ARC REVIEW: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

This book hit me with some strong Serial vibes right off the bat (which is a good thing). I didn’t know how similar a story it was going to be, but luckily it wasn’t a copycat case or anything. I thought the premise of Pip’s investigation was interesting, if a little far-fetched. With that being said, it does stay in the realm of mostly plausible. I hate when YA thrillers take a turn for the completely unrealistic and there’s no possible way you could have figured out who the killer/bad guy is.

Pip as a character was mostly likable. There were a couple of times where I felt like her FAMILY was in danger and she should have gone to the police or at the very least told Ravi or HER PARENTS and she didn’t. That was a tad bit frustrating. Secondary characters were basically non-entities besides Cara. I’m not really sure why the author gave Pip more friends or even parents for that matter, because they literally did nothing the whole book. The plot was pretty interesting, though it was clear from the very beginning that Sal was not going to be the killer (though it would have been an AMAZING ending if he had been).  I felt like the ending wasn’t super satisfactory–there were some definite loose ends–but it looks like it’s going to be a series so hopefully some stuff will get cleared up later.

Overall, I liked this book. I thought it was a pretty good thriller and I buy the ending. I wasn’t anticipating it being a series, though, and I’m not super interested in reading another story with the same cast? Just doesn’t seem as plausible that there’d be another case for Pip to solve. So with that in mind, I really wish the author had just tied up all the loose ends in this book. But as a single book, I would definitely recommend!

Purchase: Hardcover | Kindle

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate

Violence: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

January Wrap-Up

Okay, I didn’t have an official TBR for January, but here are the books I read this month/what I’m currently reading.

Books finished this month: 5 books read with 1 DNF
Books currently reading:
2

Overall TBR:

TBR at the beginning of the year = 296
Books added to TBR = 8
Books read/deleted from TBR = 2
Total on TBR now = 302

How did your reading go this month?

MINI-REVIEW: How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian [ARC 1/28]

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book and in some ways I was really pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed some of the characters and felt that they were mostly more than just cardboard stereotypes (as is so often the case). There were definitely some characters that could have used more development, but it wasn’t too bad. I did have a big issue with Roz, though. She’s clearly not a good friend even from the very beginning and I felt like the author was sending us mixed messages about what Izzy should do about her. First, Izzy’s mom is telling her to cut Roz loose because she’s dragging Izzy down. But then Izzy’s cousin comes along and is trying to tell Izzy to help Roz out. It was just a little confusing (but I was on the dump her side). I also felt like Izzy didn’t always make the most thought-out decisions. She clearly should have thought a little more about hanging out at the Shackelton’s house when she KNOWS that Roz regularly spies on them. Overall, I thought this book was pretty good. I definitely think there were ways it could have been better and tighter, but it wasn’t bad. 3.5/5

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

Note: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

REVIEW: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea is Morgenstern’s second novel coming after the success of her first novel, The Night Circus. I’d read The Night Circus a while ago and remembered loving it, but didn’t know if it would hold up to a reread. Recently, I tried the audio book for The Night Circus (read by Jim Dale!) and it was AMAZING. Highly, highly recommend. Le Cirque des Rêves was just as captivating as I remembered it. All of that is just to say that my expectations for this book were already HIGH, but then the synopsis of this book comes out including secret societies and underground libraries and quests… If it was possible, my expectations rose even higher.

Now, you may have heard some conflicting things about this book. I’ve read some reviews that strongly disliked this book. Let me just say, this book is very different and it’s not one that can be zoomed through (as I typically zoom through books). If I’m really enjoying a book (300-400 page range) I can usually finish it in about three days max (usually less). This book is around 500 pages, so a little longer than my average and it took me almost four WEEKS to read (26 days to be precise). Caveat: I wasn’t reading this book exclusively or reading every single day, also we were in the process of moving house to another state for some of that time. With that being said, however, this is a book that DEMANDS you take your time to read it. If you don’t, you’ll get confused and you’ll miss out on all of the wonderful complexities that this book holds.

The story is made up of several different sections and multiple perspective shifts with interwoven short stories. It’s confusing, especially at the beginning, but after a while I found that I liked the variation of the chapters. It’s amazing to me to think about Morgenstern writing this book. There are just so many pieces to it and I feel that she really masterfully weaves them together into a cohesive tapestry of deliciousness.

There has been a lot of criticism calling this book “boring” and “plotless”. A lot of people have especially had a problem with the main character, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, feeling like he just purposelessly drifts through the story with no development. I strongly disagree on both of those points. First, no this book isn’t what I would call fast-paced, but I wouldn’t call it boring by any stretch of the imagination! The short stories are beautiful, well-written, and frankly not that long compared to Zachary’s chapters. I, personally, was sucked into Zachary’s story immediately. There’s mystery and magic(?) and even a little action thrown into the mix as well. I think that Zachary’s character makes a lot more sense if you remember that he’s a grad student studying video games. He often views his journey as a video game and I think that informs some of the decisions that he makes. He’s not delusional or anything, he doesn’t think he’s ACTUALLY in a video game, but the “aimless wandering” that a lot of people have a problem with makes more sense if you view it from that lens. A lot of exploring type video games have a main quest, side quests, and then a bunch of other random stuff that you can explore. Zachary does a lot of exploring that I guess some people found to be boring, however, I did not.

As a character, I think Zachary undoubtedly develops. He’s not the same boy that he was when he first encountered a door painted on the side of a wall. He starts the book as a 2D character, but ends as a fully fleshed out being. There are decisions that he makes towards the end of the book that he simply would not have made at the beginning. Zachary does not finish the book as the same person that he was.

I’m finding it really hard to put into words EXACTLY what I loved so much about this book. It’s just so cozy. I loved all of the little stories and I loved when the pieces started to overlap and click together. Some people had a problem with the ending, but I thought it was perfect and right and fit the book precisely. The writing was beautiful and whimsical and the setting of the Harbor was just as magical as Le Cirque des Rêves, in my opinion. And then The Kitchen. Oh how I loved The Kitchen. This is the kind of book that you want to start over immediately after finishing because now you finally get it and can pick up on things that you missed the first time.

I’ll just end this review by pleading with you to not let the negative reviews scare you away. Give it a try and if it’s not for you, that’s fine. But where others found this book boring, I found it captivating. Where others found the descriptions to be too long, I found them to be beautiful and evocative. Just one warning: because of all of the interweaving stories I’d probably not recommend this as an audio book–I think it would just be confusing. But as a physical book or an eBook? Magical. You will never find another book like this.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

BLOG TOUR: Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins [GIVEAWAY]

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things
by Jacqueline Firkins
Release Date: December 17th 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Retellings, Contemporary

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Kobo|Google Books

SYNOPSIS: Mansfield, Massachusetts is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college. It’s the home of wealthy suburbanites and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. Edie has her own plans, and they don’t include a prince charming.

But as Edie dives into schoolwork and applying for college scholarships, she finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys who start vying for her attention. First there’s Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love. He’s sweet and smart and . . . already has a girlfriend. Then there’s Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player. He’s totally off limits, even if his kisses are chemically addictive.

Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help but get caught between them. Someone’s heart is going to break. Now she just has to make sure it isn’t hers.

Hearts Strings Blog Tour

REVIEW: I just want to start by saying this is a good, faithful retelling of Mansfield Park. I think if you enjoy the original story, you’ll enjoy this as an updated version. With that being said, I have personal issues with the source material and that made this book slightly less enjoyable for me (I’ve always been a Fannie/Henry shipper).

With that in mind, let’s continue. I thought some of the characters were done well. Edie (Fanny) and Henry seemed well-developed. I liked that they were multi-dimensional and they both seemed to experience some growth as the story progressed. Edie’s uncle Bert was another fun character and I wished he’d gotten more screen-time. The rest of the characters were a little flat for me. Maria and Julia were especially tough for me 95% of the time. They were just so self-centered and MEAN to each other. They seemed to have zero morals.

The tone of the book was inconsistent at times. It read like your average YA book, but then randomly there would be a page that had a pretty explicit make-out scene. Another example of this is that there was almost no swearing the entire book except for a couple of f-words just randomly dropped in there. That kind of thing just made me feel a little blindsided and took away from the book.

Overall, I think if you really like Mansfield Park, this could be a good retelling for you. I personally enjoyed some of Austen’s other books better so if this author does some of Austen’s other books, I could see myself picking those up.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate


This blog tour’s running a special Instagram giveaway for a hardcover copy of this book and one of three different book inspired dresses!

Hearts Strings giveaway

Click on the picture above to be taken to the giveaway!



Jacqueline FirkinsABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jacqueline’s a writer, costume designer, and lover of beautiful things. She’s on the fulltime faculty in the Department of Theatre & Film at the University of British Columbia where she also takes any writing class they’ll let her into. When not obsessing about where to put the buttons or the commas, she can be found running by the ocean, eating excessive amounts of gluten, listening to earnest love songs, and pretending her dog understands every word she says.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Instagram


Fantastic Flying Book Club 2

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

California Winter | November Wrap-Up & TBR Update

This month hasn’t been great blogging wise (you might have noticed) but it’s been pretty good reading wise! I was able to snag some library copies of a couple of my anticipated November releases, so that was awesome. It always feels like I’m slogging through a book that’s taking me too much time, so then I’m surprised when I see how much I’ve actually read in a month.

monthly tbr

Also read/reading:

Books finished this month: 12
Books currently reading: 
3

Overall TBR:

TBR at the beginning of the year = 383
TBR at the beginning of November =305
Books added to TBR = 2
Books read/deleted from TBR = 7
Total on TBR now = 300

How did your reading go this month?

November ARC Mini-Reviews

mini-reviews
Secrets & Suitors by Joanna Baker

I’m always down for a good Regency romance–I love the feel-goodishness of them. There’s something about the propriety of the time that somehow makes the leading men that much more swoon-worthy too. With that being said, it’s still important to have a feisty heroine and I mostly felt like Nora was a wet blanket. I hoped that she would develop and mature as the book went on, but I was to be disappointed. Honestly, I think Susanna would have been a MUCH more interesting protagonist. I just thought Nora was too down on herself! She can’t be charming and desirable while simultaneously being COMPLETELY oblivious to any of her good qualities. Nora also had an unbearable amount of angsty internal dialogue. If I had a dollar for every time she thought something like, “We are only friends” or “I must control my heart” or “He doesn’t feel the same” I would have much money. In the end, I didn’t think this book was SO bad, but it wasn’t great either. Just okay. 3/5

Order: Paperback | eBook

Deadly Little Scandals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I really liked the first book in this series (Little White Lies) and I was super excited to continue the story. From the beginning, I’ve found Sawyer to be an extremely likable protagonist (if somewhat overly capable). In this book especially, I really liked Sawyer’s relationship with both Lily and John David. I love how protective Sawyer is of Lily and their relationship. Sawyer grew up without any extended family, so that relationship is really precious to her. I also liked the main friend group of Sawyer, Lily, Campbell, and Sadie Grace. They’re all supportive and mostly nice to each other which is refreshing. Unfortunately, the plot in this book was just so complicated. There are two main plot points that get mashed together and I feel like the author should have just picked one of them. It almost feels like this book just got away from her? There are elements of it too that I don’t feel like jive with how characters were portrayed in the first book. I still liked the book (Sawyer really carries it for me) and I’ll read the next one (if there is one) but man, some really weird stuff went down in this book. 4/5

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Sisters of Shadow & Light by Sara B. Larson

I thought this book was maybe going to be a Sleeping Beauty kind of thing (I mean, there’s a giant hedge) but it’s not. So if you thought that too, just know it’s not. Zuhra as a main character was…okay. I really wanted to like her, but I just found her to be a little whiny and overdramatic at times. I also thought she lacked consistency? I hoped this book would be really focused on the sister relationship and while that was semi-present, it felt like both Zuhra and Inara’s romances got in the way of developing that. And (as is often the case in YA unfortunately) there was almost no basis for the TWO romantic threads that we’re given. Literally, almost no context for why the romantic interests are drawn to our leads. *sigh* I guess I’ll just keep waiting for a well-developed YA romance. My main issue with the book, though, was pacing. It took me SO LONG to read this book. Honestly, I felt like the author could have cut out half the words and it still would have been a well-written book. HALF THE WORDS. At around 70%, I just started skimming. In addition to that, hardly anything happens from chapter to chapter and a lot of them alternate perspectives between the sisters which does NOT help–it just makes the story end up feeling really jerky. In the end, I’m a little intrigued by where the story goes next, but I probably won’t continue the series. 2.5/5

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read a King Arthur retelling…? At the very least, I haven’t read one in a long time. I mostly liked Guinevere as our main character, but she kept coming to these conclusions that just seemed completely wrong to me and barreling full steam ahead. I mean, I recognize that the reader usually has more information than the characters do, but she just really needed to slow her roll. It was also difficult to fully embrace Guinevere because she doesn’t really know who she is (literally). Her memory of her past is super spotty and it made it hard for me to get a good sense of who she is as a character. So while I liked her, I didn’t feel like I could get completely on board with her. The plot was intriguing enough and we’ll see where the next book goes. I have one big issue with this book, but it’s kind of spoiler-y so I won’t talk about it, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I’ll just close by saying that book two better have like five times as many Arthur/Guinevere moments. 3.5/5

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Note: I received copies of these books free from NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.