Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

Publication Date: June 2012
Publisher: 1000Vultures
Rating: ★★

Penpal began as a series of short and interconnected stories posted on an online horror forum. Before long, it was adapted into illustrations, audio recordings, and short films; and that was before it was revised and expanded into a novel!

How much do you remember about your childhood?

In Penpal, a man investigates the seemingly unrelated bizarre, tragic, and horrific occurrences of his childhood in an attempt to finally understand them. Beginning with only fragments of his earliest years, you’ll follow the narrator as he discovers that these strange and horrible events are actually part of a single terrifying story that has shaped the entirety of his life and the lives of those around him. If you’ve ever stayed in the woods just a little too long after dark, if you’ve ever had the feeling that someone or something was trying to hurt you, if you remember the first friend you ever made and how strong that bond was, then Penpal is a story that you won’t soon forget, despite how you might try.”

Review:

This one for sure had a creepy, creepy vibe. There were times where I would get goosebumps when reading the words Dathan Auerbach had written on these pages. However, there were somethings in this book I just couldn’t get into. And that hindered my ability to give it a higher rating.

This book was recommended to me, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were absolutely freaky moments and times where I had to stop and go“oh my god” or “woah, that’s weird”. On the other hand, there were times where I had to stop and reread a paragraph because it just wasn’t making sense to me. This was the most unfortunate part about the book, I think some things ended a little abruptly.

Penpal has potential and was a pretty decent read. If you are looking for a quick mystery, this might be a good choice for you. I’m giving it 3.5/5 starts because of some of the confusion and the ending wasn’t really good for my taste. Overall, it was okay and I’d recommend it to someone that is looking for a super quick read with a love of the mystery genre.

The Female, the Flawed, the Ferocious: A Review of Season Two of Jessica Jones

A review by guest author, Desiree Wallen.

WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD

After three days of binging in between work and life in general, the lesson that Jessica learns in the final episode (and arguably, the season before) rang true, that it is exhaustingly easy to lose yourself in what happens to you. While I have already heard someone musing that there is not a “big bad” in this season, that’s never been what Jessica Jones has been about, nor is it what the show is renowned for (and Krysten Ritter nails it again, especially when Jessica is shaken out of the safety of her off-putting monotone and sarcasm). Watching the first season was cathartic for me, and I imagine anyone else who had been taken for a fool by a charming sociopath (and while the one-episode appearance by David Tennant in this season was electric, I wish it was more consistent with subsequent episodes since he is supposed to be the archetypal devil on her shoulder). Weirdly like a show opposite in its tone, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, this season of Jessica Jones casts its titular character as someone who strives for the utilitarianism approach to solving her problems, even at the cost of personal stability. So to paraphrase what her detective noir narration sums up in the final moments of the season, it took her past literally clawing out of death for her to realize that the person she is had been dead for a long time. As someone who, for a long time, had dealt with viewing herself as what she does or what she’s lived through  instead of who she is, I think that is an important note to end on for a character’s journey, at least for now.

 

Mothers and Daughters, Amirite?

The relationship between Trish and Dorothy did not budge too much from last season to this season (although Rachael Taylor and Rebecca De Mornay nailed the complexity of one needing the other to thrive), but it did underscore one of the major themes to come out of the show, and that is the influence of mothers on women. The scene where Dorothy takes off her proverbial mask and tells Jessica she doesn’t blame her for Trish’s laying in a hospital bed was a quietly powerful one that may go overlooked when the importance of the season is looked at. While Trish may take from her mother’s qualities of determination and “driving the narrative”, there’s proof she will never be her mother (and I feel like with her new reflexes, the slap that she showed remorse for despite it being deserved may have only been the beginning of Dorothy’s comeuppance). The theme of there not being a relationship like a mother’s to a daughter’s is one that smacks you in the face here, but it works for the development of the main characters.

That being said, the appearance of Alisa was an interesting turn of events, and certainly something that could have derailed the season (much like the mid-season appearance of Elektra in Daredevil Season 2 and Matt Murdock’s eventual self-destruction from it in The Defenders, but the less said about how that was presented that the better), but it didn’t here. I would very much make the argument that the “big bad” isn’t Alisa, but Jessica’s concept of morality in the face of yet another destructive force with personal ties. While that reveal was possibly introduced too early in the season (but what is modern-day Marvel media without pacing issues?) I appreciated that it allowed time for us to see the fears Jessica has manifest in loss, i.e., she fears that her mother will choose a man over her, or she fears she will lose Trish to her mother’s destructive powers, or most importantly, she fears she will lose herself to becoming the worst parts of her mother (which is a very universally applicable fear and one my mind has put me through a lot). This season handles Jessica’s adjustments to constant change quite well, in that there’s no time for self-reflection and she inevitably begins to choose to save and accompany the mother she thought she lost once before. Janet McTeer is amazing as the uncontrollable and insatiable Alisa, who shows us where Jessica gets her problem-solving skills and disdain for stupid people (along with the genetics that reacted to medical experimentation in much the same way). It makes sense that Alisa falls for a man that not only saves her, but finds a kinship in the mind she had (which she felt was not respected before in her marriage to Jessica’s father), but I like the dynamic that whom Alisa sees as a savior, Jessica sees as a destroyer. In the end, though, Alisa differs from Dorothy in that she ultimately chooses to protect her daughter from making more mistakes for her daughter’s sake, not for self, and I think that’s important in examining how Alisa ultimately dies (interrupted, at the hands of someone seeking to rectify her own mistakes). I think it says a lot that even through all the abuse Dorothy dished out to Trish (even though the angle with the director and Jessica’s ex-boyfriend/Trish’s singing career felt shoehorned in), Jessica never truly thought once about outright killing Dorothy, but Trish felt it to be her duty to kill Alisa in order to resolve her own sense of heroism.

 

Death and Desperation Are Partners in Crime

This being a superhero-tinged homage to detective serials, there is a lot of dark humor to be found in the macabre, such as carrying a charred human head in a purse or sharing a body bag as a means of escape, and quipping about the absurdism of it all. That being said, I was quite intrigued by Jeri Hogarth’s path of semi-indestructibility (again). Carrie Anne-Moss is so good in this role and yet, I fail to see why anyone roots for Hogarth. She is cunning, and beautifully  complex, but a lesson learned would be nice. I understand the folly in taking any “miracle” that comes one’s way, but manipulating someone who chose wrong given certain circumstances in her eyes to a life of murder and being locked up for life feels off-putting for some reason. Just as with last season, Hogarth feels like some inverse version of Clarie, a plot device to occupy a purpose, and that’s okay, but I don’t know (again) what her storyline actually served (well, beyond showing that being a “strong, badass female” often comes with flaws as it should, and to subvert more tropes). However, taking Malcolm and setting him up as an antagonist under her wing may prove to make for an interesting third season arc. It sure looks like Jessica will have a match in investigative perusal skills, as well as another “powered person” in Trish, which makes for even more exciting conflict (at the expense of Jessica’s trauma, but that is the foundation of this show.)

Even though death and superheroes famously do not mix, I appreciate this season for equating death with finality. I was grateful they did not bring back Kilgrave from the dead for some convoluted reason, and that equation does explain a lot of turnabout choices (some of which I had problems with, like Simpson’s weirdly resolved redemption; I knew he would be a foil to Trish and the cause of what is likely to be her ultimate transition to Hellcat, but I didn’t understand why his appearance was so limited given the events of the first season). The finality of death also did not factor into there being a lack of mention of the events of The Defenders (unless you count Jessica’s mention of someone dying the last time she teamed up with someone, but if that’s the case, where is the Iron Fist? He also had the strength to stop Alisa and took over Daredevil’s position as protector of Hell’s Kitchen, unless they plan on setting this round of individual seasons concurrently). I get that if Danny Rand came in to save the day, some of the themes regarding womanhood would have suffered, but an explanation would separate the oft-mocked ridiculousness of continuity in comic-based properties.

I still don’t know how I feel about the whole Oscar storyline (and the silly ex-wife-who-spends-all-her-money-on-herself side quest for Jessica to help resolve), but I do appreciate that they bond over the fear of loss. It makes sense for Jessica to find someone that is willing to do anything for his child and values her quiet strengths in choosing goodness (also, that scene with the paint was hot). However, I only see a season three leverage for her to suffer more loss, even if the romance didn’t overshadow the rest of the season as I (depressingly) expected it to.  

 

Inadequacy and the Impostor

Another interwoven theme between Jessica, Trish, and to a lesser extent, Malcolm, over the course of this season, is exhibiting the fear of not being enough. They are all inherent do-gooders with addictive personalities, but that is shown to be driven by that fear. Of course, that does intersect between Malcolm and Trish this season, and does drive Malcolm (Eka Darville, thriving in the obligatory fed-up-with-my-powered-friends role, and rightfully so) to a path where he’ll be even more manipulated, but I digress. It is Trish’s feelings of inadequacy that drives her to toss away all the tools that allowed her to do good in the first place (and her trajectory is a great critique of people with wide-reaching voices flinging them at causes where they may be misplaced or misguided). There is a bit of hearkening back to Greek tragedy where the do-gooders do more harm than good with their purposefully limited information, and it works.

Jessica, of course, is told she is a hero because she has the power to kill anyone who crosses her path and still chooses to control herself, and that at least places her on a pedestal of not becoming her mother, as she muses to her vision of Kilgrave. We don’t want Jessica to be perfect, and in the company of a world in which superheroes exist, she tries to make every justification as to why she isn’t one, and that’s okay. The big picture for her is actually baby steps, in that she is realizing she doesn’t deserve to be regarded the way Oscar’s son sees her (like a Captain America, which yes, #TeamCap), but that she does deserve to be regarded as someone who is capable of owning her own life and her own humanity and her own feelings, and still living and still doing good in her own way. Being honest with herself, about herself is not something that Jessica Jones will ever ask for, but it is what she needs to truly close the door on her past.

Score: 8.5 / 10

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★

“Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.”

Review:

John Green hasn’t failed me yet. I didn’t want to say that this one disappointed me, but it wasn’t as great as I thought it was going to be. John Green has given me this high standard throughout the years, and this one didn’t quite live up to it.

The beginning of Turtles All the Way Down did grab me pretty quickly. I thought the characters were interesting, and I thought that I would find more out about their characters. However, as the book went on, I couldn’t connect to the characters in a way that I thought I would. I really liked Aza’s character, she probably is the reason I gave this a higher a rating. It just was hard to see these characters the way they were written.

Second, the story line was a little weird. I feel like the missing father didn’t really have a lot to do with the book. Of course this plays a big part of the story, but I couldn’t really connect them and Aza. I feel like there were a lot of missed connections.

I have read countless young adult books with mental illness and mental health as their genres and I feel like John Green did a great job inserting his own OCD into Aza’s character. However, I still couldn’t get a direct feel from her character. There was something about her that was just so tough to read, I couldn’t figure it out. The ending was a little spark of something to get something else going for this book, but unfortunately, it was the end and I wish there was something else to add to it.

For the next John Green book I read, I want to not have my expectations so high. Every book is a new book. I took my previous ratings from his other books and I automatically set this book to a really high standard. I think a lot of people did the same thing I did, and I feel like that probably hurt this book more in the long run.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★

“A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Review:

I had a hard time with this one. This novel is classified as a mystery, thriller, and suspense. I couldn’t really get into the fact that it was classified that way because I personally didn’t feel like it was a mystery, thriller, or suspense.

This book was hard to get started. I read and read, but there just wasn’t that “oomph” to push it over the edge. Lisa Jewell wrote this book in hopes of holding the mystery until the end. I usually enjoy that, but I couldn’t really figure this one out. It had me kind of hating the fact that I had to wait until the end. I wanted some sort of clue of what was happening, but I got nothing.

I felt pretty disconnected from the story and from the characters. I found myself reading and not being able to associate myself with anyone or anything. I can usually connect with at least one element from a story, but unfortunately, with this one I didn’t.

Lastly, the ending is what did it for me to give this a 3-star rating. The ending gave me some answers to my questions. However, I found it to be extremely unrealistic. There was this desperation and need, I couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t understand the fact that there were times of “love” after 5 days.

This book wasn’t anything special for me. I would like to try Lisa Jewell’s other books to see if there were differences in the writing style. I think there were times in this book where I was confused and bored. However, there was a constant underlining of understanding.

Every Dog Has His Day by Jenn McKinlay

Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books

A stray kitten and a rambunctious poodle bring together a small-town bachelor and a single mother in the latest romance set in Bluff Point, Maine.

Bluff Point brewery owner Zachary Caine wants nothing to do with commitment. His wild bachelor lifestyle suits him perfectly—until a foster kitten named Chaos makes him a reluctant hero. Now he’s BFFs with the kitten’s two little girls and finds himself falling for their gorgeous mother, who couldn’t think less of him.

Divorced mother Jessie Connelly wants nothing to do with men like Zach. He’s sexy and charismatic and bad news, just like her ex. But her girls adore him, and he’s doing a good job filling in for their deadbeat dad. Then a snowstorm brings out the best in both neighbors, who, it turns out, have more in common than their mutual attraction…

So when Jessie’s past threatens her and her girls, Zach is determined to do whatever it takes to protect them—and live happily ever after with this family he has made his own.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Berkley Publishing, and Jenn McKinlay for allowing me to read a copy before the publication date in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is listed as #3 in the Bluff Point series, but I read it as a standalone and understood everything.

This was an adorable contemporary romance. If you are a lover of a cutesy romance and animals, I would absolutely recommend this book to you! The chemistry in this book was enough to make me swoon, so as an avid contemporary romance reader, read this book!!

The first thing that I really enjoyed about this book were the characters. I loved the two little girls in the beginning. They were so cute and innocent. When I got further into this book, I realized that I had fallen in love with Zach’s character. He was adorable and capturing from the beginning. There were a few times where his character pulled on my heart strings. His home life was interesting to learn about. I’ve rarely read a book with a foster child, so it was great to learn about the experience.

The chemistry between Zach and Jessie was very hard not to notice. Jenn McKinlay did a great job with showing just how well these two worked together. From the beginning, I was rooting for them. I liked how just like in every relationship, there were points of angst and it shows that even in romance novels, not every relationship is perfect.

Again, contemporary romance lovers,  read this!! I couldn’t say it enough that you will fall in love with this story. As an animal lover and romance reader, this was easily a great book. It’s short, sweet, and has a great narrative. I would love to give Jenn McKinlay’s other books in the Bluff Point series a read!

Favorite Reads of 2017: Published Before 2017

These are the books that I read this year but were published before 2017.

Find all of the books I read in 2017 here!

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It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: August 2, 2016

SOMETIMES THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU IS THE ONE WHO HURTS YOU THE MOST

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

This book contains graphic scenes and very sensitive subject matter.”

Find my full review here.

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The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publication Date: May 17, 2016

A story about friendship, survival and finding your voice

Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at a public high school. But she never imagined she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet soon it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.”

Find my full review here.

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The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
Publication Date: June 7, 2016

It’s a summer for first love, last wishes, and letting go.

Maddie has big plans to spend the last months before college tying up high school “loose ends” alongside her best friends. Then her beloved grandmother drops two bombshells: (1) Gram is dying. (2) She’s taking her entire family on a round-the-world cruise of dreams come true—but at the end, Gram won’t be returning home.

With a promise to live in the now without regrets, Maddie boards the Wishwell determined to make every moment count. She finds new friends in her fellow Wishwellians, takes advantage of the trip’s many luxuries, gets even closer to her quirky family, and falls for painfully gorgeous Enzo. But despite the copious laughter, headiness of first love, and wonder of the glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram, and she struggles to find the strength to let go in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, grief, and laughter. “

Find my full review here.

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Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: August 5, 2014

“When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.”

Find my full review here.

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Publication Date: August 9, 2016

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Find my full review here.

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Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Publication Date: April 7, 2015

“Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”

Find my full review here.

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Skipping A Beat by Sarah Pekkanen
Publication Date: February 22, 2011

“Julia and Michael meet in high school in their small, poverty-stricken West Virginia hometown. Both products of difficult childhoods — Julia’s father is a compulsive gambler and Michael’s mother abandoned his family when he was a young boy – they find a sense of safety and mutual understanding in each other. Shortly after graduation they flee West Virginia to start afresh. Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar,Washington D.C. home. From the outside it all looks perfect – Julia has become a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has launched a wildly successful flavored water company that he sold for $70 million.
But one day Michael stands up at the head of the table in his company’s boardroom — then silently crashes to the floor. More than four minutes later, a portable defibrillator manages to jump-start his heart. Yet what happened to Michael during those lost minutes forever changes him. Money is meaningless to him now – and he wants to give it all away to charity. A prenuptial agreement that Julia insisted upon back when Michael’s company was still struggling means she has no claim to his fortune, and now she must decide: should she walk away from the man she once adored, but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his near-death experience – or should she give in to her husband’s pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life?”

Find my full review here!

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Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
Publication Date: August 30, 2016

“It’s going to take a miracle for Joanna Gordon to get through senior year.

Despite being the daughter of a well-known radio evangelist, Jo has never hidden the fact that she’s gay, and her dad has always supported her. But that was back in Atlanta. Now her dad the reverend has married wife number three, and they’ve all moved to small-town Rome, Georgia. When Jo’s dad asks her to lie low for the rest of the year in the hopes that it will help him and his new wife settle in, Jo reluctantly agrees.

Although when God closes a closet door, he opens a window. Everything becomes so easy for Jo once she rebrands herself as a straight girl. No one gives her odd looks. Her new stepfamily likes her. She even gets in with the popular crowd.

And that’s how she meets Mary Carlson, the ultimate temptation. Even though Jo knows this girl is completely off-limits, she just can’t get her out of her mind. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if Jo’s starting to fall for Mary Carlson. Even if there’s a chance Mary Carlson might be interested in her, too. Right?

Lord, have mercy.

Jo’s in for one hell of a year.”

Find my full review here!

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Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Publication Date: May 3, 2016

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.”

Find my full review here!

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Publication Date: October 6, 2015

“Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.”

Find my full review here!

 

Favorite Reads of 2017: Published in 2017

2017 has been a phenomenal year for books. Here are some of my favorite titles that I read that were published in 2017!

You can see my “Read in 2017” shelf here!

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The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Publication Date: January 24, 2017

A psychological thriller that spins one woman’s seemingly good fortune, and another woman’s mysterious fate, through a kaleidoscope of duplicity, death, and deception—and the hottest title at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair.

A damaged young woman gets the unique opportunity to rent a one-of-a-kind house. When she falls in love with the sexy, enigmatic architect who designed it, she has no idea she is following in the footsteps of the girl who came before: the house’s former tenant.

The eerie parallels in the two girls’ lives lay bare an enthralling story…and make this novel the must-read thriller of the season.

Find my full review here.

 

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published: May 9, 2017

“Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living–and it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.”

Find my full review here.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

Find my full review here.

 

Barley Cross Series by Emma Hart

The Barley-Cross Series (Being Brooke & Catching Carly) by Emma Hart
Publication Dates: December 13, 2016 & March 7, 2017

Being Brooke (#1)

My name is Brooke Barker…

And I’m a freaking disaster.

No, seriously. I’m a college drop-out working a dead-end job, my best friend Carly’s dog gets more action than I do, and I have more bad dates in my diary than there are movie remakes.

Not to mention I’m completely and utterly in love with Cain Elliott.

The problem? He’s in a relationship. With a girl who’s so plastic she makes Barbie cry herself to sleep with jealousy.

The second problem? He’s my best friend.

My shut-up-and-put-on-Harry-Potter, yes-this-is-your-shirt, help-I-have-no-power, crap-I’m-out-of-tampons, kinda best friend.

And that’s all he can be, right?

Right.

Catching Carly (#2)

Life Goal #1: Forget about my best friend’s brother. (Because Zeke Elliott is a colossal cockwomble.)

From New York Times bestselling author, Emma Hart, comes another hilariously wild romantic comedy about being the third wheel in your friendship and, um, accidentally having sex with your best friend’s brother…

Find my full review here.

 

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Friend Request by Laura Marshall
Publication Date: September 5, 2017

“Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?

1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all.”

Find my full review here.

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One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Publication Date: May 30, 2017

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

Find my full review here.

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Before I Ever Met You by Karina Halle
Publication Date: April 25, 2017

“I first met William McAlister when I was just a teenager.

He was handsome, had a beautiful wife and was on the verge of success, having just joined my father as his business partner. Mr. McAlister was full of smooth charm, but back then he was barely a blip on my radar. Just a family friend.

Fast forward ten years: I’m 25 years old and a single mom trying to make things right for her seven-year old son. I’ve made some mistakes, grappled with my demons and now I’m back in the city of Vancouver, getting a second chance at a better life.

I’ve started by working for my father’s production company as an executive assistant. My first day on the job and I already know I could have a promising career there.
That is until I see Will McAlister for the first time in a decade.

Now recently divorced and as sophisticated as always, Will has gone from being my father’s friend and business partner to something so much more.

We’re both older, for one thing, and he just oozes this worldly confidence and stark sexuality. Combined with his tall, muscular build and sharp suits, strong jaw and bedroom eyes, Will has turned into one hell of a distraction.

A distraction I’m having a hard time staying away from, considering his office is right across from my desk and I work with him in such close proximity.

But it’s just a harmless crush, right?

It’s just an innocent fantasy of screwing him on his desk, right?

It can’t ever be more because he’s my father’s best friend, business partner, and my boss.

Right?

Wrong.”

Find my full review here.

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Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Publication Date: July 18, 2017

Who says you can’t run away from your problems?

You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as “inspired, lyrical,” “elegiac,” “ingenious,” as well as “too sappy by half,” LESS shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.”

Find my full review here.

 

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The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick
Publication Date: July 4, 2017

“The New York Times-bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook offers a timely novel featuring his most fascinating character yet, a Vietnam vet embarking on a quixotic crusade to track down his nemesis from the war.

After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard—that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It might be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It might also help him finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.

As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and goodhearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese-American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.

Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, David is a complex, wounded, honorable, and loving man. The Reason You’re Aliveexamines how the secrets and debts we carry from our past define us; it also challenges us to look beyond our own prejudices and search for the good in us all.”

Find my full review here.