Tag: fiction (page 1 of 3)

BOOK REVIEW: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

BOOK REVIEW: The Upside of Falling by Alex LightThe Upside of Falling Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.

Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?

I mean, there’s a reason all books end right after the couple gets together. No one wants to keep reading long enough to see the happily ever after turn into an unhappily ever after. Right?

Thank you so much to Edelweiss, Harper TEEN and Alex Light for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Upside of Falling is an adorable book that plays with the fake relationship trope, which is easily one of my favorite tropes. So when I saw that there was a new book coming out with this front and center, I knew I had to have my hands on it. And once I had it, I read it in less than 24 hours haha. I couldn’t put it down.

TUoF centers on Becca Hart and Brett Wells. Becca loves to read romance books, but has never experienced true love in real life. She lives with her mother and helps with her local bakery. Becca doesn’t have too many close friends, especially since her former best friend found herself in the popular crowd and left Becca behind.

Brett Wells, meanwhile, seems to have everything going for him. He’s popular and captain of the football team. He’s smart and kind and his parents dote on him. However, he’s just focused on getting out of high school and securing a college scholarship to make his parents proud. He’s too busy to focus on normal high school things, like girlfriends, and has no problem with that.

That is, until one day when he hears Becca telling a lie about having a boyfriend, he decides to jump in and be that boyfriend. Becca is shocked but goes with it as well and the two come to an easy arrangement. Becca gets to have a popular boyfriend, while Brett gets his parents off his back about having a girlfriend without all the drama and commitment. What could go wrong?

“First you run away when I kiss you. Now you want to break up with me when we haven’t even been dating for a day. Way to break a guy’s heart, Hart.” He poked my leg. “See what I did there?”

I’ve never read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (sorry!) but I have seen the movie twice and there’s definitely some similarities in terms of them coming up with ground rules, assimilating between their worlds and the fact that both of them, not surprisingly, might begin to feel real feelings.

There’s a lot of wonderful themes in this book past teenagers falling in love for the first time, such as complicated friendships, how complicated relationships with parents can be and the feeling of rejection from those you care about.

If I had to provide any kind of constructive feedback, it mostly boils down to two things: It doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre and I wanted more from it. Don’t get me wrong, I adored this book, but I didn’t find anything, outside of maybe the complicated family dynamics, to be new and awe inspiring. I wish the trope had been twisted more, but I imagine that was not the author’s intent. And when I say more, I feel at 288 pages, it was a little light. I would have loved to see this be a little longer, so the relationship between Becca and Brett could have been more complex. It hit all the right notes, but I felt like it was skimming toward the top. I feel we could have gotten a little more in depth with these two and given the book a little more weight.

But overall, I adored this book. If you are looking for a fairly fluffy and happy YA romance, especially with the fake dating relationship trope, you won’t be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t.

The Upside of Falling is available February 18, 2020.

“I’m confused,” I said, “because one day we were strangers and then, bam, we were pretending to be in love. All these lines between what was real and what was fake started to blur and I can’t tell the two apart anymore.”

“Just because we were pretending doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.”

BOOK REVIEW: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

BOOK REVIEW: The Turn of the Key by Ruth WareThe Turn of the Key Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Dear Mr. Wrexham,
Please help me. I didn’t kill anyone.


I was cautiously optimistic when I saw a new Ruth Ware book was coming out. In a Dark, Dark Wood is one of my favorite thrillers, but her two most recent releases were disappointing. However, I thought the premise of The Turn of the Key sounded promising, so like I said, I was cautiously optimistic heading in to it. I was happily blown away.

The book is essentially one giant letter being written from Rowan Caine, who is sitting in jail on murder charges, to a solicitor she wants to help her in her defense. She wants to explain everything surrounding the incident and how everything came to be. Other than knowing that Rowan ends up being accused of a crime, the rest of it is in fairly chronological order.

When we first meet Rowan, she is working at a daycare facility and has recently been passed over for a promotion. So when an opportunity arises that would allow her to be a nanny for a wealthy family in the secluded Heatherbrae House, she jumps at the opportunity. It’s here she meets Jack Grant, a handyman, and more importantly, the three children she is to look after while their parents are away for a work trip.

“Don’t come here,” she whispered, still refusing to look at me. “it’s not safe.”
“It’s not safe?” I gave a little laugh. “Maddie, what do you mean?”
“It’s not safe,” she repeated, with a little angry sob, shaking her head harder so that her words were almost lost. “They wouldn’t like it.”


Left alone in a smart house, Rowan struggles to adapt to her new life. The two eldest children do not make things easy on her and weird things are happening around the house. Rowan can’t sleep due to the footsteps above her room at night and she feels like she’s going mad. But she’s determined to figure out exactly what’s going on, while holding on to explosive secrets.

It was like there were two forces in the house, one fighting to drive me away, another to protect me. But who—who was doing this?

I love nothing more than a secluded setting. Private homes/islands, secluded boarding schools, etc. There’s just something so unnerving about being so isolated from the rest of society that lends itself to a creepy atmosphere. I will say I was on the edge of my seat for most of this book. It didn’t help I was reading late into the night, which made going to sleep a bit difficult.

It was well-paced, the characters were incredibly engaging and the atmosphere was perfectly creepy. The ending was fairly shocking, but also a bit frustrating. We never get a true resolution to Rowan’s letter to Mr. Wexham. If you like everything tied up in a pretty bow, please be aware that while you will know many things, there’s a big thing that is left unstated. While I do wish I knew exactly what happened in the aftermath, I overall loved the book and would easily call it my second favorite Ruth Ware, just after IADDW.

A child is dead, and the police, and the public, and the press, they all want someone to pay. And that someone must be me. But I didn’t kill that little girl, Mr. Wexham. I loved her. And I don’t want to rot in jail for something I didn’t do. Please, please believe me.

BOOK REVIEW: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

BOOK REVIEW: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-BrokaIf I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.

It’s hardly an uncommon thought here. Cameron Bright is a bitch … If every glare I earned, or didn’t earn but received nonetheless, bother me, I’d drown in the judgment.

If I’m Being Honest, the second book from Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, is a very loose retelling of The Taming of the Shrew/10 Things I Hate About You. Cameron is a mix of the Bianca and Kat characters and I suppose Brendan is somewhat like Patrick, but really, it is very loosely related. This retelling really focuses on a popular girl, a nerdy gaming boy and a whole cast of side characters.

I just want to start off by saying I love Cameron Bright. She is one of my favorite MC in YA books, all genres. She says exactly what she’s thinking to almost everyone (except her dad, but more on that later), and has no problem with people seeing her as a bitch. She has several close friends and is well-known around school. However, being from a lower social economic family than many of her classmates, Cameron strives to be the best at anything she does and controls what she can, as not everything in her life, especially her family life, does she even have an ounce of control.

After an unfortunate incident at a party involving Andrew and Paige, Cameron is desperate to show the school, and Andrew, that she is indeed not a bitch and goes out of her way to make up for past incidents. This starts with Paige, the girl who was part of the incident at the party, and her brother, Brendan.

As you can probably guess, as Cameron begins to hang out with Paige’s friends (and Brendan), her priorities in life start to shift. She begins to see other possibilities for her future, which she struggles to accept. She also struggles to balance her old life and this new one she is creating, and it ends up creating more conflict in life, even as she’s trying so hard to help and be nicer to everyone. Of course, she stumbles and reverts back to her natural tendencies, but Cameron never apologizes for being herself or realizing there are areas she could improve.

I don’t remove my hand. I follow him into the market, wondering for the second time what this is to him. He was just talking about going over to another girl’s house, I remind myself. But the way my hand feels in his, I’m having a really, really hard time convincing myself this isn’t a date.

I’m really happy how slowly Brendan and Cameron’s relationship came together. There were a lot of wonderful small moments that built into something beautiful. I especially loved their bonding after his father speaking to him about his grades. It really showed how both of them felt compelled to go a certain way in life due to family expectations, even if it wasn’t what they wanted at all. And speaking of families, my heart broke for Cameron regarding the relationship with her parents. Cameron is so desperate for any scrap of attention for her father, who knowingly and cruelly denies her. In her anger, Cameron often takes it out on her mother, who is battling her own issues. It’s heartbreaking all around and I was happy to see the seriousness of it juxtaposed with the rest of this happy book.


Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely liked it more than Always Never Yours. As I said before, I absolutely adored Cameron and liked so many of the other side characters. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a lot of resolution with Cameron and her “popular” friends at the end, but sometimes that’s how life is I guess. If you are looking for a funny and cute YA contemporary with not-quite-enemies-but-not-friends to lovers theme, this is a book for you.

“I’ve been trying this week not to pressure you into anything you didn’t want. But I’ve known what I want for a long time. Don’t ever doubt this, Cameron. I’m crazy about you. You, with your fierce intelligence and extraordinary talent. You, with your uncompromising opinions. And I want you to know it. I’m desperate for you to know it.”

BOOK REVIEW: Coral by Sara Ella

BOOK REVIEW: Coral by Sara EllaCoral by Sara Ella
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“You’re too emotional for your own good. Dramatic. Sensitive. Let those feelings hook you, and you’ll end up just. Like. Her. Sunken and unsalvageable.”

I wanted to like this book so much. I really did. This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. The description made it sound so good: A twist on The Little Mermaid, with the focus on mental health and wellness? Awesome, sign me up.

Unfortunately, it fell flat and ended up reading a little more like an afternoon special, rather than a nuanced look at mental health. For fair warning, there is a lot of discussion around attempting and characters dying by suicide in various manners. If this is a trigger for you, please avoid this book and this review. I’m also doing my best to use the most correct language possible, but if there is something I missed and should be corrected, please let me know!

But first, let me say that the beginning was awesome. We are immediately introduced to Coral, a mermaid living with her family under the sea. She has two sisters, a father and a grandmother. She is especially close to her eldest sister and grandmother, while her middle sister and father are more abrasive. As part of this world, mermaids are taught not to be too emotional, because if they allow their emotions to become too much, then the red tide will come and turn them to sea foam. Coral struggles with her emotions, especially in the wake of her sister’s death from the red tide. Her grandmother then whisks her away to the mortal world, where she wants to hunt down the human boy who made her sister fall in love with him and then broke her heart.

Meanwhile, we meet two humans: Brooke, who is in a mental health facility after attempting suicide and surviving. Here, she meets a great cast of characters, including a younger girl named Hope. We also meet Merrick, a teenage boy who is overwhelmed by his rich father’s expectations and the mental health struggles of his sister, Amaya. After Amaya attempts suicide and Merrick’s mother disappears, Merrick kidnaps his sister away from his father and takes her to stay with a friend in small coastal town south of San Francisco (I believe Monterey, which might be my favorite city in California as a personal side note). Here, Merrick struggles to provide for him and Amaya, as well as track down his mother.

It was a strange feeling. Longing for something she’d never have again. Hoping for the past, while at once realizing there was nothing she could do to change it.

So now that you know the characters, let’s talk plot. I thought the first 50% was really good. It was a lot of setup, but I liked all three major characters and was invested in each of their struggles. After this halfway point is where things began to fall apart for me. The biggest turning point was when Coral met Merrick on land (they have a brief meeting with her as a mermaid earlier in the book). There was a time jump and very little was explained (at the time) about how/why Coral was in school, when she was only on land to find her sister’s “prince.” And why did Merrick say he would help her find a “prince”? It’s a strange term to use and no character ever questioned it.

While the writing is good, the dialogue didn’t really sound like teenagers and a lot of the actions seemed to not be highly realistic either. There is a bit of insta-love (which I loathe) and some of the characters are deeply in love without a lot build up to it. I wasn’t invested in the love story at all, despite liking each character individually when I first met them. We get a lot of tell, not show, and it was frustrating. There’s also a surprise reveal about 60% of the way through, but if you’re paying attention, it’s fairly obvious. I didn’t have a problem with this reveal, other than I really like the story and world building that had been done with this storyline and was sad to see it mostly go away.

The ending was far from rushed. If anything, it was dragged out longer than it needed to be. And while I absolutely agree on how important mental health is, and I hope this book truly helps others who may be struggling, I felt like I was getting hit in the head over and over with inspirational messages. For example:

“No one would ever tell a cancer patient to ‘just get over it.’ Why people think they can tell those with a mental illness as much is baffling.”

This is such an important message, but it is continually spelled out word for word, over and over again. Nuance is not used here and while I’m inclined to believe this was intentional on the author’s part, I almost felt like I was reading materials from a seminar or class.

Overall, I feel a 3.5/5 rating is fair. I really enjoyed some aspects of this book and found the topic to be quite important, but felt the execution could have been better and less after school special, especially as the book wrapped up.

“You’re not nothing either,” I tell her. “I guess that makes us both something.”

Coral will be released on November 12, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: The Au Pair by Emma Rous

BOOK REVIEW: The Au Pair by Emma RousThe Au Pair by Emma Rous
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads






Synopsis:

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

Something strange happened here on the day they were born.

The Au Pair is good mystery novel, centering around the Mayes family. Years before, Seraphine and her twin brother Danny were born, and in a matter of hours after their birth, their mother dies from what is considered suicide. Following the death of their father when they are adults, Seraphine finds a family photograph that raises a lot of questions about the fateful day. With her grandmother unable to clarify the events of her mother’s death, Seraphine begins to look for the au pair that was with the family at that time.

Why did they pose for a family photo with only one of their new babies?” I ask. “Why do they looks so–so normal, Mum and Dad, and yet a few hours after this was taken, Mum was dead? I don’t understand how it happened.

Naturally, Seraphine’s attempt to dig into past is met with resistance by many around her, including her brothers and her grandmother. She speaks with many people in the small, sea-side town, including the next door neighbor/childhood friend and his father, who spent a lot of time around the estate.

As with many mystery/thrillers, this book utilizes a split narrative and timeline. In present day, we follow Seraphine as she peels back the layers of her family; in the past, we follow the Laura, the Mayes’ au pair, and slowly learn about what happened and how it came to be.

I want to go back to the way things were before I found the photo. I want to be left to mourn my father without questioning whether he was my father.

Overall, I was fairly happy with the story. To many avid thriller readers, there probably isn’t a lot new here. I didn’t find the twists to be fairly obvious, but I wasn’t overall shocked by it either. I also had just come off reading, (spoilers for those who may have read this book first) View Spoiler » However, that didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment. I really liked Seraphine, and especially enjoyed her relationship with her brothers.

I thought the story line wrapped up nicely and I wasn’t left with a lot of lingering questions, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. I will definitely check out what Emma Rous writes next.

“Why did you go looking for her?” His voice is quieter now but deeper, scratchy. “Why did you do this to us?”

Older posts

© 2019

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: