Tag: fiction (page 1 of 3)

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?”

BOOK REVIEW: Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson

BOOK REVIEW: Even If I Fall by Abigail JohnsonEven If I Fall by Abigail Johnson
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads






Synopsis:

A year ago, Brooke Covington lost everything when her beloved older brother, Jason, confessed to the murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke and her family became social pariahs, broken and unable to console one another. Brooke’s only solace remains the ice-skating rink, where she works but no longer lets herself dream about a future skating professionally.

When Brooke encounters Calvin’s younger brother, Heath, on the side of the road and offers him a ride, everything changes. She needs someone to talk to…and so does Heath. No one else understands what it’s like. Her brother, alive but gone; his brother, dead but everywhere. Soon, they’re meeting in secret, despite knowing that both families would be horrified if they found out. In the place of his anger and her guilt, something frighteningly tender begins to develop, drawing them ever closer together.

But when a new secret comes out about the murder, Brooke has to choose whose pain she’s willing to live with—her family’s or Heath’s. Because she can’t heal one without hurting the other.

Thank you to NetGalley, Abigail Johnson and Harlequin Teen for my free ARC in exchange for an honest review.


“I’m not allowed to feel bad in front of you. I’m not allowed to feel bad in front of anyone, but especially not you, and I don’t know how to stop.”

“Even If I Fall” by Abigail Johnson is a hauntingly beautiful YA novel about love, family and forgiveness. As I described it to a friend, it reminded me of a more tragic, YA version of Mariana Zapata’s “From Lukov with Love.”

As the synopsis says, the story follows Brooke, who (along with her family) become social pariahs following her brother Jason’s murder of his best friend, Calvin. Brooke’s family is shattered, and each member struggles to deal with the loss of someone who is still alive, but admitted to committing an unspeakable crime. Also dealing with the loss of a brother, enter Heath, Cal’s younger brother.

“I resist another urge to press my back against my door. Not because I’m physically afraid of Heath, but because I’m afraid of what he might say and how his words could shred me if he wants them to.”

One day, Brooke offers Heath a ride into town. And that’s how the story of Brooke and Heath begins. Both are struggling with the loss of a brother, though Brooke knows Heath’s pain comes from the decision of her own brother. There are so many layers of loss, sadness and struggle. There’s also a good deal of anger and resentment. It’s a lot for our main characters to deal with, but I thought it was all very realistic and thoughtful.

After several other encounters, Brooke eventually asks Heath with his help training for an ice skating tour, as Brooke is an excellent skater. Heath ultimately agrees and they being spending more time together, but not before agreeing to keep it a secret from their respective families.

We keep trying to not hurt each other. But I did and he did. We are.

While it was fairly obvious what some of the main plot points were going to be, it didn’t make the story any less enjoyable. I adored both Brooke and Heath and their slow-burn relationship. It was so well done and the build up was great. I also enjoyed the cast of characters around Brooke. They were all well-defined and added so much to the story. I would love to see a novella or long-form epilogue some day, as I’d love to see what everyone is up to after some time has past from the book’s ending.

As steady as his arms are, my heart is beating wildly. And he just keeps holding me in the air like that, like I weigh nothing and he can go on holding me forever.

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen HamiltonThe Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads






Synopsis:

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She's even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she'll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it's worth all the pain...

Thank you to NetGalley, Karen Hamilton and Wildfire for my free ARC.


I loved him and yet I’d been unable to stop him making the biggest mistake of his life. He was mine.

Juliette loved Nate. Nate decided to end his relationship with Juliette. Juliette cannot let Nate go and will do anything to get him back. And thus begins our story.

Once upon a time, I could walk up to him and hug him any time I pleased. Now, I am not allowed. Those are the rules. I have not been given any choice or say in the matter.

Juliette is both highly problematic and also sympathetic in moments. After being dumped by Nate, an airline pilot, Juliette becomes a flight attendant to worm her way back into his life. She is methodical, disciplined and tries to stay three steps ahead of everyone else. It honestly sounds exhausting, but Juliette is nothing but dedicated.

He thinks he doesn’t want me, but he’s proving that he does. It’s all up to me to help him come to terms with his feelings so this whole mixed-messages thing stops.

This book is very much along the lines of Kaira Rouda novels or “The Last Mrs. Parrish.” I found it hard to put down because I wanted to see what Juliette would do next. I think my mouth dropped open as some of the pieces fell together at the end. I felt like I should have seen it coming, but I was so invested in what was in front of me, I wasn’t really trying to piece it together like that.

Some people may hate the ending, as it is not the cleanest, but I didn’t mind. After all the events of the book, it seemed fairly realistic. It thought this was very well written and while Juliette was far from a good person, I did have sympathy for her, especially as we learn about her background. I didn’t want her to succeed, but I did want her to get the help she very much needed.

If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t, make them.

Older posts

© 2019

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: