at a masked ball, Liesl and Josef, are swept away to Snovin Hall. Their relationship has been under extreme duress and they do begin to form a reconnection of a sort whilst at Snovin.

I loved Snovin Hall – the gothic vibes were a plenty and some of the scenes written while our characters were there gave me chills. Joseph playing in the mirrored ballroom…it still gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it! However, this aspect of the story did get a little confusing in places. There is a fine line between being intriguing and being confusing and this one swayed into the confusion zone more than once. That being said, the overall feel of the book was dark and creepy enough for me to enjoy and keep me invested. The last 15 or 20 pages were excellent – I enjoyed the ending and felt that S. Jae-Jones wrapped up a complicated story quite fluidly.

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this book for review. It is greatly appreciated!

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Publication Date: September 1, 2015

Rating: 3-stars!!

What that means in my parlance for rating is, this was a good book. I enjoyed it but wasn’t blown away by it and didn’t have too many strong feelings on it once it was over. This book was released in 2015 and is pretty popular in the YA-contemporary genre. They even turned it into a movie! (which I have not seen). I really did not know too much about it going in besides that fact that it was ‘boy-meets-girl’ where one of the characters was sick. I figured it would be short and sweet and I would cry. It did give me two of those things: it was short, it was sweet but I did not cry. In fact, my feelings upon the ending were more of anger and frustration for the MCs than anything else, but I am getting ahead of myself…
If you haven’t heard much about this story, like I hadn’t, it follows our MC, Madeline Whittier, who is a teenager with a compromised immune system. Due to this, she has been unable to leave her house her entire life and isn’t allowed visitors without very strict protocols being followed prior to letting them in their house. Mainly, her entire life revolves around her Mother (who coincidentally is a doctor) and her nurse, Carla. One day, a new family moves in next door, who have a son, Olly, about Maddy’s age. Well, you will have to read it to find out what happens after that but keep in mind this is a love story. The romance was super cute. Olly is as sugary sweet as teenage boys can be in this type of book and their interactions were fun and witty. The nurse, Carla, was my favorite character – a real gem and a very important part of Maddy’s life.
I was quite impressed with Nicola Yoon’s writing style and definitely plan to read more of her work. The dialogue was clever and I felt the format was really unique and fun as well. So, yeah, overall a good book. It did not go where I thought it was going to go. I can say by the time that I got to the conclusion, I wasn’t surprised, but I was certainly super frustrated for Maddy. I’m glad I read this, now I know what the hype is all about as far as Nicola Yoon goes and I plan to pick up, The Sun is Also a Star very soon!

Leave a comment below if you have read this book, what were your thoughts? Do you like Nicola Yoon’s writing? Who are some of your favorite YA-contemporary authors? Leave them some love below!

Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

5-stars!! 

I finished ‘Our Kind of Cruelty’ last night right before bed so figured I would take the night to consider what I had read before formulating my review. Here I am, the next morning, still trying to wrap my head around this book. Firstly, what a unique way of telling this story. Unique and impactful. Mike Hayes, our MC, and narrator of this story is unhinged and you get a front row seat to obsession. Verity, the object of focus, is a young lady you struggle throughout the book to understand; at least I did. Mike and V were involved in a long-term relationship which began while they were in college and eventually ended. This story follows that break-up and relives pieces of it through the mind of Mike.

How much of his thoughts are reality and how much are fantasy. The author did a phenomenal job of keeping you guessing. Is Mike as crazy as he seems? Is he creating a fantasy or she is feeding into his behaviors somehow. I absolutely loved the format of this book and how the author never let Mike slip from character. You are full force in this ‘love story’ from start to finish gaining insight into his infatuation with this young lady.

The culmination of the tale takes place in a courtroom where we see side characters, as well as both Verity and Mike, be questioned by attorneys regarding the exact nature and events of their relationship. I will admit even I was questioning Verity and her honesty at that point – which to me is humorous – an extension of how women can be blamed or treated with suspicion when it comes to a man’s behaviors in regards to her. Questioning the victim, blaming the victim, shaming the victim – these are all prevalent occurrences in our society – and I myself was guilty of it. I didn’t trust V, the whole way, even though I was witness to Mike’s mental fixation with her. I questioned what she was doing to fuel that fire. I continually questioned her choices: why didn’t she tell someone, her husband, the police? Why did she continue to correspond with him?

This was an incredibly intricate, mind-shaking story that gave me chills on the regular. I applaud the author for this effort – it is a truly distinct book for the thriller genre. I would highly recommend it. I hope my thoughts on this make some sort of sense – I am still boggled by this one. Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus & Giroux for providing me with the opportunity to read this book early and to provide my opinion. I cannot wait to see what other readers take from this one! What was the last book you read that really got under your skin? I want to know!  Leave a comment below!

Top 5 Favorites – 2018, Quarter 1

Happy Friyay Geeks & Gals! Today I thought I would write-up a list of my top 5 books that I read in the first quarter of the year (January 1st to March 31st). I have watched a few booktube videos that inspired this idea for me. It was really hard to choose just 5 so I will definitely be including an ‘honorable mentions’ list at the bottom! So, without further ado, let’s get into it. In no particular order:

  1. The Shining by Stephen King – This was my second time reading this psychological horror classic. The first time I read it, I was in high school and not going to lie, it scared the shit out of me. The slow burn narrative style and descriptions of the happenings at The Overlook Hotel, leave you with a feeling of dread and suspense throughout the book. Certain aspects sent chills right down my spine! Without giving too much away, I will just say elevators, topiary gardens and playgrounds are spooky to me now. As an adult, I think I have an even greater appreciation for this book in regards to the more ‘adult’ themes of addiction, family life and career struggles and aspirations. I certainly picked up more details my second time through as well and I know I will end up reading this fabulous book again in the future. The Shining is hands down one of my favorite books of all time!
  2. The Troop by Nick Cutter – I finished this book back on March 18th and still haven’t written a review.  The reason for this is mostly I am nervous about being able to adequately express how much I enjoyed it. This is a horror novel that follows a group of boys who are taken by their Scoutmaster to a island off the coast of Eastern Canada for a weekend camping trip. When a very ill stranger stumbles into their cabin a horror is unleashed that is beyond all expectation. The characters were so well drawn and their relationships and inner thoughts and desires so well expressed that in spite of being a horror novel, this can be appreciated as a true character piece. In a way, it reminded me a lot of the Lord of the Flies – with this, I am thinking of how each character is sort of placed into a stereotypical societal role and then we see how those roles play off one another. Among the group of boys we have the tough guy, alpha male; the nerdy, know-it-all, mother of the group; the golden boy who excels at sports and gets along with everyone; a wiry, cagey little guy with the absent father and bad temper; and finally the sociopath who’s inner thoughts are a horror story unto themselves! I was so impressed with the quality of Cutter’s writing and have already purchased another book of his, The Deep, which I plan to read in May.
  3. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – This is a prequel to Hoffman’s novel, Practical Magic, which was made into a very successful movie starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. In this book we get to follow the early life of the Practical Magic Aunts, Jet & Franny (along with their brother Vincent, who I personally, didn’t even know existed – sorry Vincent!). At its core, this book is a beautiful coming-of-age tale/family drama sprinkled with magic. Hoffman’s writing style is so lyrical and flows in such a way, that as a reader, you can completely immerse yourself in the story, forgetting the world around you. In my opinion, no one does magical realism better. It can be a truly beautiful experience. I cried, I laughed out loud and as I closed that final page my soul wept with the fact that it was over. Yep, I loved this book.
  4. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas – This books sticks in my mind mostly due to its originality and boldness. The story is present day and follows the lives of four women as they experience different ‘women’s issues’ from their perspectives of age, familial status and place in society. The content was topical and didn’t shy away from very difficult topics related to sex, women’s health and motherhood. The writing style was riveting and kept me engaged from the very beginning until the final chapter. This is definitely a story that will make you think and as a woman, I felt that there were aspects to each character’s arc that I could relate too. I felt the author showed real courage in writing this book and appreciate her quality of work (this was her first published novel, y’all!). I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!
  5. A List of Cages by Robin Roe – This YA Contemporary novel is honestly one of the most moving stories I have ever read in my life.  Because of this, I think it would definitely take a spot in my favorite books of all time list. This one took me completely off guard. I had heard it mentioned over and over again on booktube and finally picked up a paperback copy for myself on the cheap from Amazon. I annotated it as I was reading and there are literally tabs galore on that baby! The story follows the perspective of two male high school students who have had completely different life experiences but come together in this most charming way. These characters are so well drawn. Julian, so sweet, innocent and trapped in his loss. Adam, fun, popular and extremely caring. I love the relationship of the two boys and how it evolves over the course of the book. This will be a hard one to forget. It was heartbreaking, I was shattered after reading it but also filled with love and hope. I ended up feeling a strong connection to these boys, just such good eggs, the both of them. There is a strong message of kindness and empathy here that should not be missed! I highly recommend this one.

So, those are my top 5 for the quarter, however, I have read a lot of good books so far this year, some honorable mentions would be: The Wastelands (Dark Tower III) and Wizard & Glass (Dark Tower IV) by Stephen King; NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, MacBeth by Jo Nesbo, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, Final Girls by Riley Sager and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. What have been your favorite books that you have read so far this year? I want to know! Leave a comment below or message me on Instagram or Twitter – contact links on the side menu bar. Thanks for reading!

Cheers~

Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: November 6, 2012

4-strong stars for Days of Blood and Starlight.

This is the second book in Laini Taylor’s hugely popular Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the first of which I have reviewed previously on this blog. The good news is, I did enjoy this book a lot more than I enjoyed the first one.

In this book, we find Karou thrust into the role left vacant by Brimstone, her father figure and one of the higher-ups in the Chimera society, and it is one she definitely grows into as the story unfolds. She is suffering with grief and loss and because of this her character is raw and has an overwhelming need for vengeance. I like this Karou. I feel like her finally knowing who she is and what she is allows her to gain more strength than she had in the first book.

We still follow along with Akiva’s story as well as he re-immerses himself into the Seraphim regular life – training, fighting, politics – we see it all here and meet a lot more very interesting characters along the way. The world building in this book is really strong. The world we saw in the first book is built upon and built upon in this one until you feel like you are looking at this vast empire of angels v demons. It is truly astounding!

I also like how the romance of the first book really takes a back seat in this one. There is really no ‘romance’ storyline here in an obvious sense, although some may be lingering just under the surface. This book is packed full of action and you definitely can feel that the whole storyline is rushing towards a final, conclusive battle. We see old side characters reemerge here; including my favorites, Zuzana & Mik. (of note: I am so excited to read, Night of Cake & Puppets, now that I know what it is actually about! This is a companion novel to this series that follows Zuzana & Mik as their relationship first begins.)

I listened to this one, as I did the first, on audiobook and I think the narrator just does a spectacular job bringing this incredible world to life. I have already started the third book and it is even more action-packed, picking up right where the second book leaves off. I am sure I will be shook by whatever the conclusion to this is going to be! 

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: September 17, 2011

Rating: 4-stars (I really liked it) 

Obviously, I am extremely late to the party on this one – I have been hearing for years now how great this book is, how great the series is, how I MUST read it. I finally decided to give it a go (on audio) and I wasn’t disappointed…but, I wasn’t blown away either. It was good but I think, for me, it fell victim to the hype – I was sort of expecting the best book ever written and although the writing style is gorgeous, the plot was lacking for me, particularly through the beginning. I did feel the second half of the book was much stronger in the ‘plot’ department and that ending crushed me.

As with other first books of a series, so much character development and world creation can occur due to it being an introduction that it can end up retracting a bit from the actual story. I will say that Laini Taylor’s writing itself is very strong. The flow and her choice and use of words is flawless. I absolutely loved that part of it and am excited to read her other series, Strange the Dreamer, as well. I also really enjoyed a lot of the characters, particularly Zuzana and Madrigal. I am excited to move forward with this series and to see what the ultimate outcome will be for Karou. I have already begun the second book, as of this morning, and already feel much more invested in it than I did with the first book!

*As a side note, for the audiobook, the narrator is excellent and I would definitely recommend it in this format! 

Review: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

Publication Date: November 4, 1997

5 of the most magical stars in the universe!!! Wizard and Glass. Wow, what do I even say about this book? This book is immense, epic and a beautifully told story of love and loss. If you are reading this, you most likely already know that Wizard and Glass is the 4th installment in Stephen King’s epic fantasy series, The Dark Tower. I have been reading this series back-to-back since last Fall and I was most concerned about this one.  At 700 pages it is not a small feat and I had heard that it was very different from the other books in the series.  It certainly was that but in a way that enhanced the storytelling of the series. It is mind-boggling to me that this entire world is the creation of one man’s brain!

In this book we hear an incredible tale of the early life of Roland of Gilead, our main protagonist throughout this series. We learn all about his life shortly after becoming a Gunslinger around age 14 or 15 (I can’t recall exactly what age he is stated to be at this point). He has been sent from home to travel to the Barony of Mejis with two of his closest companions and fellow future Gunslingers, Alain and Cuthbert, in order to keep him safe from the sinister Marten Broadcloak. The boys settle in Hambry under the guise of being ‘counters’ for the Affiliation; there they encounter a ruthless and shady cast of characters such as the Big Coffin Hunters, Mayor Thorin and my favorite witch, Rhea of Coos.

The main storyline involves Roland meeting his true love, Susan Delgado, and their budding and blossoming relationship. The intricacy within this story, within this world, is absolutely stunning. King is the master of character development and this story is no different. While reading this book I truly felt like I could see everything playing out before me like a movie. This book is completely different than the other books in the series, yes, but what a tale. I am absolutely in love with it. Spellbinding from beginning to end, in my opinion, and I feel more attached to Roland now than ever before. Excited to move on with my journey to the Tower!  In fact, I have already begun the 5th book of the series, The Wolves of Calla.

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Publication Date: July 14, 2016

3-Stars:  I will get this out of the way up front – I listened to the Audio version of this book. The narrator…let’s just say, her style wasn’t my favorite as far as narration goes. This being said, I’m not sure how much that ended up affecting my ultimate rating for the book but I wanted to be sure to point it out.

I went into this book completely blind, I had heard a little buzz about it through social media, but really had no idea what it was about. I was completely surprised by the fact that the action kicked off so quickly. There were quite a few twists and turns, places where I thought I had it figured out, moments of revelation, etc., but overall it was pretty bland for me. It was a good book but I really had no feelings for it after it was over. It was a thing that happened, it kept me occupied, told me a little tale and then…that’s it. I did not enjoy any of the characters at all – I actually believe one of my mid-book status update comments was, ‘every character in this book is an asshole’ – so yeah. Bottom line, it was good, it didn’t blow me away but it was good. Average.

In other, much more exciting news, I pre-ordered my copy of Stephen King’s newest novel, The Outsider, which will be released on May 22nd!!!  Raise the flag, I am so excited to add a new, gorgeous King hardback to my bookshelves.  Check out the cover below – very creepy and cool!

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Publication Date: May 13, 2014

Star Rating: 3.5-stars!

We Were Liars is a book that is going to be hard for me to review. I actually finished it a couple of weeks ago and have been trying to come up with something of substance to write about it. I think part of the difficulty for me lays in the fact that there was a disturbing situation in this book that really, really, really made me uncomfortable – basically bringing one of my worst nightmares out of my mind and onto the page; because of this, I felt like my mind kind of turned off to this book after that. I was enjoying it a lot but that one aspect of the story was really very hard for me to move past.

The bulk of the action takes place mostly on a private island off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I live on Nantucket, so literally, this story hit very close to home for me. A large number of the population of my community consists of summer families very similar to the one in this story. I felt like I knew these people, like I had heard many of the gossips and complaints and recriminations that flow throughout the family drama. The book itself, is actually hard to classify in my opinion. Is it a Thriller, is it a YA Contemporary? It really had aspects of both but I am going to call it a YA Contemporary. There was one really big plot twist that I definitely did not see coming even though I thought I had it all figured out. However, even with this taken into account it isn’t really ‘thrillery’ enough to earn that classification in my opinion.

I listened to the audiobook and one of the main reasons that I did was because Ariadne Meyers was the narrator. She also voiced Lydia in The Serpent King and I absolutely adore her work. She is so fabulous. She definitely did not disappoint with this one. In fact, the end was bloody brilliant. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit but I definitely feel like it is a book that is only impactful your first time through.