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.

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.

My Best Friend’s Ex by Meghan Quinn

Publication Date: June 1, 2017

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★★★

“When I found an eviction notice taped on my apartment door, I had two options: find a comfortable cardboard box to call home, or move in with Tucker Jameson.

Seeing that cardboard makes me feel itchy, I chose the latter. Which shouldn’t be that big of a deal Tucker is one of my good friends. And because he’s still pining after his ex-girlfriend and I’m trying to finish my nursing degree, there is nothing to worry about in the romance department, making my last semester an easy one to conquer.

Boy, was I wrong.

Rules are set, dinners are made, conversations are had, and a shirtless, swoony roommate walks around in nothing but a pair of black briefs, ruining me for every other man.

Before I know it, I turn into a panting, lust-filled woman begging for Tucker to kiss me, touch me, and show me exactly what is hiding under those briefs.

But with great orgasms, comes great consequences.

Tucker might be my friend and roommate but he’s also my best friend’s ex-boyfriend, making him completely off-limits. At least that’s what my brain is telling me, my heart is speaking an entirely different language.”

Review:

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.

This book was absolutely phenomenal. My Best Friend’s Ex is listed as #2 in the Binghamton Series, but I read it at as a standalone and it didn’t make a difference. Everything was explained very well from the first book, so I don’t see the need to read it if you so please. However, after reading this one, I absolutely will read the first one in the series as well as Meghan Quinn’s other books.

I have heard great things about Meghan Quinn’s books, so I had a bit of high expectations when it came to reading my first book of hers. She did not disappoint me at all. There were so many great things about this book. I’ve been struggling with romance novels lately, and I think that this contemporary romance just put me right back into the genre.

This book had everything that I needed/wanted. The chemistry was outstanding. I felt like the relationships in this book were absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change them in the slightest. The way that the relationships progressed…sheesh! My Best Friend’s Ex really sold me on the romance. I was feeling like recent romance novels that I were reading were a little far fetched, but this, this, took me back into the world of romance.

The fact that this book had it’s fair share of heartbreak as well made this a five star read for me. Most of the time, a romance novel will have some sort of heartbreak involved. It is rare that I can feel the pain of the characters, but with this one, I felt myself tearing up at the words. It was moving and beautiful. It really showed how a person who has been through a tough heartbreak would be, and it was incredibly relatable.

Also, my other favorite thing about this book were the friendships. These friendships were everything. There were so many times where I stopped and thought, “wow, I need a friend like Emma has with her friends”. The friendships showed true tests and how exactly to talk through things. They were all there for each other through all of their problems, and that’s exactly how a friendship should be.

Overall, this book rocked. I am so happy I picked it because it might be the book that gets me out of my romance slump. Meghan Quinn surely did not disappoint me. I can’t wait to read another of hers.

 

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★★

Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.”

Review:

This book has a lot of different conversations about mental health, so if you struggle with depression, etc., I would take care of yourself when reading this book.  

Colleen Hoover has definitely become one of my favorite authors. Every book I’ve read by her is fantastic and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on “Without Merit”. Since I’ve read her before, I know that her books always deal with tough topics and it’s one of the many reasons I love her. This book was not an exception. I honestly think this book had more tough topics than the others that I’ve read by her. There were times where my heart broke for the characters because of what they were dealing with. It wasn’t just one character dealing with issues either, it was every single character in this book.

The main thing that I noticed about Without Merit was the fact that I wouldn’t say this book is classified as romantic. Every single book I’ve read by Colleen Hoover has been a heartbreaking romance. This book was absolutely a switch up from her usual. This is a great thing as an author to surprise their readers, but I’m not sure I fell in love with this story as much as her others because of this. Was there romance in this book? Definitely. It was more mixed-in than the main plot. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good to switch it up, but personally, I love Colleen Hoover’s angsty romance and I’m sad there wasn’t really any.

The characters were probably my favorite thing about this book. There were so many different point of views because it is about a family through the eyes of the main character, Merit. It was really interesting to see which family member had which problem and how they were currently dealing with it. The characters through the end were pretty crazy. They each had their own troubles and when it all comes to a head, it was great to see who reacts which way.

I think what was different about this book for me was the fact that this book didn’t grasp me right away like her others did. Usually by the first paragraph, I’m hooked on what will happen next which makes me interested in the entire book. I noticed that I had a hard time grasping right away with this one, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just different than what I was used to with her. Colleen Hoover gives so much information in the first few chapters. With her other books, the story starts right away and we find out who the characters are throughout the narrative. This book told us a lot right away.

Overall, I liked this book, but it wasn’t my favorite CoHo. I gave it four stars because once I got started, I really couldn’t put it down. After the first few chapters, the story really gets going and it was an interesting twist on Colleen Hoover’s usual narrative. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the future.

 

 

Rainy Day Kisses by Debbie Macomber

Publication Date: August 1, 1990 (Republished May 29, 2014)
Publisher: Harlequin Books

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★

“She was a woman on the rise. Susannah Simmons had a five-year plan for career success, and it didn’t include falling in love with her next-door neighbor. Nate Townsend was undeniably attractive, and he obviously had money, but he seemed to lack ambition. He stayed home, baking cookies and flying kites, while Susannah struggled up the corporate ladder. She resented the way he questioned her values – – and made her question them, too. Perhaps she had given up too much in pursuit of her career goals: family and fun – – and Nate Townsend’s love.”

Review:

This was my first Debbie Macomber read. I recently downloaded an app that you can connect with your libraries and has so many different selections of ebooks and audiobooks. I saw this and thought that the synopsis sounded great. If I love anything when it comes to books, it’s the “next door neighbor” narrative. The thought of moving into somewhere and having your neighbor be so romantic that you fall for them? Yes. Please. It’s so unlikely, but a girl can dream, right?

The characters were written well. I thought that the characters were really in tune with themselves. There were times that they said something and I cracked up out loud at how funny they were. I think Macomber knows how to write a character to get the reader to feel like they are actually in this story. She knows how to embody their emotions. I liked that the most about this book.

There were parts of this book that fell flat. The narrative is the reason why I picked this book. There were times where I felt like putting this book down because it got pushed off the narrative and I wasn’t sure when it would get back on track. This unfortunately made me drop the rating.

Lastly, this book seemed pretty vanilla. Like I said, this was my first Debbie Macomber, and I’m not sure if that is how her writing style is with all of her books. I felt like everything was good and simple. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, personally, I like to have a little angst or a little sultry factor in a book. I think this book was good, just a little plain for my taste.

Overall, I would definitely would give another Debbie Macomber book a chance. I want to find out if all of her books are simple, easy reads. I work in a library where her books are extremely popular. Therefore, I want to see what all the hype is about.

 

Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan

Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Find this book here:

Rating: ★★★★

“No one knows why Teddi Lerner left her hometown, but everyone knows why she’s back.

Twelve-year-old Shayna― talented, persistent, and adorable―persuaded “Aunt Tee” to return to Chance, Ohio, to photograph her father’s wedding. Even though it’s been six years since Shay’s mother, Celia, died, Teddi can hardly bear the thought of her best friend’s husband marrying someone else. But Teddi’s bond with Shay is stronger than the hurt.

Teddi knows it’s time to face the consequences of her hasty retreat from family, friends, and, her old flame, but when she looks through her viewfinder, nothing in her small town looks the same. That’s when she truly sees the hurt she’s caused and―maybe―how to fix it.

After the man she once loved accuses Teddi of forgetting Celia, Teddi finally admits why she ran away, and the guilt she’s carried with her. As Teddi relinquishes the distance that kept her safe, she’ll discover surprising truths about the people she left behind, and herself. And she’ll finally see what she overlooked all along in Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Amy Sue Nathan, and St. Martin’s Griffin for allowing me to read this book before the publication date in exchange for an honest review. 

Teddi Learner returns to Chance, Ohio after six years to photograph her best friend’s husband’s wedding. Miles is the groom and he’s getting remarried after his first wife, Celia, passed. Teddi is returning as a promise to Miles and Celia’s twelve-year old daughter, Shayna. Now that Teddi has returned, she sees everything that has changed and who she missed.

There were many things about this book that grabbed me right away and there were things that left me hanging. The synopsis intrigued me because I love the forbidden romance and the mystery of why a girl left her old town to find a new life. It was like a Lifetime series and I was very interested.

The characters were awesome. I absolutely adored Teddi and Shay. Shay was probably one of my favorite characters I’ve read. As someone who is extremely close to her mother, Shay’s character resonated with me in a sense of how I would be if I lost her. I could feel the connection and the heartbreak through Shay. Teddi had a lot of great moments too. Her dialogue was probably my favorite thing about this book.

One of my favorite narratives are the “small town” stories. I think the author did a phenomenal job when giving the reader a feel of just how small the town was. There were characters introduced like the childhood best friend and other family members. I felt like I was in the small town of Chance and I was meeting these individuals through the eyes of Teddi.

There were times that this book slowed down for me. I had to push through because I knew it would pick back up. I had to put it down sometimes, and do something else before picking it back up because it just got boring. However, when pushing through, it got much better and I had a good time reading this one. I am very interested in giving another book by Amy Sue Nathan a try.