Tag: books

Book Review: Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal

unmarriageable
Image belongs to Random House Publishing Group.

Title:  Unmarriageable
Author:  Soniah Kamal
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal.”

This is the belief that Alys Binat, second of five daughters and a literature teacher, faces in her students, girls who will likely marry instead of finishing school. That’s just how things are in Pakistan in the early 2000s, but Alys hopes to influence some of her students, nonetheless. Then her family is invited to the society wedding of the year, and her mother sees it as the perfect opportunity to showcase her five daughters.

The eldest, sweet Jena, catches the eye of “Bungles” Bingla, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Mrs. Binat is convinced a proposal is imminent. Alys and her best friend, Sherry, who is determined to marry so she can escape her home life, watch in amusement—and horror—as Aly’s mom and other three sisters—uber-religious Mari, flighty Lady, and artistic Qitty—make a less than stellar impression on Bungles’ sisters and very rich Valentine Darsee, his best friend. Alys hears Darsee’s scathing remarks about her and writes him off as a jerk.

But fate—and Jena and Bungles’ romance—keep throwing Alys and Darsee back into proximity, and Alys discovers the haughty man might not be quite as horrible as she thought. When Lady’s antics destroy the Binat family’s chances of ever holding their heads up in public, no one can save them. Except, maybe, Mr. Darsee.

Fact:  I love Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen had a phenomenal insight into people and portrayed them very well. Fact:  I know basically nothing about Pakistani culture.

Unmarriageable is a close re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, but it’s still its own story. The characters’ names made me laugh—Bungles—but there’s enough of the original in them to make them feel like old friends. I found Mr. Binat much more ineffectual than Mr. Bennet, but everyone else I enjoyed. Even Lady, annoyingly oblivious as she was. Alys was much more of a feminist than Elizabeth Bennet, but I love how her mind worked, and how quick she was to grasp her own mistakes. I highly recommend this!

Soniah Kamal was born in Pakistan, but grew up in England and Saudi Arabia and now lives in the U.S. She is an award-winning author and a creative-writing teacher. Unmarriageable is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Perfect Liar, by Thomas Christopher Greene

the perfect liar
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Perfect Liar
Author:  Thomas Christopher Greene
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Susannah’s first marriage was to an older man—her therapist—who spent a lot of time “helping” her work through her issues. Now, she’s married to handsome and charming Max, an artist and speaker whose new job at a university took them out of New York City to a small Vermont town where she hopes her 15-year-old son will thrive.

One morning, Susannah finds a note on the door. “I know who you are.” The note triggers her anxiety, and she worries her family is in danger, but Max thinks the note is just a prank. All the same, he starts looking at his coworkers and their neighbors with new eyes—do they know his secret? When a couple visit for dinner, Susannah finds Max’s behavior suspicious, and, a few days later, the man dies tragically while on a run with Max. Then, a second note appears. “Did you get away with it?”

Susannah knows Max is hiding dark secrets, but she has secrets of her own she wants to keep hidden. Who is leaving the notes? And just which secret is he or she talking about?

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and the writing was solid, but I couldn’t stand the characters. Susannah had a history of mental health issues as well as abuse, and I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t like her at all. She let life happen to her—except near the end of the book—instead of making choices and moving forward. Max was just creepy to me. I really wish I’d liked the characters more. I finished the book, which speaks to the quality of the plot and the writing, but the characters just didn’t work for me.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Massachusetts. The Perfect Liar is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: White Stag, by Kara Barbieri

white stag
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   White Stag
Author:   Kara Barbieri
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Janneke was the last child in a family of daughters, so she was raised as a son and heir. Instead of being trained as a wife and mother like her sisters, she learned to track, hunt, and fight.

A hundred years ago, goblins attacked and destroyed her village and her entire family, leaving her bound to the cruel goblin prince Lydian, who tortured her for years, before she became bound to his nephew, Soren.

Janneke is slowly losing her humanity amidst the violence of the goblin court, but when the king dies and the ancient hunt for the white stag to choose the next king begins, she must choose between her lingering memories of being human and her loyalty to Soren, who has only helped her grow stronger.

White Stag was dark, atmospheric, and broody—in a good way. The Permafrost setting is stark and made me shiver. Janneke grows a lot, especially as she learns truths she never knew. However, I didn’t get a good feel for the goblin culture, apart from violence and cruelty, and I really wanted to know more. There must be a reason for the violence, so more information would have given the culture more nuances. And I found all the characters besides Soren and Janneke to be mostly one-dimensional.

Kara Barbieri lives in Wisconsin. White Stag is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: An Anonymous Girl, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

an anonymous girl
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   An Anonymous Girl
Author:   Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Genre:   Suspense
Rating:   3 out of 5

Jessica Farris is a struggling makeup artist whose past haunts her when she takes a client’s place in a psychology study in an effort to make some extra money. She thought it would just be answering a few questions and collecting a check, but as the questions grow more personal—prompting her raw honesty—she starts to wonder.

Soon she’s meeting Dr. Fields one-on-one, and is fascinated by the brilliant, beautiful doctor. As the doctor’s questions get more personal, Jessica starts to wonder if the doctor knows what she’s thinking. Then their sessions become Jessica dressing as specified and following the doctor’s detailed instructions in encounters with other people.

Jessica isn’t sure she wants to continue in the study, but Dr. Fields knows so much about Jessica’s life she isn’t sure she can break the ties that bind them together—even when Jessica realizes just how twisted the good doctor’s mind really is.

I finished reading this, but my apathetic dislike for the characters made it a close thing. If even one of the characters had been likable, the book probably would have been engrossing, but as it is…well, the irony that Jessica gets into a study on ethics by lying is not lost on me…and tells you everything you need to know about her character. In the end, I think this just wasn’t the right book for me.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are New York Times bestselling authors. An Anonymous Girl is their newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Me I Meant to Be, by Sophie Jordan

the me i meant to be
Image belongs to HMH Books for Young Readers.

Title:  The Me I Meant to Be
Author:   Sophie Jordan
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Willa and Flor have been friends for years, so when Flor’s boyfriend breaks up with her, they start writing The Girl Code—starting with Never date a friend’s ex. Too bad Flor’s ex is Zach, Willa’s next-door-neighbor, best friend, and the guy she’s secretly had a crush on for years. But Willa would never betray a friend, so Zach is strictly off-limits.

Until she realizes there just might be a chance for her and Zach to be more than friends. Willa has always put others before herself, but she realizes that doing something for yourself can sometimes be important.

Flor wants to get back together with Zach. Her dad is obsessed with his much-younger girlfriend. She’s almost failing math. And she just wants something to change. Then she meets Grayson, her math tutor, and realizes sometimes the best things are hidden in plain sight.

I liked the female friendships in this book. They’re strong—even when tested to their limit. Neither Willa or Flor are clichés, they’re individuals with real problems, determined to support each other. Honestly, the romance took a back seat to the friendship aspects, which I really liked.

Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country and is a best-selling author. The Me I Meant to Be is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Similars, by Rebecca Hanover

the similars
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   The Similars
Author:   Rebecca Hanover
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

The elite Darkwood Academy is for high-achievers from wealthy families. It’s not cheap, and it’s not easy. But this year, it’s going to get a whole lot more competitive when six new students join the junior class. They’re more than overachievers, they’re clones. And their originals already attend Darkwood.

Emma doesn’t care about the clones. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer, and all she can think about is getting through each day without him. Until she meets Levi and realizes forgetting Oliver will be harder than she thought:  Levi is Oliver’s clone, and seeing his face every day makes life unbearable.

But something is going on with the clones. They’re hiding something, and Emma discovers they have unheard of abilities to go along with their secret agenda. When her friend is almost murdered, Emma realizes something darker is happening, and she must trust someone if she is to find out the truth. But can she really trust Levi?

This is set in a future-America, but not that future, so it was easy to make sense of the world (sadly). I enjoyed reading Emma’s point-of-view and cannot imagine having lost my best friend and then being faced with his clone every day. There is a lot going on here, and I feel like the author glossed over some things that will hopefully be explored in the rest of the series. I noticed there wasn’t a lot involving the instructors, which seemed a bit odd, considering the setting is basically a boarding school, but it wasn’t something that made the story feel fake. The Similars is definitely a book I recommend.

Rebecca Hanover is an Emmy-winning writer and graduate of Stanford. The Similars is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in 2018

Yearly total:  192 out of a goal of 150 books.

January 2018. (15)

February 2018. (13)

March 2018. (13)

April 2018. (15)

May 2018. (16)

June 2018. (11)

July 2018. (17)

August 2018. (19)

September 2018. (14)

October 2018. (21)

November 2018. (22)

December 2018 (18).

Here’s a link to my Goodreads Challenge page.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Accidental Beauty Queen, by Teri Wilson

AccidentalBeautyQueen-2-610x947
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   The Accidental Beauty Queen
Author:  Terri Wilson
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

Charlotte loves her job as a school librarian and intends to spend her vacation morally supporting her beauty-pageant-contestant twin sister, reading, and reveling in a Harry Potter theme park. Until her sister, Ginny, has an allergic reaction the night before the pageant and manages to convince Charlotte to take her place for a few days.

Charlotte is not prepared for layers of makeup, towering heels, or false eyelashes. She feels much more comfortable trading bookish references with the handsome and charming stranger she meets in the hotel stairwell—and who turns out to be one of the judges. And her fellow contestants aren’t the vapid and silly women she imagined, instead their support and camaraderie soon have her wanting to truly do her best in the pageant. But Ginny still intends to win that crown herself, leaving Charlotte on the sideline again.

I could relate to Charlotte so much:  book nerd with a store of literary quotes and a love of Harry Potter…and a dislike of glitz and glamour. The relationship between her and Ginny is difficult, with layers of history, and the two of them struggle to find their way out of the mess of the pageant. This was a charming and fun read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Teri Wilson is an author and creator of Hallmark movies. The Accidental Beauty Queen is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What You Hide, by Natalie D. Richards

what you hide
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   What You Hide
Author:   Natalie D. Richards
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Mallory’s step-father is so controlling her mother can’t breathe without him knowing about it, and Mallory is afraid his control will turn violent. She’s sure something sinister lurks in his past, and she’s desperate to get her pregnant mother out of danger. But her mother refuses to leave, and Mallory finds herself staying with a friend for a few days, then out on the streets. The local library is her only refuge:  a warm place to get her online schooling completed while she searches for a more permanent solution.

After a stunt gone wrong, Spencer is doing community service at the library. He likes the peace and quiet there—until a body is discovered in the stacks—and he likes Mallory. He’s sure she’s hiding something, and he’s desperate to help her. It takes his mind off his own problems: his parents have certain expectations for him, expectations that make him miserable.

Mallory doesn’t want to trust Spencer, but there’s no one she can turn to, so she slowly accepts his help. But there’s more going on at the library than they imagine. Black fingerprints. Footprints that lead nowhere. Mysterious cries. And the messages left scrawled on the walls. Mallory realizes her secrets are no the only things hidden in the library.

This is billed as a thriller, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. Mallory’s storyline is tough and frustrating:  her mother’s refusal to leave a bad situation, Mallory’s inability to find help, her struggles while homeless. She has major trust issues, but she starts to work through them with Spencer’s help. Spencer has his own issues—while they may not seem like a big deal to everyone, they’re huge for him, but he still wants to help Mallory. Mallory and Spencer both learn a great deal about who they are—and who they want to be.

Natalie D. Richards lives and writes in Ohio. What You Hide is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Deadfall, by Stephen Wallenfels

deadfall
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Deadfall
Author:   Stephen Wallenfels
Genre:   Thriller, YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Ty and Cory Bic are running away from the danger and drama in their lives when they come upon a dying deer in the middle of the road, and tire tracks swerving off the road beside it. Though they need to disappear without a trace, they follow the tracks and find an empty car. The banging from the trunk reveals Astrid, so traumatized she doesn’t speak, and they realize they’ve stumbled into something bad. Something that might be linked to their past—and the death of their father.

Sixteen months before, the twins’ father took them on a hike to show them a secret—and to tell them they were leaving their old lives behind. He moved them hours away, where he soon became involved with some frightening men, while the boys struggled to make a life and clean up the abandoned crack house they found themselves living in. When their father is murdered, they end up in a foster house with a powerful man hiding a secret. When the twins decide to reveal his secret, running away is their only option.

This is a pretty dark book, with lots of heavy topics:  drug use, abuse, human trafficking, murder…it’s not for the faint of heart. I liked Cory; he struggled with people accepting him, but he is such a strong person, he just has to realize it. Ty was less likable for me, but the two of them together make a formidable team.

Stephen Wallenfels lives in Washington. Deadfall is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)