Book Review: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Bring me back

Bring Me Back Book Cover

Title: Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Date of Publication: June 19, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press


Twelve years ago, Finn and his girlfriend, Layla, were driving home from a vacation in France when they just happened to stop at a service station. Finn got out to use the bathroom, but when he got back, Layla was gone. She disappeared. The police weren’t able to find any trace of her—or her body.  In present day, Finn starts to receive strange clues that Layla is not only alive, but that she’s come back.  But is it really Layla who’s reaching out to him? Or is it someone else, someone who wants to hurt Finn because of his recent engagement to Layla’s sister?

Continue reading “Book Review: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris”

Advertisements

Book Review: Whisper by Lynette Noni

Whisper by Lynette Noni

Title: Whisper
Author: Lynette Noni
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date of Publication: May 1, 2018
Publisher: KCP Loft


Jane Doe has been held captive in a secret government bunker for over two years. She’s been experimented on, she’s been tested, and she still doesn’t know why she’s held there.  But she refuses to answer any of their questions.  She refuses to say anything at all.  And for good reason…

Continue reading “Book Review: Whisper by Lynette Noni”

Book Review: Depression: The Comedy by Jessica Holmes

Depression: The Comedy

Title: Depression: The Comedy
Author: Jessica Holmes
Genre: Memoirs, Mental Health, Humour
Date of Publication: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Sunnybrook Press


Jessica Holmes–comedian, mother, wife, and Canadian–is the author of Depression: The Comedy, a memoir about her experiences with depression.  Some of you might know Holmes from her work on the Royal Canadian Air Farce and she starred in her own TV program, The Holmes Show, back in 2003.

Depression: The Comedy is the perfect remedy for those who feel alone in their mental illness. Holmes maintains a lighthearted tone as she discusses the darkest times in her life, making it clear that those who suffer or have suffered from similar symptoms have company.  In the acknowledgements, Holmes states that editors had wanted her to “dig deeper”, but she had said that “when the going gets tough, some of us need a frolic in the shallows”.  Aptly put.  Despite this acknowledgement, I do think that the book, while short, does delve into some of the underlying issues surrounding depression, and there is a list of resources at the end of the book for those who are coming to grips with their mental illness.

Continue reading “Book Review: Depression: The Comedy by Jessica Holmes”

Book Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd

Dead Girl Running

Title: Dead Girl Running
Author: Christina Dodd
Genre: Romantic Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: April 24, 2018
Publisher: HQN


Kellen Adams is hired as an assistant manager at a secluded resort on the North Pacific Coast. A former marine, she has a lot of secrets, including the fact that she doesn’t remember an entire year of her life.  Not long after taking over the resort, Kellen finds the former assistant manager’s mutilated corpse.  She has to solve this mystery, and it becomes quickly clear that the killer is still at the resort…

Dead Girl Running

Christina Dodd deals with a lot of tropes in this book, which is both its strength and its greatest weakness. Dead Girl Running features a battered wife running from her past and a former marine with a unique mental ability.  But the catch is that both tropes are wrapped up in the same person.

Dead Girl Running doesn’t have much originality in its plot or characters (or even setting) aside from the fact that there’s a lot going on.  It seems like Dodd had about twenty ideas for a book, and rather than sifting through them and picking one or two to focus on, she decided to use them all.  This in itself isn’t a bad thing.  Using a lot of different character and plot ideas could work, but she stretches herself too thin.  The book has the bad-ass marines, the typical cozy mystery novel setting, a murder mystery party (which, sadly, was barely covered), spies, and the list goes on.

Continue reading “Book Review: Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd”

Past Tense by Star Spider

Past Tense Book Cover

Title: Past Tense
Author: Star Spider
Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+
Date of Publication: April 10, 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins


Julie Nolan is just another teenager who’s madly in love with her best friend, Lorelei.  She’s obsessed with her and spends a lot of time hunting down the perfect opportunity to come out and profess her undying love.  Once she does, she knows in her heart that Lorelei will reciprocate this love and they will live happily ever after.  But Julie’s home life is getting in the way with her grand plans. Her mother, who just gave birth to Julie’s younger brother, has started to act strangely.  Her mother has become meek and muted.  At night she takes Julie to the graveyard, where she asks Julie to bury her and give a eulogy.  She’s nothing like the vibrant, full-of-life person she once was.  She’s convinced that she doesn’t have a heartbeat, that she isn’t breathing, that she’s dead.

Past Tense Book

At first Julie’s singular obsession with her best friend was a tad tedious.  But do you remember when you were that age? A crush, or “being in love” would often demand all of your attention. Star Spider does a fabulous job of replicating the teenage experience, and manages to craft Julie into a three-dimensional character. Sure, she’s obsessed with her best friend, but she has other personality traits that she demonstrates and gets to develop over the course of the novel. She shows compassion for her teacher who she thinks is in love with her. She demonstrates maturity and a deep love and concern for her infant brother when her mother starts to act strange.

This brings me to the title. “Past Tense”. How clever! At the graveyard, Julie’s mother asks her to give a eulogy.  She corrects her when she starts – saying that it has to be in past tense. “Past Tense” aptly describes all the themes in this book.  Julie is evolving into a new person, and by the end, she’s nothing like the person she was in the beginning of the book.

As the novel progresses, Julie starts to develop more self-awareness. There’s an event that’s a turning point for Julie, but her evolution is gradual and beautifully conceived.  Julie becomes able to evaluate her relationship with her best friend.  She develops a friendship with a boy in her school, Henry. It’s refreshing to see that her new relationship isn’t insta-love, like what she had with Lorelei.  Julie has grown and evolved into a person who can see beyond looks and superficial charm, and she develops a true connection at a deeper level.  This self-realization is also demonstrated in her relationship with her mother.  While giving the eulogy for her mother, she says that her mother was “wonderful”. Julie ruminates over this term, the shallowness of it, and how she should be able to probe deeper. If nothing else, when Julie’s mother truly does die, Julie will be able to give a fabulous eulogy.

Julie’s relationship with her mother is fascinating.  From the beginning of the book, her mom is already suffering from some sort of mental illness, yet we know that Julie and her mother were very close before the events of this book begin.  Instead of just telling us that they were close, Star Spider demonstrates this with absolutely heart-wrenching little anecdotes at the beginning of each chapter.  They’re short, yet powerfully demonstrative of the relationship they once had.  In the past, her mother was dynamic and full of life and absolutely attentive to her daughter, which makes it even more painfully obvious that she’s suffering in the present.

I particularly loved the parallels between the two prominent plotlines in this story.  The storyline of her best friend and what’s going on with her mother intersects quite beautifully with a life lesson that we all should learn.  (Spoilers are between the glasses!)

 

Spoilers between the Glasses!

Julie learns that sometimes the best thing you can do is to ignore the wishes of the person you want to help.  Being brave sometimes requires a simple telling of the truth.  Sure, she’ll never run into a fire to save a life (like her mother did), but she can still have an incredible impact on the lives around her.

She tells her father about what her mother is going through, which helps her to get the medical treatment she needs. She tells another teacher about Lorelei’s highly-disgusting relationship with the teacher.  By the end of the novel Julie is glad with the decisions she’s made, and she has no guilt or regrets.

....

 

This is a fast-paced, easy-to-read book recommended to young adults (and adults!) of all ages.  While it deals with some intense themes, the book itself isn’t too dark.  The end is uplifting, which makes all the feelings that you had while reading worthwhile.

starstarstarstarstar

*I received a copy of this ARC from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Unbury Carol Book Cover

Title: Unbury Carol
Author: Josh Malerman
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Western
Date of Publication: April 10, 2018
Publisher: Del Rey


Carol Evers is a well-liked woman who is married to a not-so-well-liked man in the Wild West town of Harrows. Carol suffers from a unique medical (or magical) condition. She occasionally falls into a deep coma–one from which she cannot be awakened—for days at a time. During this time her heart barely beats, she scarcely breathes, but she can hear everything that happens around her. Her only friend and confidant, John Bowie, passes away at the beginning of this book, inciting the events that follow. Her husband, Dwight, is the only person alive who is aware of her condition. And he wants her buried.

Unbury Carol book cover

This book starts off with a fire, but it sizzles a little in the middle. There’s a lot of filler for a story that takes place over a few days. That said, the book is very atmospheric, and I appreciate Malerman’s attention to detail. He does a phenomenal job of painting the picture of Harrows, the surrounding towns, and the Trail, and he thoroughly describes the secondary and tertiary characters. However, I found the female characters to be either lacking or not featured enough in the story. Lafayette is feared and powerful, yet we don’t see her much. Carol herself is well-loved—but we never get to see her demonstrate her lovability. Even Farrah, the housekeeper, is painted as weak and ineffective. At one point Malerman briefly mentions a badass female outlaw, and I hoped beyond hope that she would show up, but alas, she did not. Still, Carol herself is strong, and it was interesting to watch her character evolve over the course of the novel.

To me, the conflict in the story was a little silly. Carol was well loved. Why wouldn’t she have told more people about her condition? She was hurt by someone she told her secret to twenty years ago, but that was her significant other. Surely she should have told the local doctor, or at least the town’s funeral director. Though I understand that the plot hinges on the fact that no one in town knows, this is still a plot hole that niggled at me while reading.

The following comment is a mild spoiler about the ending. The ending is satisfyingly clever, if a little anticlimactic. When everyone in the story is a little mad, I would have expected a lot more madness in the final pages.

Someone asked me if Unbury Carol is your typical Western, and I realized I had never read a book set in the Wild West before! I told her that this is a good gateway book to introduce you to the genre. It’s moody and dark and a little twisted, and if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, this is definitely a good book to read in the heat of the summer.

starstarstarhalf star

*I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher and chose to review it. This in no way affects my review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby

Sleight Book Cover

Title: Sleight
Author: Jennifer Sommersby
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Date of Publication: April 3, 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins


What a book! Sleight captivated me from its first page, with a fairy tale-like prologue that introduces a unique mythology which, of course, proves to be essential to the plot of the story. Genevieve is a strong and relatable seventeen-year-old, and her witty repartee is refreshing. I wish all teenagers were this eloquent.

Sleight book cover
I absolutely adore the setting of this novel. I’m sure nearly everyone had a point in their childhood where they wanted to run away to join the circus. This book makes me wonder what I missed out on by staying home. The atmosphere is mysterious, with just a splash of magic, but it’s still our world. It feels foreign and ethereal. At the first mention of modern technology I was taken aback.

I particularly love how Sommersby handles the delicacy of animal rights issues. Not only are the animals in this circus well treated, but Sommersby takes this opportunity to show how a teenager can be a leader in activism. Genevieve starts her own charity called Loxodonta, where she demonstrates transparency about the circus’s treatment of their elephants, and she donates the money she earns through this venture to relevant charities.

Sleight does an excellent job of introducing tiny elements that prove to be critical plot points later in the book. There are some genuinely surprising twists, and they’re the best kind—the ones that you feel you should have seen coming, because the clues were all in place.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the mystical surrealness of books like The Night Circus with some modern-day teenage romance thrown in the mix.

I can’t wait for the next installment in this series, and this book hasn’t even come out yet!

starstarstarstarstar

*I received a free copy of this ARC from the publisher*

Sleight book cover

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Rebel with a Cupcake by Anna Mainwaring

Rebel with a Cupcake Book Cover

Title: Rebel with a Cupcake
Author: Anna Mainwaring
Genre: Young Adult
Date of Publication: April 3, 2018
Publisher: KCP Loft


Rebel with a Cupcake is a witty romantic comedy about Jesobel Jones, a teenager who’s overweight, but she’s actually comfortable in her own skin. This in itself is very refreshing. The moral of the story isn’t that girls—or women—should strive to have that perfect bikini-ready body. The point is that you should do what you love, and Jess is never happier than she is when she’s in the kitchen, whipping up a good meal—or a batch of cupcakes!–for her family.

Rebel with a Cupcake

But of course Jess isn’t going to have it easy. Everyone around her is telling her what she should and shouldn’t do—all with the “well-intentioned” purpose of helping her to look the way that they think she should look. Some of the things that are said or done are a little over the top (That teacher should be fired!), but it makes for an entertaining read. Unfortunately, poor, strong Jesobel caves into peer pressure and tries to lose weight – with an unrealistic deadline for her weightloss, which, of course, results in her developing some unhealthy eating habits.

At one point Jess says that she’s surprised she’s doing all this for a boy. It’s clear to the reader that it isn’t just for the boy. All the pressure to become thin – from her mother, her sister, her bully, and even her teacher at school—it all culminates in her breaking point.

There are a few aspects of the book that I would have liked Mainwaring to have explored more. Jesobel’s the daughter of a rock star, which should have influenced her personality and her outlook on life.

The next line includes a spoiler very predictable, but I’m still warning you. Read at your own peril! 

....

When the cutest boy in school, who just so happens to be in a rock band, starts to show interest in her and is seemingly obsessed with her father, Jess isn’t at all suspicious. It turns out that he’s dating her so he can get close to her father and his connections, and get his big break. *Gasp!* She should have suspected something – especially with how insecure she’d been feeling about her appearance. Was this actually the first time someone used her to get closer to her father? If so, celebrity is a lot different in the UK from in America! Jesobel’s younger sister is being bullied by her own imaginary friend. I found this both hilarious and sad, and I wanted her to get more time in the spotlight.

....

All in all, Mainwaring does an excellent job of dissecting issues that teenagers today deal with on a daily basis. Jess’s voice is unique and powerful, and I do think that this book will have a positive impact on a lot of young girls.

starstarstarhalf star

*I received an ARC of this book from KCPLoft*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont

The Little Book of Feminist Saints Book Cover

Title: The Little Book of Feminist Saints
Author: Julia Pierpont
Genre: Nonfiction
Date of Publication: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Random House


The Little Book of Feminist Saints is quite the treasure and I’m thrilled that I had a chance to read it before it was published. Modelled after the format of the Catholic little books of saints, Pierpont chose an interesting format that works well for the content. While reading this book, I sometimes recognized the well-known male counterparts in the bios of women that I hadn’t even heard of. This is evidence enough of how much a book like this was needed. 

 The Little Book of Feminist Saints

Rather than providing a dry biography of each saint, Pierpont chose to focus on something they did that was of significance. She tells anecdotes that I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. Some of the feminists are well-known icons, and others are women who should be recognized for what they did. I also greatly appreciated the diversity of the women. She includes women of colour, women with disabilities, women from around the world and throughout history, and those who identify as LGBTQ+.

The little nods to the inspiration for the format are adorable. Pierpont calls each feminist a “matron saint”, and their illustrations depict a halo around each and every woman’s head. The bite-size write-ups for each feminist makes this book much more approachable for those who might otherwise find a non-fiction book like this intimidating. You can’t argue that you don’t have time to read when each saint is merely a page. You can put this book on your nightstand and read about one feminist icon before bed every night. While I do wish that some of the lesser-known saints had a little more information about them, this book provides the perfect introduction to each person, so the reader can research whomever they’re interested in learning more about.

starstarstarstarstar

*Thanks to Random House for a copy of this ARC for an honest review*

The Little Book of Feminist Saints

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

I’m Judging you by Luvvie Ajayi

I'm judging You Book Cover

Title: I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual
Author: Luvvie Ajayi
Genre: Nonfiction
Date of Publication: September 13, 2016
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks


What a fabulous book! I haven’t been this captivated by an audiobook in a long time. Luvvie is equally hilarious and insightful as she talks about her thoughts on everything – from what makes a good friend to rape culture in America. I listened to the audiobook, which Luvvie read herself, and I must say that she brings a unique flavour to topics she discusses, and I’m glad that she didn’t have some monotonous narrator read her words.

Luvvie Ajayi’s book is aptly titled “I’m Judging You”. She demands that we all do better in a world where things are quickly going downhill. Although the book was published in 2016, there is a powerful postscript in which she addresses the fact that Donald Trump won the presidency. I don’t want to spoil exactly what she said about the “Fanta Fascist”, but it was forceful and moving, all the while still maintaining her side-splittingly hilarious tone.

Now that I’m done gushing, I give it…

starstarstarstarstar

I'm Judging you

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon