Saturday, 18 February 2017

Review: Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(I set myself a Birthday challenge to read an entire book today - success!)

I will start by saying that this has a bit of a more toned down, teenaged version of Me Before You feel to it. Teenaged Madeline has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) and has been confined to her house for as long as she can remember. When a new family moves in next door, Maddy starts up an unconventional friendship with the cute boy next door.

Our two mains (Olly and Maddy) are extremely likeable and realistic. They both have different personalities but aren't depicted as the (dreaded) "quirky I'm-not-like-other-teenagers!!!" YA characters. My only problem with this story is while I instantly disliked the mom's personality, I also disliked Carla, Maddy's nurse - a character who I'm pretty sure was supposed to come off as being the great friend and ally. Without spoiling, I found that especially towards the last 10-15% of the book I really disagreed with her advice and opinions. I think Carla is problematic.

There is a little twist at the end that I guessed in advance, however it didn't in any way hinder my enjoyment of the story! This isn't my favourite book of all time, but it is a pretty solid read and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a friend!

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Friday, 17 February 2017

Review: My Life as a Bench

My Life as a Bench My Life as a Bench by Jaq Hazell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This a review of an ARC.

What if after your death you're tethered to your memorial? After 17 year old Ren dies, she finds that she is inhabiting her memorial bench. I have to say this is one of the most interesting and unique concepts I've read in quite a while! The story is split between Ren's reactions to family, friends, and strangers who come to visit the bench, and her trying to piece together exactly what happened leading up to and on the day of her death. I really, really enjoyed this book. The author (and subsequently the characters, of course) acknowledge the uncertainty and suddenness of death, and how it is seriously unlikely that everything is going to be wrapped up nicely before you go. It's genuinly unfair what happened. But life (and in this case - death) is unfair. If you're looking for a unique, but bittersweet read - this book is for you!

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Series Recommendation: Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong

My favourite YA book series! 

I am incredibly lucky to have two of the three novels signed and personalised, as well as two signed Darkest Powers bookmarks as I used to live near Kelley Armstrong. 

Since Darkest Powers I've gone on to read Kelley Armstrong's other YA trilogy, Darkness Rising, and her adult series Women of the Otherworld, all of which take place in the same world/universe!

The premise of Darkest Powers
What if there are supernaturals living among us? Groups of people with powers who are able to operate secretly in our world. Some young supernaturals aren't even aware of what they are... and some end up labelled as mentally ill.
I've never found a world that interests me quite as much as Kelley Armstrong's "Otherworld" universe. I honestly cannot recommend this series enough. However, if you're not into reading YA, you can still join the fun in Women of the Otherworld! 

Thursday, 16 February 2017


What is an ARC?
An ARC (or Advanced Reader Copy) is a book that I have been given the opportunity to read before it's release date. Often time ARC's still have some editing to be done, and some small bits of dialogue may be changed before the actual release.

Do you take requests?
Authors wanting me to review their works are encouraged to contact me through my Goodreads profile! I can't always accept to read your books due to time constraints (I'm a University student, currently working a full time job!) 
As for followers, I encourage you to send me recommendations! I'm always interested in hearing what my fellow booklovers are reading!

Why are some of your series reviews (i.e. Throne of Glass #2, #3, etc.) not featured on Alissa In Wonderland: Book Blog?
At this point in time I am trying to avoid featuring book series reviews (beyond the first book) as it gets a little bit harder to avoid spoiling details for readers who haven't got that far on their neverending To Be Read pile! It can also distance readers who couldn't care less about what's going on in the 20th installment of a series they have never read. That being said, while I'm trying to avoid doing that I'm sure I will break that rule once and a while. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: I Found You

I Found You I Found You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is a review of an ARC.

When Alice finds a man washed up on the beach with no idea who he is or how he came to be there, she decides to take him in. This isn't the only novel I've read lately about someone washed up on a beach with memory loss (see: The Girl from the Sea), and I wanted to see how else a similar plot could be done if it went in a different direction. And this did not disappoint! As we follow Alice's growing relationship with this man who she's dubbed "Frank," we also see a newly married Lily, who is new to the country and is frantic to find her husband who didn't come home from work one night. Then there's the flashbacks to 1993. What happened in 1993? Well if I told you, I'd have to kill you.
Altogether, this book was phenomenal. It was a little slow going for me at first as I found myself not really liking Alice's personality (unfortunately my thoughts on her didn't change), but that's an easy thing to get past when a book is just so damn interesting! The conclusion didn't fall flat, and was just about everything you would expect from a good thriller! The expected release date for this novel is April 25th, 2017. Mark it on your calendars!

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Review: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Of course I read this book because of the Broadway musical. I mean what kind of actor doesn't read the source material of one of the biggest shows on Broadway? (Apparently a lot actually... but they may be on to something.) First of all, you won't find me complaining about how the book differs from the musical. Let's be real: the musical definitely went in a different direction than what Maguire had written/intended. I do not consider that in any way a problem. Regardless of how different the novel is from the musical, I liked the book's overall tone just as much (if not more) than the show. It's dark, definitely more adult, kind of addresses political/moral issues, is not concerned with fairness, and is a totally different take on Oz. The problem for me was the style of writing. With The Wicked Years novels I really struggled with actually getting through each book. (In fact I gave up on the last book, Out of Oz, altogether.) The writing seems so distant I have never once felt that a character was ever well... alive, you know? And as such I never felt invested or concerned for any character. I felt like I was trying to be told a story that was being told to me by someone who heard it from a friend...who heard it from his sister... who told her neighbour... well you get the point.

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Review: 18 Months

18 Months 18 Months by Samantha Boyette
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is a review of an ARC.

To be perfectly honest, I found this book incredibly predictable - however not necessarily in a negative way! While I anticipated both plot twists very early on (I'd say within the first handful of chapters), I really enjoyed finding out how said revelations come about. That being said, I did enjoy reading this book. It's definitely nothing too exciting, and as I write this review I've already forgotten some details, but I can't help comparing this book to the format of television shows like Pretty Little Liars, or even a more toned down Criminal Minds. I recommend 18 Months if you're looking for a predictable, yet decently written murder mystery.
On a side note: thank you, Samantha Boyette! This is the first novel I have ever found that has a character with my name and spelling: Alissa!

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Review: The Many

The Many The Many by Nathan Field
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book.

Confusion. Disgust. Surprise. These are just a small bit of the emotion I felt while reading this. Sufficed to say...this book did not go in the direction I thought it was going.
So what was the initial draw? Well women are going on dates and coming home completely different and with erratic behaviour. I know what's going on! No I don't. Okay so what is going on? Well, the best I can do without spoiling anything is to leave you with this: this book is super disturbing. You will not guess the outcome. The Many is certainly one of the creepiest books I've ever read. That being said, if you're looking for a quick and creepy read this book is for you...if not... run away. Run far far away.

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Monday, 13 February 2017

Review: The New Girl

The New Girl The New Girl by Tracie Puckett
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I did not care for this book at all. Full of cliches, with nothing feeling even remotely realistic. First of all, I want to ask: am I in a weird backwards world where Romeo and Juliet was the only play that has ever been written? I'm not kidding. Genuine question. I am sick of authors shoehorning R&J into the plot to because it's the only play they assume we'll understand.

Also, can we talk about the fact that the characters mother tries to set her underage daughter up with 1) a grown ass man, and 2) the brother of the guy she is dating... I mean WHAT? Sure, dealing with a young, irresponsible mom could be a good plot point, but... this is beyond ridiculous. The plot with our main character having a crush on (or even relationship with, as taboo as it is) her teacher could totally work and serve as an interesting plot... but this teacher is openly flirting with her on her first day of school, and later on has no issues at all with going up to his students bedroom. Nope. I was getting predatory vibes in every interaction. The friends felt ridiculous, and more like caricatures than actual characters and I didn't find that the least bit likeable. Don't even get me started on the female teacher and the popular girl who are the biggest stereotypes of all time. Imagine every blonde antagonist you've ever read about or seen in High School movies. Yep, there were two of them, one being an adult.

This book was not my cup of tea, sorry.

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Review: The Princess Saves Herself in this One

The Princess Saves Herself in this One The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is the first full book of poetry I have ever read, and I am glad this was my first. Most of the poems really resonated with me. Some were just observational, whereas some focused more on events and emotions that the author and many other people have felt sometime in their life. I read this book in one sitting, no problem, and I definitely recommend this book for those looking for a quick read that really packs a punch.

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Review: Dorothy Must Die

Dorothy Must Die Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Okay, I'll admit it - I had an incredibly hard time getting through the first half of this book. The second half was definitely an improvement, but there's one thing that I can not get past: Amy Gumm. The main character, Amy, is your "I'm-not-like-other-girls" outsider who is unexpectedly thrust from Kansas into a dystopian Oz. Now let me be clear: To me, Amy Gumm feels like a mix of every character trope I've ever personally despised.
(Note: I also have a bit of an issue with the last name Gumm being used. That was the original surname of Judy Garland.)

I honestly thought if anything, I would dislike this book due to the subject matter. I mean, how many times can we really rewrite and revisit Oz before it loses its magic? However, the world itself? An interesting take! Dorothy and friends new evil personalities? Intriguing, and to be frank, pretty darn cool! I absolutely loved the little homages and nods that the author included throughout to both the source material and the movie. I would be interested in hearing more about this new Oz; unfortunately I'm not interested in hearing about it from Amy.

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Review: Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"You who called me Scout are dead in your grave." - Jean Louise Finch
It took me a year to force myself through the first 100 pages. I honestly found it tortuous. Without the promise of a sudden and shocking revelation regarding Atticus, I may have never forced myself to finish this novel. So how do I feel about this revelation now that I have? I'm angry. I'm hurt. And if anything, I'm left feeling like I've been mislead and betrayed by every single character in one way or another.

Yes, growing up changes our perspective, we uncover secrets, we learn tid bits and secrets regarding people we've known our whole life - but I can't for the life of me understand how To Kill a Mockingbird deserved this. Hastily mentioned scenes and unsatisfying details about familiar faces from To Kill a Mockingbird, mixed in with various chapters of arguably inconsequential flashbacks. I would have much rather had a novel of vignettes regarding Scout's in-between years, and adulthood, instead of it all smushed together trying (and failing) to form a substantial plot.

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Review: Everything You Want Me to Be

Everything You Want Me to Be Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is a review of an ARC.

The story jumps in time from before to after the murder of teenager Hattie Hoffman. In my opinion the only part of the story that actually bored me was the police procedural after Hattie's death. I get it, small town cop, out of his depth, is determined to solve this murder. Of course. I was far more interested in reading the key players point of views leading up to (and in some cases after) the murder. And contrary to what most people say about Hattie as a character: I like her. To be honest I found we have similar personalities. Perhaps it's because I feel such a kinship to her that I was so fascinated by this book: and because of this fascination I can't not give it 5 stars.

As horrible as it sounds, I find (close-in-age) teacher/student relationships an interesting conflict in books that can lead to an intriguing plot as there's only really a few different ways it can play out.
I went into this novel telling myself I wasn't going to even attempt to guess who the murderer was, and I was just going to read with an open mind. I lied to myself because not too far into the book I believed I had the killer pegged. I didn't.

Pet peeves: "play practice." It's called rehearsal. Also the amount of boneheaded characters who blamed this very serious and grisly murder on the Macbeth curse. Are you kidding me? Yes, us actors have superstitions regarding the theatre, but oh my god. We acknowledge the "curse" either jokingly, treating it as a funny urban legend/quirk, or sometimes respectfully because some actors who had worked on that show had fatal incidents (of course not every theatre death has been associated in any way with Macbeth, so even that is a bit iffy.) We're not stupid, we're not gullible. And no one is going to casually (or even frantically) blame the brutal murder of a friend on a superstition. No one. Literally the equivalent of saying she died because she walked under a ladder.

The ending really threw me for a loop - and I appreciate that. All in all, I really liked this book. It was an intriguing read, and I totally recommend it.

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Review: I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say about I'll Give You the Sun? Well I'll start by saying this: yes, this is a different sort of writing style than you may be used to but please, please don't give up. I am so glad I kept reading.
So what's the story? Jude and Noah are fraternal twins, and a series of things happen that distance the twins from each other. The problems/issues are gradually revealed to us, both in the past (told to us through the eyes of Noah) and the present (told through the eyes of Jude.) We see that each twin only has half of the pieces of the puzzle that creates a larger narrative. I don't usually love alternating perspectives and I can't quite my finger on why, but it really worked for this one (maybe because they're twins? Who knows. Obviously not me.) Anyways, on a side note, it is so, so, so refreshing to find a contemporary YA novel that focuses way more on family and sibling bonds than the romance. While I did end up favouring one sibling over the other (sorry, Jude) I loved that romance was not the main focus of the book (as it very well could have turned out to be).

All in all: I loved it. You might love it. Why not give it a try?

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Review: A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I personally went into this book with an actors view, as opposed to a purely literary one. This isn't a novel. The words on the page can be the best thing you've ever read, but you always have to keep in mind the million ways the actor and director can interpret and display the words. There's a great saying we in the theatre community use: Show, not tell. The majority of the negative reviews I am seeing are people stating that Blanche's subsequent spiral came out of absolutely nowhere. However, for plays, subtext and foreshadowing is often not going to be spelt out for you directly in the text, I mean sometimes the playwrights grace us with some good stage directions that help (and it's even more amazing if they don't get cut!) but many playwrights only stick to the blocking necessities. By the time you are performing Streetcar you have already read the play many many times, dissected it, and have already added in the nuances of Blanche's breakdown; and on the other hand if you are an audience member it doesn't need to be spelt out for you textually because the actress is hopefully doing her job and showing this to you. This is where the theatre element comes in.
I'm probably explaining it poorly, and I apologise if this seems a bit ranty, but I've developed a pet peeve regarding the way people compare scripts to full length novels.

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Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the disaster that was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I REALLY needed this book (screenplay) to be great. Let me tell you, J.K. Rowling did not disappoint. I absolutely loved this story. I did get the chance to see the movie before receiving this novel as a gift, so I want to note that the movie did inform my reading experience a little bit. I could hear the score in my head, and didn't have to piece together what the characters and scenery looked like. Having said that I can still guarantee I would have loved this just as much even if I had read this beforehand. I absolutely love Newt. I mean is it humanly possible to not fall in love with a character so adorable? He's so genuinely so innocent and kindhearted that it is refreshing to see in a character. And don't get me wrong, I also loved Tina & Queenie as characters (and Jacob grew on me) and as long as we see them in the follow up movies (and screenplays, of course) I will be a very happy camper!

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Review: Paper Princess

Paper Princess Paper Princess by Erin Watt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was addictive! Objectively I can understand why some of my Goodreads friends didn't enjoy it, but personally I liked it. Not loved. Liked. Although I initially began reading this book because (silly me) I thought it would actually be about Royals -you know as in royalty? Oh well. While it didn't turn out to be the kind of story I was expecting, I didn't once find myself wanting to give up on it. While I didn't necessarily love any of the characters, and honestly probably couldn't tell you any of the Royal brothers names if I tried, the writing had a really nice, easy flow. The ending definitely left me wanting to find out more about this weirdo/potentially psychotic family.

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Review: Things I Should Have Known

Things I Should Have Known Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is a review of an ARC.

I absolutely loved this book! Claire LaZebnik takes multiple characteristics that are usually (and unfairly) avoided/ignored by authors and creates wonderful realistic characters. I found the plot very engaging, and I genuinely loved the pacing, as well as the way the story turned out. I honestly cannot think of a single thing about this book that I disliked, and therefore I highly recommend this to all of my Goodreads friends!

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Review: Beautifully Broken

Beautifully Broken Beautifully Broken by Laura Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book.

I did not care for this book at all . I had such high hopes, as the ratings seem to be very high. This book just was not for me. First of all, why throw every single tragic backstory you can at this poor girl, and then having her be "fixed" by the end of the novel. I love angst as much as the next person, but we get it - she's "broken". Unfortunately I really disliked every character, and found that the love interest swings from being really immature, to really demanding and too possessive.
However, my biggest problem with this book is that 99% of the conversation is about sex. You know why I didn't buy and fall for the "romance" between our main character and the love interest? Because there was so much focus on the physical. Every character seemed to be solely concerned with sex, and while I'm all for being realistic and not going out of your way to censor things that happen in everyday life, I don't see how being obsessed with/only ever talking and joking about sex with your friends, family, and romantic partner is at all healthy. (And before anyone argues that Kat had past trauma, and therefore is acting out - that would make sense, other than the fact that literally every single other character in the novel acts the same way.) I'm sorry but this book just frustrates me. The story was all over the place. While there's a hint of a story here that I would love to read (i.e. a loving teacher/student relationship without the typical major fallout of them being forced apart) the story had too much going on.

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Review: The Best Friend

The Best Friend The Best Friend by Shalini Boland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would like to thank Shalini Boland for personally providing me with a digital copy!

Okay, that was so enjoyable! Ever heard the phrase 'keep your friends close, enemies closer?' According to this novel it's your best friend that you need to keep your eye on! Don't think me a horrible person, but I am an absolute sucker for super manipulative antagonists. It honestly cracked me up how easily and nonchalantly this protagonists life was being destroyed, and how ignorant those around her were. While at times I found the story quite predictable, I honestly never once got bored with it, and I was 100% invested in seeing this story play out. This is the second Shalini Boland book I have read (both earned 5 star ratings from me), and I will definitely be reading more from her!

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Review: Scrappy Little Nobody

Scrappy Little Nobody Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy through a Goodreads Giveaway!

Going into his book I really liked Anna Kendrick. She's always seemed incredibly down to earth and she makes theatre references. My kind of celebrity! Now after reading this book I can safely say I love Anna Kendrick. She comes off as being self-deprecating, sarcastic, but incredibly kind and endearing. I absolutely loved getting to read some of her behind the scenes stories of her early Broadway days, and her work on Into the Woods (oh yeah and those other non-musical movies too, I guess haha.) My one and only complaint is that I had expected her to mention and give so juicy details about working on my personal favourite movie of hers, The Last Five Years. But hey, she said she's writing her next book when she's 70 so I'll just have to be patient, haha.

And to those non-theatre lovers out there, don't be put off by my review. I'd say the vast majority of the memoir has nothing to do with her musical/theatre days; that's just what made me the most excited as that's what I live for.

If you like Anna Kendrick's hilarious Shower Thoughts video, and are interested in her thoughts on her personality, relationships, and fame, give this a read!

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Review: Daddy-Long-Legs

Daddy-Long-Legs Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*Spoiler Alert! Although as it was published in 1912 I think I've waited an appropriate amount of time.*
Daddy Long Legs, the wonderful literary classic, is told predominantly through one way letter correspondence from orphan Jerusha Adams to her anonymous benefactor whom she lovingly refers to as Daddy Long Legs. She calls him thus as she only knows three things about him:

  1. He's tall.
  2. He's rich.
  3. He hates girls.

So not to insult either herself or "Mr. Smith," she starts to cheekily refer to her guardian as Daddy Long Legs.
Make no mistake this is a very gradual romance. Of course at the end of the novel: surprise! As it turns out - her benefactor, Daddy Long Legs himself, is actually Jervis Pendleton, the uncle of a decidedly unlikeable school acquaintance. (Hey, this may very well be the first instance of cat fishing!)

First of all, I would be ridiculous to not acknowledge that each and every letter is incredibly endearing. Jerusha is unabashedly straightforward, and while still having the ideals and "ladylike" sensibilities as per the times (early 1900's), she is intelligent, humorous, and at times feisty.

This section of letter alone really says it all:
“It isn't the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh - I really think that requires spirit.It's the kind of character that I am going to develop. I am going to pretend that all life is just a game which I must play as skillfully and fairly as I can. If I lose, I am going to shrug my shoulders and laugh - also if I win.”

That is both incredibly inspiring and hilarious.
I could go on for days, but I'll spare you all.

(Side note: there is also a stage musical of the same name based on this novel. After having read the novel, I can attest to the fact that the musical is very faithful to the novel.)

"Completely and Irrevocably,
and world Without-End made up,
Jerusha Abbott"

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Review: Silence

Silence Silence by Natasha Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to say, I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. This novel follows fifteen-year old Oakley and her changing relationship with her childhood best friend, Cole. Sure we've seen this before. Yawn. But there's a catch: Oakley has been mute since the age of five. Over the course of the novel, we learn tidbits about what happened to five-year old Oakley.

I found that this novel could have easily turned out predictable and rushed, however it didn't quite fall into that trap. There was an almost unusual amount of interaction between all of the characters that really added to the overall story, and was absolutely lovely to see. The story was in my personal opinion well-paced (with the possible exception of the last few chapters). Any events that the characters mentioned occurred within the next few chapters, and it didn't drag on days in which nothing of significance to the story happened. There seemed to be a couple loose ends, character-wise, however as this is a series, it's quite possible they will be resolved in further novels.
All in all, a great (and free! - on most digital platforms!) read.

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can't quite put my finger on what I wanted this book to be, but this certainly wasn't it. So what's the story? Our main character, Jacob, grew up hearing his grandfathers outrageous tales of monsters, and children with peculiar abilities. Even with the photographic "evidence" to prove it, of course, Jacob writes off his ex-military Grandpa's stories as being metaphors about the war. But whoa. Is is possible these stories may have been.... true? Of course they are. And damn it Jacob is determined to be the blandest boy suddenly thrust into a magical world that I've seen in a while. The "peculiar" children honestly did nothing to hold my attention. The sudden romance between Jacob and Jacob's Grandpa's ex-girlfriend (yes, you read that right) was more peculiar than any of the characters.

So by now you must be asking: what did I like about this book?
I love what Ransom Riggs was trying to do. He uses an assortment of authentic found antique photographs and uses them to write the story. That is a super cool and interesting task to take on... if only the story didn't feel as though the plot was forcefully written specifically to fit the photos.

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Review: Hey Nostradamus!

Hey Nostradamus! Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I purposely picked up this book for two reasons. First of all, it was written by a Canadian author and I seem to be seriously lacking when it comes to my "Canadian" bookshelf. And second, I have purposely avoided any kind of religious based fiction for years, and I wanted to venture outside of my comfort zone. So am I ultimately glad I picked this particular book? I'm honestly not sure.

The premise: a brutal school shooting occurs in 1988, and the story continues on in a unique format. In four separate parts we move from the years 1988 to 1999 to 2002, and concluding in 2003. Each part is told by a different narrator, all of whom are connected to the shooting or someone involved in the shooting in some way.

Part one is from the point of view of one of the shooting victims, named Cheryl. Cheryl is telling us her story from beyond the grave, and is 100% aware of the fact that she is dead. However, thankfully, she is not all-knowing which leaves us without the entire story. Part two is from the point of view of Cheryl's high school sweetheart, Jason, in 1999, years after the shooting. We see Jason struggling with the lasting effects of the tragedy and how he has coped with the events that have occurred since the shooting. Part three is in 2002, and it follows Jason's girlfriend, Heather, a couple of months after Jason suddenly disappears. Part four is extremely short, serving as an epilogue of sorts for the novel in 2003, narrated by Jason's father. And I have to say, the ending is one of the most unfair endings I have ever had the pleasure(?) of reading.

The one thing that disappointed me about this book is that (as horrible as it is) I wanted to know more about the shooting. Yeah, yeah, I can kind of see how the whole "a butterfly flaps it wings" affect is incorporated into the story, but at the same time the majority of the things that play out aren't necessarily directly related to the fact that the shooting happened. While there was nothing necessarily wrong with this story, it was just kind of a documentation of things that happen years later to some people that happen to know someone who was killed. It kind of felt a bit disjointed.

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Review: His Kidnapper's Shoes

His Kidnapper's Shoes His Kidnapper's Shoes by Maggie James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

His Kidnapper's Shoes immediately grabbed my attention. The story starts soon after a woman, Laura is arrested for the kidnapping of her now twenty-six year old "son," Daniel when he was just a toddler. The story continuously switches between Laura's current thought process, and how Daniel is coping. The story flips back in forth between Laura in the present (her first person point of view after having been admitted to a mental health centre, as well as her reminiscing of her past), and Daniel (third person point of view) in the very recent past leading right up to the startling revelation.

I'm relieved to say that Maggie James makes you really feel for Laura, while at the same time not erasing the terrible thing she's done. Mixed with the trauma of her past, and her mental illness you can really see how Laura's mental health and reasoning skills declined throughout time. I have to say, it was really refreshing to see the story start after the truth came out, as opposed to the build up of the typical story structure where this would have came out near the climax of the plot.

This wasn't a mystery, and this wasn't a crime drama, this was a character study.

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Review: Kill the Next One

Kill the Next One Kill the Next One by Federico Axat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is a review of an ARC.

There is no doubt about it, this novel is just about everything you'd want in a psychological thriller. The premise: our main character Ted, after receiving a diagnoses of an inoperable brain tumour, is about to commit suicide. Ted is suddenly interrupted by a knock at the door and is given an unusual offer: kill a man who got away with murder, and kill another man who wants to commit suicide who had previously received the same offer. With full knowledge that the pact will continue on (he will ultimately be killed by the next one The Organisation recruits) he sets off on his task.

Now you may think "okay, I see where this is headed." No. You don't. This story was a winding road, with multiple plot twists and scenes that make you question everything we've been told. I kept trying to pinpoint exactly who the "villain" was throughout this novel, only to find that I was laying blame in all of the wrong places.

I'm not going to lie, there were elements at the beginning (I would even go as far as to say the first half) that confused me a little too much, and I found it incredibly difficult to read anywhere in public, and had to find myself a silent place just to sort out what was happening in the plot. However, ultimately I am extremely glad I stuck around and finished the novel. There was a main element of the novel that I disliked up until the series of flashbacks at the end that helped tie the themes together. Ted's dreams. Ted has quite a few odd and horrific dreams that, while they established themselves as dreams fairly quickly, and were clearly described, I didn't care much for them overall. However, I do fully acknowledge that while the information was important to the story, I just didn't care for the way they altered the flow of the story.

At times I felt like I had been reading three different stories: Ted; a romance/friendship between Ted's therapist and her colleague; and the flashbacks of Ted's and his best friends college days. But don't let it fool you, they all tie together perfectly, and after thinking about it for a bit after finishing the book, I genuinely can not think of a better way to get this story on the page.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a psychological thriller with multiple crazy twists.

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Review: Alice & Jean

Alice & Jean Alice & Jean by Lily Hammond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Alice & Jean is an LGBT Post-World War II period piece. The book focuses on Alice, a war widow struggling to get by with her two young children. Jean is the local milk-lady, dropping off milk to Alice's house daily. Alice and Jean start spending time together, fall in love, and have to overcome obstacles such as the times they live in, Alice's obnoxiously bitchy mother, Big Jim the misogynist, and their small town's rumour mill.

This is the first time that I've come across a Historical Fiction novel that features LGBT main characters, and I really respect it for that. That is something I would like to see more of! (I mean it's 2016! C'mon, we need more diversity in writing.) However, this book unfortunately fell flat for me. Lacking in character development, and relatabilty (both in dialogue and in situations - instalove!), it failed to engage me at all. I didn't particularly love Alice and Jean as characters, and I had no emotional investment into their relationship. Alice's sole purpose was to be the kindhearted victimised mother, and didn't seem to have any personality outside of that, whereas Jean's purpose was to serve as the embodiment of everything that would be considered "scandalous" in that time period. As this is the first LGBT Historical Fiction I've read, I really wanted to like this book, I did. There was nothing particularly bad about this book, I just didn't connect mentally or emotionally with the situations Alice and Jean found themselves in. For that, I give it 3 Stars. Not a bad read, it just wasn't quite what I look for in a book.

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Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

This is a review of an ARC.

In The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, our narrator, Hawthorn, is intrigued when Lizzie Lovett goes missing. Well not intrigued. Obsessed. Sure they weren't ever friends, but that doesn't stop Hawthorn from being infatuated with the case of the local missing popular girl. Now this is the point where you think "oh no, this better not be another case of a Nancy Drew wannabe." To which I shall reply: No. No it's not. While, Hawthorn is genuinely invested with the girls disappearance, she never actually does anything productive in terms of helping with it (thank goodness, I mean I'm so sick of YA characters who run around solving dangerous crimes without reporting anything to the police.) She makes up weird theories, wanders around the woods, and says insensitive things. That's one of the best things about this novel. The teenagers are teenagers. Hawthorn is selfish, self-centred, quirky, at times annoying and rude, but most of all, lonely and confused about who she is. However none of that means that she is a bad person. She is one of the greatest and realest narrators I've had the pleasure of encountering. And as for poor Lizzie Lovett: her disappearance is not the true focus of this book, but instead an event that sets about change in our other characters. A true coming-of-age novel.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by John Tiffany
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Let me start off by saying: Like most Potterheads, I was hesitantly excited for this new release. On one hand - we get to see our beloved characters again...on the other hand, I didn't want to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione later in life - let alone their children. The only good thing about the original series ending was that it left us with such a hopeful outlook on the rest of the Golden Trio's life...
Unfortunately this "book" (it IS important to remember this is a theatre script...albeit a not well written one,) gave me exactly what I feared it would...

To start with some very brief positive notes:

I absolutely loved Scorpius Malfoy. My attitude towards Harry's youngest, Albus was more neutral as he was just an angst ridden teen, that I honestly didn't find very sympathetic. However, while the relationship between the boys is absolutely wonderful it is slightly (who am I kidding - A LOT) dampened by the forced heterosexuality at the end with thrusting Rose, (someone who has never once been even remotely kind to him) on Scorpius.

As for the rest of the script, to keep it short and not-so-sweet:
Our established characters were so OUT of character it physically hurt me. However, to keep it short here are my top five problems with the characterisation.
1. Post-Battle of Hogwarts Harry would never in his life act that way towards those around him. Cursed Child Harry is cruel.
2. Hermione and Ron would never have raised a daughter that horrible.
3. Voldemort would NOT have had a lovechild with Bellatrix. Ever.
4. In no way, shape, or form would my son Cedric Diggory have ever become a Dark Wizard because he was embarrassed. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, J.K.?
5. Ron was completely downgraded to "comic relief." Ron is one of my least favourite characters and she still made me fell indignant on his behalf.

Now as for the plot itself: The alternate universes made no logical sense, even with the alteration made in the timeline. There were so many continuity errors with the original novels - as well as the rules previously established relating to time travel. Not to mention, the complete lack of regard for characters such as Teddy, Hugo, Luna, George, & Neville (besides the latter two's brief mentions). Oh but, I'm SO GLAD we get to see such incredibly crucial characters such as an out of character Amos Diggory, Ludo Bagman, Dolores Umbridge, etc. Great. Just great.

I'm sure by now you can sense my absolute distaste and fury relating to this script.

All in all, this Potterhead will not be accepting this as 100% canon anytime soon.

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Review: The Girl from the Sea

The Girl from the Sea The Girl from the Sea by Shalini Boland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

A woman is found barely conscious washed up on a beach. When asked to identify herself she finds that she can't recall. In fact, she can't remember anything about her life up until this point. When a good-looking man who claims to be her boyfriend identifies her and takes her home things start getting even weirder. You may think you know where this is going...
You don't. Trust me, you don't.
As someone who has always been creeped out by the very idea of amnesia, I could not put this book down. At first I chalked this book up to be a giant cliche (girl loses memory and is taken advantage of by those around her), and while that turns out to be somewhat true, there are a million other things going on. While this book had almost the same feel and tone as other psychological thrillers I've read recently (The Sisters, The Girl on the Train), the twist ending to this book is what 100% won me over. If you're looking for a really quick read with a great (and bitter) ending - this book is for you.

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Review: You Will Know Me

You Will Know Me You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Parents Katie & Eric Knox have big dreams for their fifteen year old daughter, Devon, an aspiring Olympic gymnast. As you would imagine, Katie and Eric's every endeavour revolves around helping Devon further her chances at becoming a professional athlete. When a tragedy directly effects the effectiveness of the gym, a series of events kick off as their tight knit gymnastic community explodes with gossip and accusations.

I gave You Will Know Me three stars as I felt like I've read this plot a million different times. I had (correctly) guessed the outcome at about 20% through the book. What kept me reading was my hope that a specific character was much more calculating and in control of the situation then they turned out to be. For me this novel fell a bit flat, however I can appreciate that the author incorporated the fact that many parents have to devote the majority of their lives for their athletic children, and in turn can potentially lose a part of themselves in the process. Didn't love this one, but I recommend it to anyone interested in the world of gymnastics, and who likes a light mystery.

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Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I had been meaning to read it for years! My first attempt at obtaining a copy resulted in the saleswoman telling my grandmother that in no way, shape, or form, should I be allowed to get my hands on that book as it was not age appropriate. While, I 100% believe I could have handled it at the time, now reading it for the first time at age 20, I feel I appreciated it so much more than I ever could have at a younger age. This book deals with things that (unfortunately) happen every day. There are bad people in the world. There are also good people. And there are some people just trying to keep living after the bad people have torn their world apart. In The Lovely Bones, we meet a young girl - Susie Salmon. Susie is brutally assaulted and murdered by a neighbour and the story is narrated by Susie, in an afterlife of sorts, watching as her friends and family cope and in some cases don't cope with the tragedy in the subsequent years. This book is the definition of bittersweet, and if you can handle the subject matter I recommend giving it a read.

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Review: The Life She Wants

The Life She Wants The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an advanced reader copy through a Goodreads Giveaway.

Meh. I honestly don't have too much to say about this one...
When Emma's husband commits suicide after getting in some serious legal trouble, Emma travels back home. Problem is she has no actual family, and she burnt her bridges with her best friend, Riley, years ago. This book is basically Emma's journey (who has lived a rich and lavish lifestyle for years) as she tries to rebuild her life, and reluctantly tries to repair her friendship with Riley. I think my only problem with this book was that I didn't really care about this Riches to Rags story at all. This is the first Robyn Carr book I have ever read, and while I wouldn't go out of my way to get another of her books, there was nothing particularly bad about this book. Out of curiosity I'd probably be willing to give another Carr book a shot. We'll see.

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Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say about this book? Well for starters it was not what I was expecting. To be perfectly honest I probably would have never picked this book up at a bookstore as the cover doesn't immediately catch my attention, but I happened to win the entire series from a Chapters Indigo giveaway, and then of course felt obligated to at least give it a try. And am I glad I did! I really enjoyed this book.  I'm still a bit unsure of the way this world works, and am having a bit of trouble keeping up with the names (not so much the characters, more the places and such.)

My opinion on the characters is fairly short and sweet: I am absolutely loving our main characters, Celaena, Chaol, Prince Dorian, and Princess Nehemiah. The rest: meh. I'm sure Kaltain will reappear throughout the series, so I'm kind of interested to see if she undergoes some character development.

The overall plot of this first instalment reminded me a lot (if maybe a little too much) of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I honestly never once found myself doubting that the character would win the competition. I found myself far more interested in the relationship between the four characters mentioned above. It probably doesn't hurt that I am total royal trash and love books heavily featuring Princes and Princesses - especially when it's not just exclusively fluffy! I honestly have never read or even been interested in reading anything about assassins or the like, but Celaena and friends are growing on me.

I have to say this, and I'm hoping I phrase this in the kindhearted and openminded way I'm intending it to be: I am so happy to see a strong kickass female character who is still allowed to act traditionally feminine! She enjoys fashion. She isn't shy about her beauty. I mean, we even see her have cramps for goodness sake! How many fictional fantasy heroines have actually acknowledged this?
All in all, while not my preferred style of writing, or even plot, I am really excited to continue this series!

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