Tag Archives: fiction

Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey

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Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.

All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.

One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed—violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumors. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild, and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable. 

The review almost never happened. I finished reading this today at work, added it onto Goodreads but it didn’t save properly. So fast forward to tonight, sat down with my laptop and realize that my book was nowhere to be found on Goodreads. I had deleted it off my Kindle app. I couldn’t remember the author or title. So I almost decided to skip…but I found it in my Amazon archive so you’re welcome.

I struggled with this novel. It was a horror story, so I guess I should have been prepared for it to be creepy but honestly…this book was creepy on a much different way then I anticipated. The plot wasn’t all that bad, especially as not much happens on that front until the very last 10% of the book. The real creep factor took place right in Cassie’s own home. I honestly don’t want to get into it too much as if you do want to read it I don’t want to spoil it for you but be forewarned, it can be triggering for some people.

I gave this a rating of three stars as I thought some aspects of this book were really well done (characters were well written for example) but I felt it dragged all the way until the end so there was a conclusion for one aspect of this book but not closure for the most important parts of this book.

Sins of Silence by Sadie Gordon Richmond

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When the body of a teenage rugby star is found in the grounds of an exclusive private school, life at the privileged institution comes under scrutiny.

Who might have wanted the seventeen-year-old pupil dead? How did he get out of a secure boarding house in the middle of the night? And what was he doing in the woods around the playing fields at that hour?

DCI Lawrence Forrester and DS Rebecca Palmer’s initial enquiries reveal little more than the perennial schoolyard problems of bullying and less-than-friendly rivalries, but, digging deeper, they begin to suspect some of the six formers’ extracurricular activities involve more than the usual high jinks.

And, as the week wears on and the victim’s friends spin one version of events after another, evidence mounts to suggest that the boy’s murder is only one of several shocking crimes committed on school grounds.

I won this book on Goodreads. Opinions are entirely my own.

This was the second book of a series, but thankfully, aside from having a bit more insight on the main characters, there wasn’t an issue jumping in at the second installment.

I don’t read a lot of mysteries because to be honest, I suck at solving them. I’m not very good at picking up on subtle clues and tend to get distracted by secondary stories and usually by the time I get to the end I realize that I have reached the conclusion and hadn’t even thought about that angle.

Sins of Silence was kind of like that. There were a lot of characters, between the two detectives investigating the murder and the subjects. I admit that a lot of the suspects kind of blended in together.

Overall I thought it was an okay story. While it wasn’t my favorite genre, it was executed well enough, especially as it was part of a series. I tend to avoid series unless I can read them all in order but this was was one of the few where it wasn’t necessary.

Rating: three stars

Relatively Normal by Witney Dineen

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Catriona Masterton's fiancé, Ethan, is Normal.

He plans trips six months in advance and arrives at the airport a minimum of three hours early. He purchases life insurance, luggage insurance, and always opts for the extended warranty. He's responsible, reliable, and would make any woman a wonderful life partner.

In other words, he's the exact opposite of the Masterton clan.

Cat's mother has a kitchen gadget fetish, a father whose best friends are taxidermied field mice, and a super stoner man-child brother who lives--where else?--in the basement. Then there's Nan, her proud Scottish grandmother with a proclivity for profanity and mischief.

What on earth will Catriona's Normal fiancé think when he comes home with her to meet her parents? What will he think when he discovers his soon-to-be in-laws invited Cat's ex to join them for a holiday dinner?

I read the Kindle edition of this book which was (I think) a Kindle freebie.

This was a cute romance. When I started reading it I didn’t have very many expectations for it as it seemed to be one of those overly formulatic romances that are cute and fun but don’t have a lot of substance to it. I was happy to see that this book, though it had plenty of cute and funny moments, also contained some more unconventional characters and situations that I truly was not expecting.

Of course this book wasn’t without flaws. I thought that Cat’s family was really over the top…they are funny and fun but the extreme difference between Cat’s family and Ethan’s family is so extreme that instead of being funny it’s more cringey then anything. It just seems odd that Cat and Ethan have been in a relationship for so long yet they seem like they don’t know each other at all and Cat seemed to know Ethan’s family pretty well, but this was the first time Ethan is meeting anyone in Cat’s family.

But of course the story wouldn’t have been plausible without those factors in place, I just think there should be a more plausible explanation of why these things happened.

Overall, I really enjoyed having something fun and light to read, as so often I read heavier type novels and nonfiction books so this was a welcomed change.

I gave this a four star rating.

Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

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In the spring of her senior year, Donna Parisi finds new life in an unexpected place: a coffin.

Since her father's death four years ago, Donna has gone through the motions of living: her friendships are empty, she's clueless about what to do after high school graduation, and her grief keeps her isolated, cut off even from the one parent she has left. That is until she's standing in front of the dead body of a classmate at Brighton Brothers' Funeral Home. At that moment, Donna realizes what might just give her life purpose is comforting others in death. That maybe who she really wants to be is a mortician.

This discovery sets in motion a life Donna never imagined was possible. She befriends a charismatic new student, Liz, notices a boy, Charlie, and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too, and finds herself trying things she hadn't dreamed of trying before. By taking risks, Donna comes into her own, diving into her mortuary studies with a passion and skill she didn't know she had in her. And she finally understands that moving forward doesn't mean forgetting someone you love.

Jen Violi's heartfelt and funny debut novel is a story of transformation-how one girl learns to grieve and say goodbye, turn loss into a gift, and let herself be exceptional...at loving, applying lipstick to corpses, and finding life in the wake of death.

I picked this up at one of my favorite used book stores, I had never heard of it and honestly, I thought it was a memoir (I wasn’t paying too much attention that day I guess). It wasn’t until I actually sat down to read it that I realized that it was a novel, not a memoir.

This was an okay book. I mostly liked it, though at times I felt annoyed at the characters. Donna was an odd narrator at times. She seemed uneven, though as she’s only 18 it does make the novel seem believable. What 18 year old is so secure that she never changes. I did find Donna’s mom and family in general to be unlikable and not quite as developed as I would have liked but it wasn’t a huge problem as a lot of this story is seen between Donna and her mother and those characters were well written.

I gave this a rating of three stars. It was a solid story that was good, but not great.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

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In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.

Over all, 2020 has been a good year for reading. Everything else is pretty crappy but I have been introduced to a lot of new to me authors and have read some truly memorable books. This book is probably the best example of this. This book not only introduced me to a new author but it introduced me to a brand new culture that, to be honest, is severely under represented.

Now, I am going to make a confession here. Sometimes (often) the best books I read are the hardest to write reviews for. When I write reviews I do try to review in a space away from the book so that I try not to let my emotions take over…usually taking a few days away from finishing the book is enough to disengage enough but with this book…I think the scars this left me will always be with me, just below the surface.

This book was brutal and although I’d love to buy like 1000 copies of this and just hand them out to random women I see, I will be the first to say that this book is brutal. It does not shy away from the mistreatment that women in this culture are often subject to. Arranged marriages are the norm. Domestic violence is all to often ignored. It is not graphic, but I found myself having to take a palate cleanser (aka switch to another book) fairly often because it upset and angered me.

It is also claustaphobic. A lot of this book takes place in an apartment in Brooklyn, and in so many ways, the apartment served as a prison, first for Isla and then for Isla’s oldest daughter, Deya. So when and if you choose to read this, make sure you do have something fun to do during breaks and try to get some sunshine. And the ending especially is brutal so definitely plan for that.

I know based on this review it sounds like this is the most depressing misery porn you can read, but I promise you that it doesn’t seem that way when you are reading it. There is hope in this book. There’s characters that you will love and want to fight for and the writing is flawless.

The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard

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“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.

When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

I read the Kindle edition of this.

I accidentally mixed this book up with a similarly titled non fiction book, so i admit, I was a little disappointed when I realized that this was a fiction book. Although I definitely enjoy fiction, and I have been wanting to read more historical fiction but I had previously starting listening to the audio version of the non fiction book and I had looked forward to reading it.

This was an okay book. I did like that Janet Beard showed the story from the eyes of two of the girls who were employed without knowledge of what they were doing (and their motivations behind why they were there), a scientist who knew what the secret project was, and a black man who was on the construction crew.

It was a decent book. It was well researched, and I appreciated the little details included that made the book seem real, but there were a few things that I just didn’t like. I didn’t care much for the characters, they seemed like they were just in the story to be able to tell certain parts of the story and they weren’t all that interesting.

Rating: three stars

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

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Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.
When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.
They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.

This was another random pick from Libby.

This was a startling book to read in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests. It was a fast read, but intense and stressful.

The story is told through the eyes of Lena and Campbell, two very different girls who both happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during an out of control fight that breaks out between opposing fans at a high school football game. The fight is racially charged, stemming from an incident that happens before the book begins. After it becomes apparent that the fight has become completely out of control and shots are fired, the two girls end up taking off into the chaotic night in an attempt to find their loved ones and make it home safely.

I sort of liked this, but like I said, this was a stressful story. From the beginning to the end, there was very few breaks from the intensity. As the action starts very quickly, there’s not much opportunity to get to know Lena and Campbell before they were thrown together, and the story ends almost as suddenly so we never find out what happens the next day and the days to follow but we learn enough about the girls throughout the story to get a sense of who they are, who they were, and based on the information, we sort of get a sense of what they go on to do do.

This is the type of book that stays with you after you finish, and the longer you think about it, the more thoughts and questions come to mind. I actually finished reading this twenty days ago, and when I started this review I was worried that I wouldn’t have much to say, but as I started writing I realized that this had stuck with me far more than I had expected.

The rating I gave this was four stars. It was well earned and I think if it had been a little longer with a bit more details it would have been a five star read.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

I borrowed this from Libby.

I picked this book up without knowing much about it. It was an okay read. Obviously it wasn’t the type of book that you read for fun. it is the kind of book you force yourself to read because it seems like the kind of book that you should read because it feels important.

And the book was okay. The message of it was clear, but the execution was a clunky, not at all organic. The characters were stereotypes and they were all kept an armslength away from the reader so there was no chance of connecting.

I gave this three stars as there was some merit to the book. Sexual assult, especially amongst teenagers is something that should be explored more and I’m glad that this book exists so that it can open the conversation.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

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When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn't come as a surprise—or happen in front of 45,000 people.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn't the hard part—they've only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans...

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up—in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes... 

I don’t read much romance, as I have mentioned before, but I enjoy books like this where there is a good balance between the plot, the characters, the romance and humor. In fact, I will venture to say that the only romance books I do enjoy are those with a healthy dash of humor.

What drew me to this book was the character of Nikole, mostly because this is my name and spelling and it was the very first time I had ever come across a character who share this unique spelling with me. Even if the summary didn’t stand out as particularly interesting…I still wanted to read this for the name alone.

And honestly, I am glad I gave this a shot. It wasn’t a particularly excellent read, but it was entertaining in all the right places. It was sexy, romantic and funny in all the right balances and I throughly enjoyed it. It was a really great summer read, especially this summer where things are so weird.

This was the first book I have read by Jasmine Guillory but I will keep her books on my radar, especially when I am in need for some good rom coms to keep me entertained. I will also be super stoked if this was ended up being adapted for a movie.

Rating: Four stars

Book Review: The Madness of Grief by Panayotis Cacoyannis

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July 1969. While men are walking on the moon, life in London for sixteen-year-old Jane takes unexpected turns. On the point of falling in love with her best friend Karl, she discovers that there's more to her father's spectacular girlfriend than at first meets the eye. In the sweltering heat of a fast-moving evening, other revelations quickly follow, reconciling Jane with her father but also reopening wounds from the past, laying bare raw emotions kept suppressed for too long. And as the evening draws to a close, the night's drama has only just begun, unfolding in a sequence of violent events that threaten to have lasting repercussions for Jane and the people she loves...

Lightened by a gentle touch of humor, with magic tricks, sexuality and family secrets all playing a prominent part, The Madness of Grief is a mystery and a thriller contained in a coming-of-age tale of friendship, betrayal and loss. 

I read the Kindle edition of this.

If you look at Goodreads, this novel has been rated four to five stars almost across the board. I did see a few threes and a two, but it seems that the consensus is that this was the best book people have ever read. And I have to ask, what the hell did I miss? Why did this book get such high praises when I literally skimmed the final half of this book because I could not take any more of this.

Alright. So be forewarned that this review might be spoilery. I’m finding it hard to review this novel without dissecting it a bit.

I won’t deny that the language in the novel is well above average. This book was filled with highlights, which I won’t deny I enjoyed.

“A tortured man but a marvellous writer, complex and yet also entirely simple. As I always say, one is never too young to be reading Kafka, and never too old to be reading him differently.”

I’m going to venture that because of quotes like this, it was easy to get distracted by the flaws. At first I found myself distracted, but then as I read on, and became increasingly bored and disturbed, I realized that this book is horribly flawed.

The two major issues I had about this book was the characters and the pacing.

The characters were not well developed, to the point where they were caricatures of themselves. Jane was insufferably boring. She had no personality and spends all her time reading Kafka and pining after an older boy who sexually assults her, only for her to completely forgive him because reasons (at this point I started skimming). Her father commits suicide when Jane discovers his girlfriend Mia Mia is really a man called Jack and her aunt has an important sculputure stolen. And all these events take place in the space of 24 hours.

After all these events happened, I started skimming. The story was just so convuluted at that point and everyone and everything was just absolutely terrible. It almost seemed like it was a satire, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

It was good that this wasn’t a long book, but at the same time I think that the length was a hindrance. If it was longer, the plot and the characters would have had more time to grow and develop more naturally. I think that there was some good potential there, just not enough room for it to come out. Which was a shame because I really think that this writer has some talent for prose.

Rating: one star