Need a good thriller in your life?

Hey readers!

I am finally getting around to blogging again. When I heard news that “The Girl on the Train” was being turned into a movie, I was equal parts excited and nervous. This was an outstanding thriller and I didn’t want it to be ruined because of the movie, so I recommend reading the novel first if you plan on watching the movie.

So, I normally do not read mystery/thriller novels, for no particular reason other than I always gravitate toward fantasy and/or YA Fiction. However, I spotted a novel at Barnes & Noble and I felt drawn to it. I am intrigued by trains and, honestly, it was the title that caught my attention. When I picked it up and read the description, I knew that it would be a thriller that I might actually enjoy. I walked my happy self to the counter and bought what I now consider one of the best thrillers of 2015!

22557272

Official Summary:

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

My Review:

I give this novel 4 stars out of 5. Hawkins does an excellent job of keeping the reader hooked and not losing track of the main plot. This novel is written from three women’s point of views, but the main protagonist is Rachel. She’s hit rock bottom in her life: her husband cheated on her and now they’re divorced. She’s an alcoholic, and for several months now she has been unemployed. Her daily routine is to take the train into London, even after losing her job. Rachel’s routine is how Hawkins portrays the main idea for this novel- the idea of observation. Ever heard of phrases that go something like, “We don’t always see things the way they truly are”? This thriller novel deeply explores that thought. The only negative comment I have about the novel is that I felt like there could have been some rearranging of scenes to add build up of suspense earlier in the book. It seemed to me like all of the real suspense and shocking moments were clustered together toward the end of the novel, and not enough spread out through the whole book. Otherwise, I highly recommend this novel.

A Fascinating Fairy tale spin off!

Good afternoon, readers! I was at Target about a month ago, and I was browsing through the book aisle (of course) when I noticed a series of books with colorful covers and the title “Whatever After.” I flipped the back of the first book and read a cute and spunky description. It went like this:

“Mirror Mirror on the basement wall… Once upon a time a mirror slurped up me and my brother, and magically transported us inside Snow White’s fairy tale. Then we stopped Snow White from eating the poisoned apple. Hooray! Or not. If Snow White doesn’t die, she won’t meet her prince or get her happy ending. Oops. Now it’s up to us to fix Snow White’s story. And then, fingers crossed, find our way home.”

I rehearsed in my head how I would explain to my husband this particular purchase…

book

Abby is the new girl in her fifth grade class. She and her family recently moved and it has been a little rough on Abby. She’s not particularly shy, but being the “new kid” in class always has its downsides. Also, it seems like everyone in this town does everything different! For example, she was taught to slice bananas and add them to a peanut butter sandwich to make the perfect PB Banana, but here they mix up the peanut butter and banana together and then spread the gooey mix onto their bread. Weirdos! Abby finds solace at the library and thinks often about her future (she is going to be a judge one day).
One night, her younger brother, Jonah, wakes her up and tells her that the basement mirror is turning colors and making weird noises. Alarmed, but also curious, she follows him to the basement. One event led to another and they get slurped (literally) into the mirror and spat out in Snow White’s world! However, they do not know that fact when they first get there. They figure it out when they run into the Evil Queen, disguised as an old lady, trying to give Snow White a poisoned apple. They rescue her and she doesn’t eat the apple! Isn’t that how her story goes, though? Once they realize who she is and what they did, they try to help Snow White obtain her happy ending and marry her Prince Charming.
I loved this story! I honestly do plan on reading more in this series (and I’ve mentioned to you all before that I am normally not a series person.) This was such a creative twist to Snow White and I loved how the author used this twist not only to be unique, but also to empower girls/children. Abby is a strong and determined young girl and Jonah is attentive to detail and kind-hearted. I cheered them on and knew they’d find a way to help out Snow White.
If you have young children (girls or boys because honestly, books have no gender and both sexes could enjoy this series), or if you’re a teacher and looking for a good series to read to your students, or even if you’re like me and still like to read all age levels of Young Adult Fiction, pick up this book!
I enjoy reading novels that are spin offs of fairy tales! I like seeing what other authors take out of them and see what they add in on their own accord. Some books that are inspired by fairy tales that I’ve enjoyed are: “Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow” by: Jessica Day George, and “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine.
Until next time!

“Sinner” by Maggie Stiefvater

Hello readers!

It is raining all week and I could not be more happy. Well, I could if I were able to enjoy the rain by staying home all week reading and drinking coffee. (How cliché, right?) Anyway, I recently read Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. If you’ve ever heard of the “Wolves of Mercy Falls” Young Adult series, Sinner is the fourth book and focuses mainly on Isabel Culpeper and Cole St. Clair.

untitled

Setting: Los Angeles, California. Extremely different atmosphere compared to the quiet, mysterious, and languid town of Mercy Falls, Minnesota.

Time: Sinner picks up a few months after everything that happened in Forever. Cole is back in the music scene, sort of, while Isabel is living with her mom, Aunt, and cousin. Cole is continuing his music career by agreeing to make a reality show with a host named Baby North. Isabel’s mom and dad separated and now she is studying for a CNA degree and working at a boutique called Blush.

Throughout the entire novel, there is this underlying tension between Isabel and Cole. Isabel is not sure of Cole’s motives (whether he really wants to be with her or use her as a distraction, as well as if he is serious about staying clean from drugs) and Cole is not sure of who he is after everything that happened in Mercy Falls. He has kept clean except for the mix of chemicals that he discovered can turn him back into a wolf temporarily. Cole uses this as his new “high”. As a wolf, he doesn’t feel anything- no emotions, no regrets, not even good feelings- he is focused solely on wolf needs and it clears his head much better than anything else ever did. Cole is trying so hard to fill the void that developed first while he was lost in drugs and meaningless sex, then later with the death of his best friend Victor.
On the opposite end, Isabel is drowning in the void that developed from the death of her brother, her parent’s separation, and the uncertainty of how things will be in life with Cole coming back into the picture. Isabel keeps all of this hurt inside and uses it as fuel for her sarcasm and (fake) apathy which builds a thicker wall around her against everyone else. She wants to stay isolated from everyone and just dwell in the pain alone. Meanwhile, Cole runs away from his pain.

Stiefvater does an outstanding job with character development in Sinner. In the first three novels of the series, the focus is mainly on Grace and Sam (as far as couples go). Sinner truly captures more of Cole and Isabel and it is refreshing to see that they are just as relatable. Cole is a charismatic person but always has his public mask on. He cannot seem to escape the “Cole St. Clair” that he is known for, in order to start over. Only Isabel can see the real Cole, and that attracts him to her more than anything else. Isabel, however, doesn’t care to keep a public mask on but rather wriggles in the shells of her personality that keep people at a distance. Again, Cole can see the real Isabel but even then it’s glimpses. BOTH know that the other can be that void filler but are unsure if it is the right thing to do by being together. Cole and Isabel feel real and complete when together and it scares them both because they are afraid to lose that feeling. Cole chases after that feeling, Isabel shrinks away from it. Something else they both have in common, and plays a big role in what created a void in each of them, is survivor guilt. Isabel feels alone with her brother dead and Cole feels lost and guilty from the death of Victor.

Likes:

  • The chemistry between them is hot! Unlike Grace and Sam, Isabel and Cole are like magnets- sometimes attracted, sometimes pulled apart, but regardless it is there.
  • Cole and Isabel’s story has more aspects of life that are relatable like drug abuse, divorce, death, anxiety over the future, changing yourself, etc. I liked the heavy fantasy element in Shiver, Linger, and Forever, but I thought the more realistic approach in Sinner added to the difference between the two couples.

Dislikes:

  • I didn’t like how Isabel treated her cousin, Sofia. That may be a dumb dislike, but none-the-less I found it to be exhausting. Sofia was Isabel’s soundboard and she had to deal with the consequences of Isabel’s anger and bitterness. However, Sofia had no backbone hardly at all which made this relationship even more exhausting to read about.
  • Despite the difference between the first three novels and Sinner, as far as fantasy element goes, I still am drawn more to Grace and Sam rather than Isabel and Cole. For this novel, reality suited it more though so I’m not complaining.
  •  Cole and Isabel are complicated. Again, their relationship suited the novel really well, but they were such an emotional roller coaster to read about. It made me appreciate the ease of Sam and Grace!

I’d give this novel 4 out of 5 stars!

I’ll be writing again soon. 🙂

“Strange Angels” by Lili St. Crow

Hello again!

I recently finished Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow. I received this novel from my good friend Tanner as a Christmas gift… I think two years ago. I’m reeeaaallllllyy bad about receiving books as gifts but not reading them until much later… Honestly though, it feels like when I finish a book there are five books added to my “To-Read” list. I’m sure someone can relate to this!

SA_REVISED.indd

Strange Angels is a fantasy YA book. I thought it was a fun read but I also didn’t really think there was anything about it that stood out from the other vampire/werewolf/paranormal YA novels or series. Maybe that’s okay to some people! I tend to get exhausted of a certain genre after I’ve read books that seem like they are repeating each other’s plots and settings, but if you are the type of reader who generally wants to read anything that has those fantasy elements, this is a must read.

Dru Anderson is a teenage girl who is constantly on the move with her ex-Marine father. He is a demon hunter of creatures of the Real World, and Dru is training to become one. (I thought it was interesting how St. Crow made the world of fantasy creatures the “real” world.) Dru is sarcastic and witty, and so is St. Crow’s writing. Her writing makes Dru seem like a relatable character and that was a factor that made reading this book easy. Early on in the novel, Dru’s father goes out to hunt a creature he’s been after but doesn’t come back the same… He was turned into a zombie, and when he came back to the house he and Dru were temporarily living in, Dru had no choice but to eliminate what was left of her dad. On top of the fact that she is now alone, she struggles with what her grandmother called “the touch”, which helped her dad find these Real World creatures. Dru is unaware of the great power within her that will later blossom in the series, but for now it is a gift that she does not feel blessed to possess.

Enter Graves, the guy who is goofy, kind, slightly puppy-love sick, and basically Dru’s sidekick. He notices one day when Dru skipped class, and the next time she showed up and left, he followed her out of the classroom. (Stalker, much? Is he related to Edward Cullen? Just kidding. I still love the Twilight series.) At first Dru finds him annoying for trying to wiggle his way into her life by following her around, but after a couple of chapters that reveal him helping Dru any time she needed help, and genuinely being a nice human being, he grows on you. In a freak attack at the mall Dru and Graves have been bunkering in- the first of many attacks that leave them rattled- Graves is thrown into Dru’s reality when he is bitten and changed into a loup-garou (half werewolf). Throughout the novel, Dru and Graves fight off Real World creatures that are all coming after Dru, but she doesn’t know why and can barely keep Graves together to take it all in.

We later meet Christophe, who is a djamphir (half vampire) who is also, apparently, Dru’s “guardian angel.” Christophe rocks Dru’s world by revealing to her that her mother was a very powerful she-vampire and that she too will become one very soon. Sergej, a vampire that has been after her mother and later whom her father was trying to hunt all of these years, is behind all of the attacks that have been happening. Can Dru hold on for the bumpy ride that leads to her destiny? Is she willing to even accept her destiny, or the change and responsibility it will bring?

I’ve read from other reviews that this first novel takes a lot of time developing the three main characters, and that other books in the series have more action. St. Crow does a good job of character development without dragging details out. Although there isn’t a lot of action, the scenes that do have action also hold a lot of information and foreshadowing for what will happen later on. I probably won’t pick up the rest of the novels in this series only because I’m a little burnt out on vampires and werewolves for now, but if you aren’t, then definitely finish the series and let me know how it is! If you like Vampire Academy by: Richelle Mead, The Mortal Instruments series by: Cassandra Clare, or anything to do with vampires, werewolves, and/or paranormal, you should check this book out purely out of love for those elements.

The Light Between Oceans book review

Hello, readers!

I’ve completed two novels and am currently halfway through my third book of 2015! I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging lately because I was studying for the GRE, took the GRE, and last Friday I sent in my application for Grad school… Keep your fingers crossed for me! You know, I think it is highly amusing when you’re watching a t.v. show and it seems as if the characters are going through the same thing you are. For example, I am three episodes away from finishing the last season of Gilmore Girls; I just watched the episode where Rory is anxious to hear back from a fellowship she applied for, while Paris gets accepted into every school she applied for. Rory didn’t get accepted for the fellowship… so I’m hoping and praying that my fate matches Paris’s instead of Rory’s.

Needless to say, I’ve been stressed out since December when it hit me that I’m actually about to start the application process and not just spending time studying quantitative problems that I will never use in my life.

Anyway, I’m finally able to take the time to write book reviews again. I also started another reading challenge for 2015. I have decided to focus on book series that I’ve been meaning to finish, like The Lord of The Rings trilogy and some YA series like Delirium and Matched.

Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman was an audio book that I purchased on my Audible account. I’m not a huge fan of audio books but I occasionally will get one if I’ve had enough of the radio. I’m so glad I picked up this novel.

book

Below is the synopsis of The Light Between Oceans from Goodreads:

“After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M.L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.”

I found this novel to be a fascinating read (or rather listen.) The writing style is very descriptive, but not as far as Tolkien descriptive, rather more classical writing than dialogue writing. The setting of the novel mainly exists at Janus Rock. Isolated, quiet, and a place of responsibility, Janus Rock- a tiny island near Australia- reminds me of the type of symbolic setting similar to the settings in Jane Eyre.

We meet Tom, the husband and protagonist #1, around the time that he returns from WWI. There is a scene where we are shown his first “good deed” after the war, and it is very important later on in the novel. A woman named Hannah is being harassed and Tom saves her. This is the first of many times that he does things with the mindset of doing good deeds, and he does so because he is trying to atone for the things he did during war. Deeply affected by the war (I suspect PTSD), Tom finds comfort and solitude when he becomes the new lighthouse keeper.

Protagonist #2, Isabel, is the wife of Tom and definitely the more imaginative and flighty of the two. She’s kind-hearted and adventurous, but has trouble feeling completely content with the isolation that Janus Rock offers.

We are led to believe that the main conflict of the story is Isabel’s struggle to have a baby, and how her miscarriages affect the marriage and bond between Tom and Isabel. In actuality, the main conflict is about what the RIGHT thing to do is in certain situations and the nature of people in their choices.
-Tom believes that no matter how much he loves Isabel and Lucy, the right thing to do is to come clean about everything and to set things right, no matter how devastating it would be to himself and Isabel.
-Isabel believes this is a prayer answered in an unusual way, and that even though it’s sad that they found out Lucy’s dad was dead in the boat and that her biological mother is alive, the right thing to do is to “move forward”. Let the breaks stay clean and give Lucy a second chance/give them a second chance.

There is also an underlying message about the aftermath of war (particularly on society) and how any race can be deemed unworthy or at any point a soldier can be seen from heroic to psychotic. The power of influence is strong but can easily be misguided. I found this message fascinating because of everything that has been and still is going on with conflict in the Middle East. In The Light Between Oceans, any German person was criticized and ostracized because of the war, and that includes Lucy’s biological father (but that’s all I’m saying on that subject.)

The last two chapters are tragically beautiful. Stedman paints a portrait of forgiveness, of resentment, of growth and of undying love. Circle. Lucy-Grace (you’ll have to read to see why her name changes!) visits Tom years later with her newborn and she tells him that she understands why they did what he and Isabel did. Compassion.

I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars! I inhaled heartache but exhaled unconditional love while reading this novel. If you like Jane Eyre or Girl with The Pearl Earring, this novel is for you.

Juliet Immortal

Hi fellow readers!

I finished “Juliet Immortal” by Stacey Jay last month. I bought it as an e-book for my Barnes and Noble app… a few years back. I figured it was finally time to try it out.

Summary:

The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn’t take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn’t anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she’s fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she’s forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

juliet

Likes:

The writing style is like velvet. It was so easy to read through this novel and my attention was focused throughout. I personally have a very hard time with some novels because of the writing style. If it is too choppy, I lose that cinematic quality (almost like I can see a movie playing in my mind) and I cannot fully grasp the novel’s world. Also, the narration was sometimes written in train of thought, which I like.

I read other reviews and there seemed to be more negative feedback on the altered fate of Romeo and Juliet. However, I found it interesting how Jay twisted the original tragedy into one that became intertwined with the fantasy world of sort-of vampires and sort-of angels that are matchmakers, AND that Romeo and Juliet are against each other!

When writing an alternative story to a previously existing one, I think repetitiveness is relevant so that the reader does not forget the comparison. “Juliet Immortal” has enough repetition that I never lost track of the comparisons, but not overbearing to where it became too incessant.

Both Romeo and Juliet have spent countless times going back and forth between “limbo” and then going back to Earth and inhabiting other bodies to fulfill their immortal duties. They have contact with their leaders… until this trip to Earth. They are now known as Ariel and Dylan who are high school students in California. Here is where things are different in this trip: neither Dylan nor Ariel can contact their superiors. The reason is not revealed until closer toward the end of the novel, but it leaves enough suspense for the reader to wonder what will happen to them if they are truly stranded on Earth in these bodies that are only supposed to be temporarily inhabited.

The relationship between Ariel and Ben. Which leads me to the Dislikes…

Dislikes:

The relationship between Ariel and Ben. Why? There was hardly any relationship building between the two. That is one of my biggest pet peeves about novels, is if there is lack of character development or relationship development. Basically, toward the end of the novel, there is a scene in a barn with Ariel and Ben where they spend the entire night sharing things about themselves- their fears, dreams, past, present- and I got hooked. For about a second. THAT scene should have been in the beginning, maybe after a few dates or something. It boils down to the fact that Ariel and Ben’s relationship is not developed enough to be believable. Everything else is great, but lack of development really made it hard for me to like their relationship.

Gemma, Ariel’s best friend. She ironically is a refreshing change to the timidness and insecurity that is Ariel, but still Gemma is such a rotten brat and so rude to Ariel that she’s one of those characters who I loved to hate.

If you enjoyed reading “Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater or “Hush” by Becca Fitzpatrick, Goodreads suggests “Juliet Immortal.” I have read “Shiver” and I absolutely adore that series, but the relationship between Grace and Sam is so deeply developed that the reader feels like they are in the middle of it. I would still suggest “Juliet Immortal” if you liked “Shiver” or “Hush” and enjoy Young Adult fantasy/paranormal books, despite my dislikes!

Seeing as the end of December is getting closer and closer, I’m afraid that I won’t complete my Reading Challenge, but we shall still see how many books I can finish until then!

Need by: Carrie Jones

Hello, everyone!

I know it has been awhile since I last blogged, however, I finished a novel by Carrie Jones called “Need”. It is the first book in the Need series. I bought this book for my Nook app about a year ago and I kept forgetting I had it. I was updating my Goodreads.com profile when I randomly scrolled through my list of “To Read” books. “Need” was on that list ever since I started college, so I decided to go ahead and read it. To be honest, out of 5 stars I would only give it 2.5. I really wanted to like reading this book, but I just didn’t.

 

need

 

“Need” starts out with an alphabetical list of phobias. The beginning of this novel takes place (in what I would assume a general “modern” time frame) in Maine, USA. The main character, Zara White, is on her way to her grandmother’s house. Her step-father recently died and her mother sent Zara to live with her grandmother because Zara “was acting lifeless.” The story then moves on to Zara’s experience at a new school with some nice people but more rude or unimportant people. At school she befriends overly-nice Issy, friendly Devyn, and develops a crush on mysterious Nick. Zara quickly makes enemies with the popular girl, Megan, increasingly fears an unknown man that seems to be following her while leaving a trail of gold dust, discovers that teenage boys are going missing from this small Maine town, and then she tries to figure out who this stalker guy is.

Issy, Devyn, Nick, and Zara all begin to research pixies and quickly come to the conclusion that stalker guy is a pixie. Soon after this discovery, more weird occurrences happen and Zara thinks it is her duty to find this guy. Zara quickly discovers that almost everyone around her is either a pixie or a “were” (werewolf, weretiger, etc.) and she’s freaked out. But wait! Zara then is not so freaked out and continues to find this stalker guy, only to learn that creepy, stalker guy is her biological father and she is half pixie. Zara is kidnapped, all of the were-animals save her and the pixies are all captured in their one mansion due to a bunch of iron products surrounding them.

If you did not like that summary, then I will tell you now that you will not like the book. Carrie Jones’s weakest point in her writing was development. The characters, the setting, the plot… all of it was terribly under-developed. The characters, I thought, would have been likable and relatable if they had more background and were written as full characters, not flat characters. Another weakness that was portrayed in “Need” was the overbearing amount of dialogue. Jones didn’t find the balance between dialogue and descriptive narration and I often thought that half of the dialogue could have been cut out because it was pointless to the actual story. A few saving graces were the fantasy element of the pixies and the were-animals, but only because I love reading fantasy novels so it was still enough for me to enjoy. Although the phobias that Zara often recited didn’t have a whole lot to do with the pixies and were-animals, it was interesting to see how Jones made a parallel to overcoming fears by recognizing what the fear actually is.

If you enjoyed reading “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer, “Evermore” by Alyson Noel, or “Darkfever” by Karen Marie Moning, you might want to give “Need” a try and see for yourself if you like it. However, if you did not like any of those books, I would highly suggest not picking up “Need”.

I am currently reading, well… I’m actually juggling between a few books right now, but once I am back from my honeymoon and have completely finished one of those novels, I will write another book review!