Book Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop Book photo

one last smallTitle: One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Genre: Romance, LGBTQ+
Date of Publication: June 1, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin


Synopsis

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

One Last Stop is outrageously hilarious, cleverly written, and incredibly romantic. The entire novel is written with such vivid imagery, some of which is so ridiculous that it shouldn’t work–but it somehow does. It feels like every second line of this book is quotable, like the author could take a line at random and plaster it on the cover of the book and sell thousands of copies for that reason alone.  

Now that I’m done gushing about the writing style, it’s time to gush about the characters. August is lonely, witty, a little pessimistic, and an extreme minimalist. She’s an introvert, and she’s quite reserved. She spent most of her childhood helping her mother search for her mother’s brother who went missing in the 1970s, and as a result, she’s basically a grown-up child detective. This personality trait comes into play at various times throughout the story–mostly when she’s trying to figure out what exactly is going on with Subway Girl. 

August is a reserved person, but when she sees the gorgeous girl on the subway, she suddenly doesn’t want to be that way anymore. Jane is outgoing and optimistic, and she regularly makes friends with complete strangers on the subway.  They’re opposites, and in many ways August and Jane complete each other. Jane doesn’t have any memories, but she knows exactly who she is. August has her memories but she doesn’t know who she is. They’re two sides of the same coin, yin and yang, dare I say, soulmates. Sigh.

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Book Review: Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Neon Gods book photo

5497small71Title: Neon Gods
Author: Katee Robert
Genre: Romance
Series: Dark Olympus Book 1 
Date of Publication: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca


Synopsis

He was supposed to be a myth.
But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell…
…he was, quite simply, mine.

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

A modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Neon Gods is the first in the Dark Olympus series, a modern-day, sexy and dark retelling of the infamous Persephone and Hades love story.

While I’m somewhat familiar with the story of Persephone and Hades, I mostly know about it from other retellings, since I never really read or even familiarized myself with the original Greek mythology. So my review won’t really be reflecting on her interpretations of the myth and modernization of it. That said, there were some parts that I found absolutely delightful, like the modern-day, non-magical interpretation of how Hermes, the messenger, gets her messages across.

Olympus is a modern-day city, separate from the rest of the world, where we know that places like California still exist. The Upper City and the Lower city are separated by the River Styx, which is painful to cross, so the citizens of Olympus rarely do so. The city is ruled by the Thirteen, and each of them controls a part of the city–for example: Poseidon runs the docks and “rules” the sea. Robert does a wonderful job of worldbuilding while never actually setting aside much time to do so. That said, I was a tad confused at times, since this is clearly a paranormal romance because of the magical barriers keeping Olympus apart from the rest of the world, and separating the Upper and Lower city, but aside from that, there weren’t any magical elements or superpowers. Olympus is filled with greedy and power-hungry men and women who will do whatever it takes to climb up the social ladder. 

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Book Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

The Road Trip book photo

road trip smallTitle: The Road Trip
Author: Beth O’Leary
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Berkley


Synopsis

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in the north of Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.

But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.

Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with three hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…

Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly… is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Beth O’Leary has a writing style like no other. This book, like her first two, is incredibly well written, full of witty banter, humor. Emotions were running rampant for the characters and mine were racing after them. 

The Road Trip is told in two points of view–that of Addie and Dylan–over two timelines–”then” and “now”.  

In the “now” timeline, Addie and her sister, Deb, are on a road trip to their friend’s wedding when they get rear-ended. The offending car is, of course, driven by Addie’s ex, Dylan, and his best friend/obnoxious instigator, Marcus. They have to join forces and cram themselves into Deb’s cramped mini and put the pedal to the metal if they’re going to make it to the wedding on time. All this happens with an innocently sweet and naive bystander, Rodney, who just happened to take Addie up on a carpool and is quite possibly regretting this decision.

In the “then” timeline, we get to follow Addie and Dylan as they first meet, fall in love, and fall apart. It’s sweet and romantic, despite knowing that there’s going to be an abrupt and cataclysmic end to their love story. There’s a definite trend in romances where there’s some mysterious conflict in the hero and heroine’s shared past that’s only revealed through the flashback timeline. In this case, we don’t find out what broke them apart until the very end of the book. I’m beginning to find this trend irksome–as it’s so, so hard to read between the lines in the present day timeline to try to decide whose “side” I’m on. In this case, it’s immediately clear that Addie and Dylan are still madly in love, despite having broken off contact twenty months ago. What could have been so awful that they would be torn apart like this? The entire book kept me guessing, and O’Leary did manage to pull off an explanation that satisfied me. That said, I would have preferred to have gone in with the blinders off, so that I could have enjoyed the present day timeline a little more. 

Continue reading “Book Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary”

Book Review: Gold Spun by Brandie June

Gold Spun Book photo

Gold Spun book coverTitle: Gold Spun
Author: Brandie June 
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: June 8, 2021
Publisher: CamCat Books


Synopsis

If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.

When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Gold Spun is a bewitching and fast-paced young adult, fantasy retelling of the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin.

The worldbuilding in this book is phenomenal. It’s a sign of a truly talented writer when the reader doesn’t even realize that worldbuilding is happening. There are no information dumps, and all the details of the world and how it works, from the geography of the kingdoms and the powers of the faerie are revealed to the readers as they need to know them. In the prologue, Prince Casper is casually thinking about his preference in teas, all the while the reader is subtly learning about the different kingdoms and the fact that Prince Casper is a freaking war hostage held by the King of Faradisia.

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Book Review: The Legacy of Old Gran Parks by Isobel Blackthorn

Book photo

Legacy of Old Gran Parks book coverTitle: The Legacy of Old Gran Parks
Author: Isobel Blackthorn
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Date of Publication: March 1, 2020
Publisher: Terminal Velocity – A Next Chapter Imprint


Synopsis

Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.

It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car.
Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whisky and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.

All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next to Miriam, thrashing about in the night.

Gran Parks is stirring. Who will survive? Who will get away? Who will stay?

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is an intricately crafted dark comedy thriller/horror. 

We’re introduced to Gloria — aka Gran Parks–in the preface of the book, where she’s working at the bar in the small town of Cann River. Her husband comes home late, and it’s clear right away that he treats her poorly. But Gloria has finally had enough. She takes her cleaver to him, killing him and hacking him in half. 

The rest of the book is set a couple of decades later, and we’re introduced to several women who now reside in the town or are passing through. The book is told in first person POV from these four women: Miriam, Pearl, Frankie, and Emily. At first it was very confusing, but as I got used to the individual storylines, my disorientation was replaced with a burning need to find out what would happen next. Each of these four women have an interesting subplot, and their storylines intersect throughout. Miriam is a woman who’s passing through town when her car breaks down, and she has to stay at the local inn, where she has a peculiar neighbor. Pearl is an older fisherwoman, and a strange man has moved into her friend’s shack down the road. He’s brought two children he claims are his daughters, but Pearl is convinced that he’s lying. Emily is a young British backpacker who is working at the local diner when she meets a mysterious man who’s taking care of the nearby lighthouse. And, last but not least, there’s Frankie, the hunter, who encounters a dangerous-looking man in the woods where she’s hunting.

While the book is slow to start, the novel is very atmospheric and is for those who love a strong sense of setting in their novels. The novel is set in small town Australia, and every word contributes to the feeling of dread. The setting comes to life in the way that everything is described, from the buildings in town to the local wildlife. The town and its surroundings are described as rundown, decrepit, and everything is rife with a morbid history. The mysterious legend of Old Gran Parks and how her spirit is said to affect women crops up from time to time in casual conversation, creating a cloak of mystery and foreboding that envelops the town and the people in it. 

All four plotlines are carefully well laid out, and they have their own compelling twists. The characters themselves are complex and realistic. The book is a dark humor novel, and this becomes more and more evident as the novel progresses. There are a few parts that had me laughing out loud, then embarrassed to be finding something so grotesque and unsettling funny.

I know this isn’t an intentional outcome of the book, but I enjoyed learning Australian slang, and I did have to Google a few words to understand their meaning. The language and setting are strong appeal factors for this book, adding to the authenticity of the story and making it even more of a unique world to escape to. At the end of the book, the author provides a little aside explaining which parts of the story were true and which parts were fiction, which was a delightfully surprising treat. 

Because of the frequent switch between character POVs, this book is best read in only a couple of sittings. It would be difficult to put it down for a while and be able to pick it up and get back into the story. I recommend this book to those who want to read a dark thriller with comedic elements, one that has a strong small-town feel and a creepy old legend influencing everything the characters say and do. 

*Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours and the author for the ebook to review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation

54985743Title: People We Meet on Vacation
Author: Emily Henry
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: May 11, 2021
Publisher: Berkley 


Synopsis

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong? 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This is the absolute perfect summer read. Emily Henry has delivered a fantastic follow up to Beach Read that somehow (in my opinion) surpasses her debut novel.

People We Meet on Vacation is told entirely in first person from Poppy’s point of view. Poppy has convinced her long-time best friend, Alex, to go on summer vacation with her to try to repair their relationship. They used to go on summer vacation together every year, until two years ago, when something happened, and they haven’t spoken since. The story alternates between the present day timeline and the summers leading up to their big friendship breakup. We’re treated to the moment they first meet. They seem to be incredibly incompatible–polar opposites. But each summer, it becomes more and more obvious that they were made for each other…

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Book Review: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

Local Woman Missing

Local Woman Missing

Title: Local Woman Missing
Author: Mary Kubica
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: May 18, 2021
Publisher: Park Row


Synopsis

People don’t just disappear without a trace…

Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find…

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times bestselling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

I was captivated by this book right from its very first page. I was expecting a run-of-the-mill missing persons mystery with some thrills and maybe even chills along the way. But this book is far from run of the mill. Mary Kubica has taken an old story and made it new again. 

Told in three different timelines with first-person POV scenes from four separate characters, Local Woman Missing should theoretically be hard to follow. But Kubica pulls this off masterfully. The first chapter was just long enough to get me invested in the storyline before she introduced new timelines and characters. 

Local Woman Missing is nail-bitingly suspenseful.  There are so many surprising twists throughout, which truly made this book a refreshing take on an old “woman goes missing” trope. While I kind of saw one or two of the twists coming, others blew me out of the water. As any skilled writer strives to do, Kubica has carefully laid out clues all along the way, hinting at the truth, and I definitely berated myself over not recognizing these clues until after a major twist had me shook. 

It’s hard to talk about the characters without spoiling anything about the sheer brilliance of how they are portrayed and how they evolve throughout the story. I will say that the characters are well developed, and I found I genuinely cared about what would happen to some of them. As the story progresses, it becomes obvious that very few of them are how they initially seemed, and everyone has their own motivations and secrets guiding their decisions. The present day timeline is gut-wrenching and I was wholeheartedly invested in finding out just how the story would unfold. 

There was one thing that pulled me out of the story a little bit. There are some first-person scenes written from the perspective of a fifteen year-old boy, and I thought that his chapters are written a little too immaturely. I see what the author was doing, but honestly most fifteen year olds would have a bit of a better grasp of the English language. I had thought that there might be a reason for this (ex. developmental issues), but if this was explained I missed it.  That said, the significant difference in writing style for each of the characters makes the point of view jumps that much easier to follow.

I also did find that the novel wraps up a little too quickly for my liking. Everything is explained and all the loose ends are tied up nicely, but I would have liked for a little bit more at the end of such an emotionally-charged book.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to those who want to read a suspenseful and intelligent mystery that is refreshingly unique in both its storyline and approach.

Local Woman Missing

*Thank you to NetGalley and Park Row for the ebook to review*

Five stars

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Torture We Adore by Vider Leprav

the torture we adore

55847458._SY475_Title: The Torture We Adore
Author: Vider Leprav
Genre: Horror, Short Stories
Date of Publication: November 2020
Publisher: Self-published


Synopsis

The Torture We Adore is a collection of twelve short stories, all focusing on the tragic and morbid reality of attraction, contradicting the traditional view of relationship, love and sex. The book presents, in graphic detail, the insanity that one can be driven to by love or lack thereof. Whether it’s in the form of a story of a woman who falls in love with a convicted wife beater, a man whose complete devotion to his wife also fuels his blackest hatred or the tale of a brother and sister whose dependence on each other leaves them incompetent to ever separating. Underneath all gore and disturbing detail lays a theme of deep emotional scarring that can come from falling for another person. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Torture We Adore is a collection of twelve horror short stories all centred around the theme of distorted love and/or attraction. The writing is grotesque yet beautiful; the stories are macabre, yet compelling. 

This book is not for the faint of heart. If the cover of this book grosses you out, then you definitely won’t be able to handle what lies beneath. The stories themselves often deal with difficult subject matter, and the words and phrases that Leprav uses are like morbid poetry scrawled in blood across the pages.

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Book Review: Don’t Call It A Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of Nxivm by Sarah Berman

Don't Call It A Cult Book Photo

Book Cover

Title: Don’t Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of Nxivm
Author: Sarah Berman
Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime
Date of Publication: April 20, 2021
Publisher: Viking


Synopsis

They draw you in with the promise of empowerment, self-discovery, women helping women. The more secretive those connections are, the more exclusive you feel. Little did you know, you just joined a cult.

Sex trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced labour. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a global organization run by Keith Raniere and his high-profile enablers (Seagram heir Clare Bronfman; Smallville actor Allison Mack; Battlestar Galactica actor Nicki Clyne). Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman unravels how young women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities found themselves blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. With the help of the Bronfman fortune Raniere built a wall of silence around these abuses, leveraging the legal system to go after enemies and whistleblowers.

Don’t Call It a Cult shows that these abuses looked very different from the inside, where young women initially received mentorship and protection. Don’t Call It a Cult is a riveting account of NXIVM’s rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its dark secrets to the world. It explores why so many were drawn to its message of empowerment yet could not recognize its manipulative and harmful leader for what he was—a criminal. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Don’t Call It A Cult provides a comprehensive overview of the case of Keith Raniere and NXIVM. There is a lot of information packed into this 320 page book. While I’d been following the case on the news, the story is presented in such a way that someone could easily enjoy it even if they didn’t know anything going into it. 

There is a lot of background information provided in order to help set the stage for NXIVM. We get backstories for every person involved, which helps to humanize them and provides just enough information for us to understand just how they could get involved in a cult. Most of us think: I would never join a cult. But sometimes it isn’t quite so black and white, and the insidious underpinnings of an organization such as this one aren’t obvious to everyone. 

Just as there is a lot of backstory for the “cast of characters”, there is also a lot of historical information provided that an information junkie like myself ate right up. For instance, Berman doesn’t just casually mention or even define what a pyramid scheme is. She provides that historical information about the first ever pyramid scheme to be prosecuted. I learned about Holiday Magic, an organization whose crimes went far beyond that ridiculous name.

Don’t Call It A Cult also has a lot of content on the psychology and the thought processes behind Raniere’s teachings. His subtle manipulations are eerie and insidious and oh-so fascinating. Berman dives deep into his teaching on “disintegration”, “suppressive”, and other terms that sent chills down my spine. They are quite simple, yet creepy. The ways that he gradually gaslighted his victims is incredibly subtle and I can completely understand how someone wouldn’t realize what was happening until it was too late…

Continue reading “Book Review: Don’t Call It A Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of Nxivm by Sarah Berman”

Book Review: Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

Very Sincerely Yours

53924112._SY475_Title: Very Sincerely Yours
Author: Kerry Winfrey
Genre: Romance, Chick lit
Date of Publication: July 15, 2021
Publisher: Berkley 


Synopsis

A charming and heartwarming new romantic comedy by the acclaimed author of Waiting for Tom Hanks, Kerry Winfrey.

Teddy Phillips never thought she would still be spending every day surrounded by toys at almost thirty years old. But working at a vintage toy store is pretty much all she has going on in her life after being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend. The one joy that she has kept is her not-so-guilty pleasure: Everett’s Place, a local children’s show hosted by Everett St. James, a man whom Teddy finds very soothing . . . and, okay, cute.

Teddy finds the courage to write to him, feeling slightly like one of the children who write to him on his show. He always gives sound advice and seems like he has everything figured out—and he pretty much does: Everett has a great support system, wonderful friends, and his dream job. But there is still that persistent feeling in the back of his mind that something is missing.

When a woman named Theodora starts writing to Everett, he is drawn to her honesty and vulnerability. They continue writing to each other, all the while living their lives without meeting. When their worlds collide, however, they must both let go of their fears and figure out what they truly want—and if the future they want includes each other.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Teddy is an interesting heroine in the sense that she is not at all interesting. She changed her entire personality for her boyfriend, and now that he’s broken up with her, she has to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with the rest of her life. The novel follows Teddy as she gradually becomes the woman she’s meant to be. Her best friends Kirsten and Eleanor take her in and help her on this journey. They insist that she does one thing a day that terrifies her. This is to get her out of her shell and hopefully shed the fears that keep her from truly living her life. Of course, one of the things she does that scares her is write to a certain handsome host of a children’s TV show.

Everett St. James is an incredibly sweet character.  He’s good-looking, thoughtful, funny, smart, and he’s always known what he wanted to do with his life. But he isn’t quite perfect. His friends and family are constantly telling him that he spends too much of his life engrossed in his work. There’s more to life than puppets, Everett. 

I loved how Everett and Teddy complemented each other in their personal character arcs. Teddy is just now trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Everett has known his career trajectory since he was a child, but he’s being forced to take a step back and reassess what truly matters.  

Continue reading “Book Review: Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey”