REVIEW: THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by MACKENZI LEE

Click here to read the book synopsis on Goodreads.

I am so glad that I picked this book up! It made me laugh out loud in public and feel so much love for exceptionally flawed characters – something that I haven’t felt for many books prior.

The main character, Monty, is an 18 year old piece of work troublemaker that gets into all kinds of trouble, like running through Versailles naked and getting purposefully getting arrested. He is taking what we would now call a “gap year” to tour Europe before taking on his adult responsibilities. He travels with his best friend (that he also happens to be hopelessly in love with), Percy, and his sassy sister, Felicity. The chemistry between the characters is unlike any other book I’ve read, filled with wit, sarcasm, and charm.

The one liners in this book are so quotable and hilarious, and I definitely choked on my coffee when Felicity said, “Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish with blood”. ICONIC.

REVIEW: ThHE BOOK OF ESSIE by MEGHAN MACLEIN WEIR

REVIEW: The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclein Weir, ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

The Book of Essie had me completely hooked from the first chapter. A tale of betrayal, compromise, a tangled web of lies, and familial tension, I never felt bored. Narrated by 3 very different and dynamic characters, the story took unexpected turns each time I felt like I was figuring things out. I enjoyed the depth of each character as we learned more of their story, and found myself rooting for all the right people to find happiness in the end. I wanted to crawl into the book and smack a few people, shake a few by their shoulders, and hug the rest.

A quick read with lots of discussion topics, The Book of Essie was everything I hoped it to be.

REVIEW: WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by MARIA SEMPLE

REVIEW: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 /5

This book was a refreshing change from the heavier, more “think-y” books that I’ve been into lately. There’s something about cooler weather that makes me change my taste in books – picking up a 500 page book doesn’t make me bat an eye the way that it would in the summer. This one was a quicker, shorter read, though, and I enjoyed it.

Bernadette Fox was the most outlandish character I think I’ve encountered in the last year, and I’m okay with it. I found myself laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of her antics while I read through them on the bike at the gym (my fellow YMCA members probably think I’m crazy, oh well). As a mom, I could relate to how frantic Bernadette felt at times, but I couldn’t look away as she derailed.

My biggest struggle with this book was the lack of likable characters. Bee was the best part of the book, but we don’t hear a whole lot about her in comparison to the adults. These adults are all kinds of atrocious and embarrassing, with little to no care about how their actions will effect other people.

I liked this lighter approach to mental health awareness, however, and felt that the book had a great message – when someone shows signs of a mental break, get them help before it is out of control. Or else the person may end up like Bernadette, and just disappear one day.

REVIEW: THE LAST TIME I LIED by RILEY SAGER

REVIEW: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

I’m the first to admit that I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to a thriller. Even if I don’t see a twist coming, they rarely surprise me because I tend to think the worst of people and expect every character to secretly be awful – even the narrator in most books.

This one, however, kept me guessing until the end in the best way possible. The narrator Emma was extremely relatable and vulnerable throughout the story. I loved how honest she was with herself as she went on this sort of trip of self discovery as she went back to the summer camp that hosted the worst summer of her life.

Told through flashbacks and current day scenarios, the story unfolded at a steady pace with new twists every time I felt myself starting to wonder what was going to happen next. I will absolutely read Riley Sager again – this one pulled me out of a reading slump and made me appreciate good writing all over again.

REVIEW: THE DINNER LIST by REBECCA SERLE

REVIEW: The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

This book was a solid three stars for me. I saw so many positive, five star reviews for this one! I wanted to love it so bad, but ended up feeling like it was entertaining but forgettable.

Here were the positives for me: the chapters were short and read quickly and easily. I never felt bored. I didn’t have to “think” too much while I read it, and that was the kind of read I needed right now. It also created for a great discussion with Courtney – I mean, we chatted for an hour and we still could’ve covered more ground!

Cons (SPOILERS BELOW SO PROCEED WITH CAUTION): the characters were forgettable and there were too many of them, so I couldn’t get attached to them. There was no resolution at the end of the book in the sense that I never found out exactly what happened – was Sabrina dreaming? Was it a hallucination? Was it actually real?

I liked the book but didn’t love it. I would read something else by Rebecca Serle because I loved the writing style, I just didn’t love the plot/ending of this one.

REVIEW: SADIE by COURTNEY SUMMERS

REVIEW: “Sadie” by Courtney Summers ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

This uniquely crafted, heart-wrenching psychological thriller pulled me in from the very beginning. Y’all know how much I love true crime podcasts – and THERE IS A (fictional) TRUE CRIME POD INCORPORATED INTO THE BOOK! I felt like I could hear the narrators voices, experience the anguish the characters felt, and found myself totally engrossed in the story before I knew what was happening. I have never read a book like this – and it made for an interesting ride as I worked my way through the story and found out new clues about the situation at hand with each chapter.
With relatable characters, hot topic subjects, and a conversational prose, Summers brings a story to the table that people will talk about for years to come. Now, can I formally ask for a sequel? Can I get an “amen”?

REVIEW: An ANONYMOUS GIRL by GREER HENDRICKS and SARAH PEKKANEN

Thank you to Netgalley for a free advanced copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Phew! This was dark, twisty, and gripping. Told from two perspectives, the story reminded me of a snowball – starting small but growing and gaining momentum as I turned the pages. Finally, the snowball flew off a cliff, and my heart stopped as I waited for the story to crash land and give me the resolution I needed. Be sure to pick up your copy when this book is released 1/8/2019!

There are two main characters in this book: Jessica, a young makeup artist trying to make a living in NYC, and Dr. Lydia Shields, a psychiatrist conducting a research study on ethics. Jessica ends up a subject in the study and finds her world colliding with Dr. Shields’ in a way that she never expected. Both carrying major secrets, one would think they have a lot in common, but it turns out that they couldn’t be more different.

Dr. Shields uses money, power, and intimidation to force Jessica into taking a larger role in the study than Jessica realized. She ends up on a slippery slope with nobody to pull her out of it but herself – can she do it?

The only reason I couldn’t give this one 5 stars was because I felt like the rising action was just a bit too long. I really found myself connecting with Jessica and hoping that her character was going to come out of the story okay. The rising action made me nervous, but by the time we got to the bulk of the drama of the book, I felt a little bored. But the story was completely redeemed in the last 5 chapters.

REVIEW: FANGIRL by RAINBOW ROWELL

** spoiler alert ** I read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell years ago and I don’t remember much about it except that I loved it. I went into Fangirl hoping I would get another Eleanor & Park – a story that captivated me and had me up ate at night to finish it.

Sadly, I did not get that. Instead, I got exceptional characters, slow rising action, a mediocre plot and an underwhelming ending. That is how I would sum up Fangirl for me.

Cath is an 18 year old headed off to college for the first time, and she spends the majority of her time writing fan fiction for the Simon Snow novels. Clips of her fanfic writing appear a lot throughout the book, so not only are we wrapped into Cath’s world, we are working with Baz & Simon’s fantasy world as well. Cath comes across as a plain Jane, a nerdy girl with little social experience, and she goes to college and is forced outside of her comfort zone.

We learn about her twin sister, Wren, who is Cath’s complete opposite despite looking identical. She is the wild one that enjoys everything that college kids talk about enjoying – the parties, meeting new people, etc. I liked that Cath and Wren were polar opposites because it gives readers the opportunity to find a little bit of themselves in one of the sisters.

This book has 3-4 other main characters that I won’t get into much, except Levi – the farm boy who takes an interest in Cath and smiles wider than anyone Cath has ever seen. Levi has the classic boy next door vibe and is kind to everyone he meets. While Levi is definitely flawed, he makes for a compelling love interest for Cath. Not too vanilla, but tame enough that she can handle him.

The story of Cath and Levi is sweet, the interactions with Cath and Wren are believable and realistic, and the portrayal of the first semester of college is a little watered down, but still good.

The main reason that this book didn’t receive 5 stars from me doesn’t lie in Cath’s storyline per se, though – it lies in the jumping back and forth between her real life and the world that she created for Simon Snow and Baz. I struggled with understanding how Simon and Baz’s world had anything to do with Cath and Levi. So, one star off for that..

And one star off for the ending – it just…ended. No resolution really, no huge win for Cath. I felt like the climax of the book (Wren getting hospitalized for drinking too much) was underwhelming, too.

Overall, I just felt “bleh” about it. It took me a week to read it which was a lot longer than the average for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

REVIEW: WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by DELIA OWENS

If I had the time, I would’ve read this book in one sitting. But, alas, I have responsibilities (being an adult can be rough), so it took me a little under a week to get through it. Now that I’ve finished the book, Delia Owens has made me a believer: a believer in her work, and a believer in the fact that I can read something that isn’t set in present day. This was the first book I have ever read that wasn’t contemporary fiction that I’ve given 5 stars to, so that’s saying something.

This story is written poetically and gracefully as it covers a span of nearly 20 years. The heart wrenching story of a little girl abandoned by everybody expected to love her absolutely broke me, but the way she learned to survive, thrive, and live on her own made her character even more lovable. Expecting everyone she ever meets to abandon her, Kya steals our hearts as she learns from her friend Tate how to read, write, and becomes educated about the marsh that she calls home.

When someone murders the town’s golden boy, Chase Andrews, Kya’s name shows up first on the suspect list. The trial of the mysterious “marsh girl” catches the attention of everyone in town and witnesses come out of the woodwork in an attempt to convict her. We get a firsthand look at a small town murder trial in the early 70’s, and many characters that made small cameos throughout the book showed back up in the courtroom. My heart broke at Kya’s loneliness as she lived 2 months in jail with nobody except the jailhouse cat to keep her occasional company.

The plot of this book kept me guessing until the very last page, but that was not my favorite part of the book. The characters made me fall in love. While Kya did not find the company of a whole lot of people, the ones that she associated with most often stole my heart. My heart leapt when Tate shows back up after years of absence, my stomach hurt when Chase mistreated Kya, Jumpin’ and Mabel gave more love to an abandoned girl than anyone I’ve ever known, and I felt like I knew each of them personally by the end of the book.

The ending broke me, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t know how I would have preferred for it to end, but I feel…unsettled. Regardless, I cannot give this book anything less than 5 stars. Well done, Owens. I cannot wait for the next thing you write.