Book Review

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Thriller + Mystery
Length: 342 pages
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: July 11th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
 
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
 
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

IT WAS ALRIGHT.

This is the second book by Sager I’ve picked up, and y’all. I’m still not a FAN. The books are fine, and some of the twists at the end get me, but it takes so long to get there I question my choices in taking the time to read that long.

The beginning really brought me into the story. I was curious with what was happening (didn’t trust it of course) and wanted to know more. During the middle section though, I still don’t fully understand the point of it. It was 100 pages of filler scenes in getting more of Quincy’s personality and getting to know Samantha, but it felt stilted. I was expecting more involving the murder and instead was left hanging.

I found at least a little of it creepy. The flashbacks to the Pine Cottage, CREEPY. It’s convinced me I never want a cabin in the woods, everrrrrrr. Which is fine with me. Everything else didn’t spook me out. I’m reading a thriller, I want to feel at least a little panicked at times.

The twists at the end did TOTALLY surprise me. I didn’t see them coming and want to be completely vague because I think it’s more enjoyable that way. There was some information I didn’t love or appreciate happening, which rubbed me the wrong way and brought the book down all together for me.

Overall audience notes:

  • Thriller + Mystery book
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: some detailed love scenes, a lot of casual sex, kissing, etc.
  • Violence: murder, physical, guns, very descriptive and bloody/gory
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault, murder, a murder thought to be a suicide, suicide ideation, cheating

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Book Review

Book Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 426 pages
Author: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Expected Release Date: April 16th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

MOSTLY CHARMING.

Unfortunately I read this one after finishing a five star YA contemporary that I adore now so this had a lot to live up to. And while I did find it cute, it fell flat in some spots.

Namely, was I reading a mystery novel or a romance? The plot this book surrounded was focused on Birdie and Daniel trying to find out who this mystery guy was at the hotel where they worked. I feel like this often took up too much page time and wanted to focus more on their relationship. It honestly would have probably made the book a bit shorter (which is fine).

I did love Daniel. I thought he was charming and cute. He was open to discussing his mental health and disability. I liked the way he approached things and his relationship with Birdie. I wish Birdie responded better to some of the information he told her, but I do understand it would be a lot to work through initially.

Though y’all. If you read my Starry Eyes review (linked!) and have read this book, then you know what I’m about to mention. HOW IN THE WORLD DID THEY GO THROUGH A BOX OF CONDOMS IN A NIGHT? And why is this a reoccurring theme in her books?! I’m sorry, until someone can tell me this is a usual and common thing that happens I refuse to believe otherwise. It just seems ridiculous, out of place, and not necessary information to what was initially a sweet love scene.

The expansion of grief, depression, anger, and resentment are a foundation in this novel. I liked that this hit on harder topics because this is what a lot of us deal with. I felt for Daniel and Birdie (and many side characters) at different times because life is hard sometimes (and I know that’s mild). It was nice to have it woven in with a tender happy-ending love story. There was a lot of depth from both of these characters, even if I found some decisions amusing.

Even though I had some issues with it I think the biggest factor was reading a book I really love prior. So please take this review in that light! You will probably enjoy this and I definitely plan on continuing to read her books.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary
  • Language: some strong language
  • Romance: some kisses, a remembrance of a night together (a little detailed), and another little detailed FTB scene, mentions of sleeping with each other and sex in general
  • Trigger warnings: discussion of a previous suicide attempt (chapter 19) and then it is brought up a few more times, depression, anxiety

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Book Review

Book Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Mystery + Thriller
Length: 384 pages
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Expected Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is. 

HAD SOME GOOD MOMENTS.

This starts out super chill. We have a nanny who’s going to work at a very creepy smart-house. It can automatically be assumed something will go down because when does a smart-house in a thriller novel ever work correctly? I was intrigued and ready to get things rolling. What slowed me down (time and time again) was the excessive paragraphs dedicated to describing every nook and cranny of the house. I’m not someone who needs to know minute details so for me, I breezed past those to get to the more interesting bits.

I like the way everything was set up. The age of the girls, the parents, the other staff members. I felt they all kind of played their parts well and had rolls that you loved or hated. I liked Rowan and thought she was an odd character. It seemed like she was trying her best to help out and take care of the kids. The style set-up with Rowan writing to a lawyer was interesting. I thought it might get in the way, but she only really addressed him a handful of times so it’s not as bothersome as it could have been.

Something I didn’t love was the awful husband, when his full story came to light I was already angry at him and this just fueled that rage. I kinda wish he had gotten his karma in this book because he deserved it. Another piece was the “romance” thrown into this. WHY. Why does every thriller with a female lead NEED a randevu with the handsome new guy/stranger. It added nothing to the story.

The ending plot twists…I did NOT see coming. And was totally floored when they happened. I absolutely loved them and thought it was a great way to turn everything on its head before the story ended. I wish we did get more of an end because I closed the book feeling unsatisfied that I didn’t get the last little pieces I was hoping *sigh*.

Overall audience notes:

  • Thriller/Mystery
  • Language: some strong language throughout
  • Romance: one love scene, took one paragraph and pretty vague
  • Violence: murder
  • Trigger warnings: death of a child, unwanted sexual advancements, cheating spouse

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Book Review

Book Review: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary + Romance + Retellings
Length: 362 pages
Author: Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Expected Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.

READ IN ONE SITTING. YES IT’S THAT GOOD.

Ahhhhh, I absolutely loved this y’all.

First though, I know nothing about The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare. I know as much as the novel told me about and so I can’t really comment on how well this retellings went. I loved it though, so hopefully others thought it was great from the retellings perspective.

Cameron. Oh, bless her heart. Boy did she make me want to shake her sometimes. As she started off being completely terrible, I knew we were in for a great character arc. I was not let done. This was more than just a romance book. Watching Cameron learn about herself and what it means to be a true friend and being kind to others was almost more than my heart could take. She learned so much over this book and I felt I could really relate to these kind of struggles from high school. Working through who your true friends are, being with the guy you deserve to be with, dealing with iffy parents, the whole thing. I connected with novel y’all.

The romance though, was ABSOLUTELY JUST YAAAAAS. Oh it was SO CUTE. And the BANTER and the MOMENTS. ALL THE CAPS BECAUSE I AM OBSESSED. Cameron and Brendan forever. High school sweethearts PLEASE. Their romance was filled with forgiveness and tenderness that made it impossible to put this down because I needed to watch it unfold. I love the way it was done and seriously can’t stop gushing about it. This is the way a young adult contemporary romance should be written and I can easily say it’s one of (if not THE) top YA Contemporary I’ve read in 2019. I also adore that Brendan was a nerdy gamer and YOUNGER than Cameron because I feel like I haven’t seen that much in contemporaries and I was HERE FOR IT. All the heart eyes.

There is a much deeper message in this book. That it’s about second chances and how it’s not too late to decide the type of person you want to be. This bumpy road that Cameron went on was filled with hard choices that ultimately brought her to a state of peace.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary retelling + romance
  • Language: some throughout (occasionally strong)
  • Romance: a few kisses (it’s clean y’all, YAY!)
  • Violence/Trigger warnings: emotional and verbally abusive parenting, talks of cheating on someone

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Book Review

Book Review: The Art of Falling in Love by Haleigh Wenger

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 262 pages
Author: Haleigh Wenger
Publisher: Literary Crush Publishing
Expected Release Date: August 13th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Seventeen-year-old Claire Haynes always spends summer vacation at her family’s beach house in Florida, sketching and dreaming of art school with her biggest fan–her Opa. But when Opa dies right before summer break, all Claire has left besides her memories is a sand-sculpting contest application with her name on it and the lingering question of why Opa filled it out in the first place. Claire has never even made a decent sandcastle, but she reluctantly turns in the entry forms, hoping the contest will help her navigate the grieving process by honoring one of Opa’s last wishes.

When she meets Foster, a teenage boy with a talent for turning recyclables into abstract sculptures, the two join forces to win the contest and salvage the Summer of Art. They spend the humid summer days shoveling sand, devouring ice cream, and exploring Florida’s art scene. Just like Opa, Foster understands Claire and her overwhelming need to create, but he has a secret that threatens to ruin everything: he’s homeless and hiding from an abusive brother who would have him believe family trumps all.

When Claire’s parents find out about Foster’s homelessness, they offer him a home along with their hearts. But even picture-perfect families like Claire’s can harbor an ugly side, especially in the aftermath of Opa’s death. When someone close to Claire spills Foster’s secret, they’re both forced to choose between love and familial obligation. If Claire can’t break through long-held beliefs and prove family is more than shared DNA, she could permanently lose Foster and a chance at the sand contest to honor Opa.

A CUTE BEACH READ WITH DEEPER CONTEXT.

I saw a friend talking about this book and when she mentioned it was free on Kindle that day, I thought, WHY NOT? Why not indeed. This was a hidden gem from a debut author (and it’s only $2.99 on Kindle now so hey! That’s cheap too).

I loved the way the relationship between Claire and Foster developed. They had a nice meet cute and then things slowly built with actual conversation and interactions with each other. Even as a summer romance nothing ever felt insta-love and I was totally wrapped up in how things were going with them. The only thing that bothered me at times was watching Claire keep trying and seeking out Foster and when he should have done the same…he didn’t. Foster eventually did take matters into his own hands, but it took him a very long time to actually do something for their relationship.

Claire had a summer of growth and learning about herself. After the loss of her grandfather she coped with it while also having to look forward to decisions about art school and what type of medium she was interested in. I felt she really came into herself and her increased confidence and decision making by the end made her a heroine to remember.

The only character that truly upset me was Claire’s sister, Livvy. I still don’t think she actually redeemed herself from the crappy choices she made out of spite. Livvy acted very immature and completely irrational more than half the time. It felt like she was only there to add some more drama, but I could have done without her.

I loved the beach setting and it made me wish I could have read this during the summer because it is the epitome of a beach read. Lots of sun, sand, love and road trips. What more could you ask for?

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: physical
  • Trigger warnings: child abuse, homelessness

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Book Review

Book Review: LIFEL1K3 (Lifelike #1) by Jay Kristoff

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult Science fiction/Dystopian
Length: 402 pages
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 29th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

A SCI-FI/DYSTOPIAN WIN.

I was wary of picking this up because Kristoff has vastly different types of books and wasn’t sure what I would find with this one. Y’all, it was really good!

It started off with a lot of action and rarely slowed up. I absolutely loved all of these characters. Eve was brave and a bit reckless. Lemon Fresh was sassy and kind. Ezekiel was strong and heartfelt. Cricket was quirky and loyal. This was a great group of friends that I caught myself even laughing at some of their interactions.

The setting and world was trippy. A dystopia world filled with robots. Robots totally freak me out and this was no different. I thought it was well done and enjoyed learning about how all of the different types came about and what their strengths and weaknesses were.

Plot twists though. A few I figured were going to happen, then we hit the last 50 pages where my jaw dropped at the reallllll twist of the book. I MEAN WHOA. Those left me shook and demanding that my library get book two ASAP. I think it’s crazy cool and if it’s going the way I think it is, I would be completely obsessed with this series. I love the nod to the Romanov’s. The names and situations made me think that’s what Kristoff was alluding to. It was a little Easter Egg that was a fun find.

I’m all over the place on maybe relationships, maybe their a villain, and maybe they die. I love that this book kept me guessing and wanting to read more. I’m generally picky about sci-fi reads and am grateful I decided to pick this up!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult sci-fi + dystopia
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a mention of a potential night together, but very vague; some kisses
  • Violence: some crude jokes, blasts, explosions, poison, radiation, guns, animal attacks, plane crashes, physical
  • Trigger warnings: mention of a suicide (Chapter 10)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Vine Witch (The Vine Witch #1) by Luanne G. Smith

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy + Paranormal: witches
Length: 263 pages
Author: Luanne G. Smith
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

THE IDEA WAS UNIQUE.

The execution was less so.

I was really into this book at first, that beginning chapter where our MC is a frog? That’s interesting. I want to know more. As things went on, it started to drag and then I was truly confused at the point of some of the characters.

Elena, as a vine witch, works on a vineyard to produce the most extraordinary wine. Back from a curse she seeks to figure out who did it to her. This aspect of her personality I liked. She was headstrong in solving this case and was firm in choosing what she wanted to do. At other times I felt she let others do the work for her, or was too “weak” from her curse to do anything. It made her a bit wishy-washy.

I really liked Jean-Paul! He felt like a smooooth character (if that even begins to make sense). I immediately saw the potential connection between him and Elena. This never really worked out…even though they were together by the end? They spent very little time together and had little conversation throughout the book. I could see the author was pushing for their relationship, but I was no longer interested *shrugs*. I wanted a deeper connection with all of the characters.

Especially the villain. What was the point of her? She was a crone that had no story, no reason to be after Elena, and I don’t even know how to end this sentence. It was so lackluster that I am flabbergasted as to how I want to explain it. Frankly, she was superfluous and only there to fuel a plot that didn’t have a guiding light.

I liked the concept. The story with the witches who help a vineyard? That’s really interesting! I haven’t read any paranormal books like that. I just thought everything else could have been worked out a little better. The French influence was a perfect tidbit too.

Overall audience notes:

  • Paranormal fantasy (witches)
  • Language: a little (sometimes strong)
  • Romance: a little detailed fade to black scene, some kisses
  • Violence: poison, ritual murdering of animals, murder; fairly detailed

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