Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Good Me, Bad Me – Ali Land

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Wow. Wow. WOW. What an interesting and unique read centred around a young teenaged girl named Milly, and her ongoing battle throughout the book of dealing with the aftermath of turning her mom in for the murder of nine children. This book is chilling and really questions whether homicidal tendencies are the result of genetics or environment, and unfortunately for Milly, she’s got both working against her.

In the immediate aftermath of turning her mother in, Milly is temporarily placed in the home of a psychiatrist, Mike, and the rest of his family: his daughter, Phoebe, and his wife, Saskia, as Milly awaits her mother’s trial. Due to the nature of the crime, no one, aside from Mike, Saskia, and a few people at Milly’s school know her story. She’s been given a new name and Milly hopes to give herself a fresh start, though try not to look at her too closely or else you are sure to see her mother’s face reflected. Since Mike is usually the home for wayward children, and therefore spends a lot of time with the children placed in his care, Milly and Phoebe do not get along, which strains their already tumultuous relationship both at home and at school.

As the trial date looms, Milly struggles to reconcile what happened when she was with her mother and the blame she puts on herself; as much as she wishes she could hate her mother and what she did to her and the other children, the familial bond is strong and nearly impossible to break. How can she cope with testifying against her mother and what is going to happen to her when it is done?

This book was a great read, and it had me hooked from the very beginning. I’m a sucker for psychological thrillers, and this book hits all the high notes of one. It makes you think, makes you feel for the main character and what she is going through, and inevitably sucker punches you by the end.

I really like the way the dialogue is sometimes spoken within the book. It is included within the paragraphs, almost giving the book a diary-like feel to it; it also disjoints the reader, a kind of back and forth between the main character and whomever, like if you were standing right there watching them speak.

The rest of the novel is also written in this choppy, sort of disjointed way, which really had the effect of putting me on edge, anxiously awaiting what was going to happen next. For the most part, this was executed well, however there were times where I found myself checking the page number, because it felt as if nothing had happened for pages and pages. This is one of my few critiques of the book; the beginning and end I absolutely plowed through, could not get enough, but the middle tended to drag at times.

I both liked, and disliked, the way the adults in this book were portrayed. It made me feel like I was reading a YA book at times, because of how absolutely oblivious the adults were, especially at school. There are numerous occasions in the book where teachers overlook the extreme bullying that Milly is experiencing. And then seem shocked at the repercussions. The biggest perpetrator of this though is Mike. He even expresses shock when he learns later that Milly and Phoebe have not been getting along. Like…??? It happens right in front of his face. I dislike this, just because it seems unrealistic that not one teacher or parental figure would notice what was happening, but I also really like it too because it shows, yet again, that everyone is failing this poor girl.

My only other gripe with this book is how the ‘twists’ were portrayed. I’m not sure if it was just me, but I had correctly assumed what was going to be happening early in the book. Even the ending, which was AMAZING, did not shock me. I almost wish Ali Land had taken it further. Overall though, this book is incredibly well written, well characterized, and accomplished that feeling of anxiety in a way I’ve never experienced in a book. I gave this book 3.75 out of 5, only because of the few issues I highlighted above. I definitely recommend this for the thriller lover in you!

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ARC, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

The Goblins of Bellwater – Molly Ringle

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Before I get into my review of this book I want to thank NetGalley and Central Avenue Publishing for the ARC I received in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately, despite the absolute GORGEOUSNESS of this cover (seriously… it is AMAZING), I really did not enjoy this book. The book begins by quickly introducing us to the four main characters of the book… Kit, Grady, Livy, and Skye, and provides a meaningful explanation as to their importance within the story, as well as setting up the plot. From there, the book fails to add anything meaningful to that plot, until about 60% into the book.

Kit is your typical, rugged, bad boy character (I honestly pictured Chris Pine) who unfortunately, due to a generational agreement made from one of his ancestors, is entered into a pact with the ‘Goblins of Bellwater’; in the hopes of saving the town from the conniving goblins, he is to provide them with large sums of gold each month – as well as to fulfill the requirements of the pact. In return the goblins do not bother the citizens of the town. Kit’s cousin, Grady, who does not know about this pact, is visiting Bellwater in order to look for a job in the cooking industry. Little does he know, his entire life is about to change. A chance meeting in the forest with Skye, a young barista/artist, sets them both on the path to potential destruction. Livy, Skye’s older environmentalist sister, is tasked with helping Skye after she comes home from the woods one day forlorn and depressed, unable to talk much or show emotion.

The premise of this book is simply amazing, and incredibly unique. A fantastical world where goblins wreak havoc on a small town if their liaison, Kit, does not fulfill the pact requirements. One night he comes up short, and four lives are about to be changed forever.

However, I found four main issues with the book that almost had me DNF’ing the book at 35%, 50% and even up til 75%.

  1. The dialogue in this book is awkward at best, and absolutely cringe worthy in other spots. It portrays each character as being perfect, one-dimensional, and overly stilted and robotic. These conversations are never ones that would be had in real life. Not to mention the character’s need to over-explain quite a few things that were happening throughout the book.
  2. Characters in the book tended to be omnipresent; as in they were able to discern what was happening during another characters POV, but should not have been able to do so. And it was repetitive. Happening multiple times throughout the novel as a way to quickly progress the story. This is your standard “show” not “tell” issue. The characters tended to tell you (inferring out of nowhere – ‘deus ex machina’) rather than come to the conclusion naturally.
  3. Being able to read way too much in people’s faces. Although we can tell subtlety in people’s facial expressions, ‘She seemed mournful almost, as if there might be many things she regretted, but not this specifically,’ this seems a bit over the top, using elaborate facial descriptions in order to feed the plot line.
  4. A lack of communication. Honestly the first 50% of the book was not necessary. In the beginning, Kit questions whether or not Skye has been affected by the goblins in some way. He literally owns a letter from his ancestor explaining the symptoms of a goblin curse, but then thinks himself crazy for even thinking of mentioning it to Skye. Who is Experiencing. The. Same. Symptoms. If she wasn’t cursed, all he’d have to do was laugh it off as a joke. He questions whether she’s been affected at ~20% into the book, but doesn’t realize that he’s been right the entire time until ~50% of the book.

In conclusion, while I think the premise is super interesting and fun, I would have loved to see less of a focus on romance at the beginning, and a stronger fleshing out of the curse, the trials the four characters must go through to break the curse, and the aftermath of dealing with a relationship primarily formed through being forced together. I unfortunately have to give this book 1 star. However, the plot and atmospheric writing, will have me picking up another Molly Ringle book, when she releases something new.

Fantasy, LGBT+, Young Adult

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

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“I am going to die kissing Simon Snow. Aleister Crowley, I’m living a charmed life.”

 I had heard about this book through BookTube, and other various media platforms and knew that since I had read previous books from Rainbow Rowell, that I would probably come to love this one as well. And I wasn’t wrong. Carry On is able to walk the fine line between tropes, as well as throwing in some amazing homages to the likes of Harry Potter and satirical nods to our favourite books such as Twilight. “I know what you are“… yes I bet you do, Simon.

I found this book so cute and the relationships between Simon, Baz, Penny, and Agatha to be absolutely realistic and mesmerizing. It made me laugh, it made me sad, and it made me cheer for these young people on their quest to solve a murder, and a growing threat from an unknown power, the Humdrum.

The nod to Harry Potter was subtle and gave me just enough of a nostalgia kick without going overboard. And as a self-professed lover of fanfiction (*ahem*and writer of it*ahem*), I loved the cute tropes that are present and beloved in some of the best fanfiction out there. ‘The Chosen One’ – trope, for example, is not one that I usually gravitate towards but I loved the twist on it, and the story that accompanied how the chosen one was meant to be.

Also, rarely do we see LGBT+ characters in mainstream novels, and I am so glad to have found one that aims to bring these lovely characters into the spotlight. I would have preferred a bit more information delving into the characters complex backgrounds and upbringings (specifically Simon), and his growing acceptance of his own fluid sexuality, but the discussion is good to have and I’m glad to see this in more mainstream media as the years go by.

My only gripe with the novel, is that I would have loved a more detailed description of the actual school itself. I always loved reading about Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and the classes that they went to. I am also aware that this is one book, instead of seven, and so some background needed to be cut in order to focus more on the characters and their interactions.

I loved this book, and gave it 4.5 stars. Any suggestions for books that are similar to this, feel free to let me know!

Middle Grade, Zombies

Zombie Elementary – Howard Whitehouse

Howard Whitemore - Zombie Elementary
Tundra Books, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd.

“NNGAARRRGGGGHHH!!!!”

I must preface this by saying that I am not the target audience of this book. By far. Despite this, I loved this quick, entertaining read and I thank Tundra Books for approving my request for an e-book ARC. 

The reader is introduced to Larry Mullet, a fourth grader… and a zombie hunter. When weird things start to happen at Brooks Elementary, Larry and his friends must come to the rescue of the town, because the adults are seemingly oblivious to the entire debacle. The story is told from Larry’s POV, interspersed with random interview snippits between Larry and Kyle and hilarious “Zombie Tips”.

The characters were all very realistic and immediately brought me back to my elementary school days. I could immediately remember a person from my past who fit the description of nearly every person in this book with startling clarity. The nostalgic feeling, and the instances of humour that made me laugh out loud really made this a fun read. Then we add in zombies, hilarious zombie tropes, references to almost every amazing zombie movie… and Chuck. Love. Him. I feel like these references were added into the book by the author in case an adult or older child/teen had picked up this book out of curiosity. The younger demographic would come to know these movies and tropes later on in life but I found them to be a great addition and make this a book that almost anyone could read and find hilarious.

My only “issue” with the book was resolved as I read. I initially was put off by the idea that every adult in the town would be so oblivious to the zombie issue, however, I suspended my disbelief and replaced it with an understanding of what Howard Whitehouse was trying to do. The very hush hush kids are the only ones with imaginations who could see beyond rationalizations became a very prominent trope as I continued to read… and it made total sense by the end. You could almost believe that the kids were making everything up. Which I loved.

In the end, I gave this book 4/5. It is a book that I would highly recommend, and not just to the kids in my life. Anyone with an interest in zombies, humour, or even baseball, would get a kick out of this book.

Zombie Elementary is available to purchase online or in store September 9th, 2014.

 

Book Haul

BookOutlet Haul – August 26th 2014

Book Haul August 26th 2014

Caroline B. Cooney – Diamonds in the Shadow

David Levithan – Love is the Higher Law / Every Day

Lauren Morill – Meant To Be

Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere

Stephanie Kuehn – Charm & Strange

Graham McNamee – Beyond: A Ghost Story

Excited to read these books that I ordered from bookoutlet.ca this past week. Reviews will be linked in this post once they go up.

Happy Reading!

Chick Lit

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell - Attachments

“Every woman wants a man who’ll fall in love with her soul as well as her body.” – Attachments

What a cute and quirky novel, a chick-lit written from a male perspective that didn’t seem trite or overdone. The reader is introduced to Lincoln, a tank of a man who is still suffering from a breakup that has severely impacted his life. Despite his numerous degrees, he ends up taking an entry level job as an email monitor for a newspaper company, his job to send out warnings if emails violate the company policy. It is there that we are introduced to the two female coworkers, Jennifer and Beth, and it is there that we fall in love with them. And, as you will see, Lincoln does too.

Rainbow Rowell’s ability to construct a female relationship is, honestly, like a tall glass of water on a hot day. I greatly enjoyed reading about two women who seem to love and respect each other, and, while the BFF relationship is not completely perfect and sing song, it is what I believe to be about as true to a real life BFF scenario than many other books out there.

I gave this book 3.5/5 stars instead of the 4-4.5 stars I felt it deserved as I was reading it because of one pretty big issue I had with it. The characters were so real and relatable that I had a hard time believing the ending. While Beth starts to fall for Lincoln after surreptitious glances and a kinda stalkerish tendency to follow him home, Lincoln falls in love with her mind through the emails he reads between Beth and Jennifer. And, up until 93% of the book was read, these two characters had not even met yet, although the last 7% has them falling in love for each other and admitting their feelings… which I found to be a very rushed ending. While I don’t doubt that they were meant to get together and stay together, to go from practically strangers to admitting pretty serious feelings in the span of only a few pages seemed a little too unbelievable for my tastes.

Although this book has its flaws, I highly recommend you check it out and the other books by Rainbow Rowell. I know I will be.

Happy Reading!