Friday, September 22, 2023

She's never learned how to live for today: NONE OF THIS IS TRUE.

None of This Is TrueNone of This Is True by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is yet another impossible-to-put-down thriller from Lisa Jewell. For most of the book, I was all in. It's easy to suspend disbelief when you're reading one of Jewell's books. They have a compelling, frenetic feel. Alix and Josie meet at a restaurant, where both are celebrating their 45th birthdays. They realize they're "birthday twins." A few days later they meet again, and Josie reveals she's been listening to Alix's popular podcasts. She suggests her life would make a great subject for Alix. As the two start working together, Alix realizes Josie is a rather dark individual, and she's starting to take over Alix's life.

It's easy to read TRUE in big great gulps. Josie is the ultimate unreliable narrator--the title certainly seems prescient for much of the book. How much can we trust her, or Alix? The book has a creepy and ominous feel, as Josie ingratiates herself into Alix's life, taking over and seeming like she just won't leave. Is she just friendly and in awe of Alix, or is there more to this story? Jewell delves into the topics of motherhood and family while we watch, breathlessly, to see the story behind Josie's life. At the same time, we learn more about Alix's relationship with her husband.

This would have been an easy 4-star read for me, but there are some issues that were glossed over that really bothered me--excusing both pedophilia and alcohol abuse being the main ones. I'm not sure the racing, exciting plot was enough to truly overcome those. 3 stars for now...

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Atria Books in return for an unbiased review.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

I'm a thousand miles from nowhere: THE LAST ONE.

The Last OneThe Last One by Will Dean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Caz is so excited when her boyfriend, Pete, takes her on vacation aboard the luxury cruise liner, RMS Atlantica. They have a great first night, but when Caz wakes up the next morning and reaches for Pete, he's not there. As she leaves their room to look, she realizes that the ship is empty. Not empty, as in the passengers are elsewhere, but empty empty. No passengers, no crew. The giant ship is in the middle of the ocean, and Caz is all alone on it. I won't say much more to avoid spoilers, but this is a crazy read. It has a tense, eerie feel-- you rarely get a "locked cruise ship" story, but that's what we have here. The story certainly keeps you wondering, and it offers an interesting, timely commentary on society. I won't say on what. ;)

I found this book hard to put down, and the story is really unique. Those are all major plusses. It goes a little off the rails as it continues, though. And there are a lot of unresolved plot points that made me feel as if the story didn't truly finish. (The actual ending is also cray cray.) Overall, this was a 3-star read for me.

I received a copy of this book from Atria/Emily Bestler Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Monday, September 18, 2023

Try to see how precious you are: THE BOYFRIEND CANDIDATE.

The Boyfriend CandidateThe Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite a vow to focus on backlist books and ARCs, I broke my rule and nabbed this one off Libby. I enjoyed the last politically themed romance I read from Winstead and this one was just as fun. It follows up on some characters from the last, featuring Lee Stone's school librarian sister, Alexis, but can easily stand alone. After her ex calls her mousy (and bad in bed), Alexis worries she's boring and timid and doomed in relationships. There's no way she's as interesting or smart as Lee, who is in the Texas state legislature. Introverted by nature, Alexis vows to get out of her comfort zone and have a one-night stand.

But things go awry when Alexis meets Logan at a bar. After lightning literally strikes their hotel, the two are caught on camera, and Logan flees. Confused, Alexis has no idea what happened until pictures of them hit the Internet, and she realizes the handsome man she nearly slept with is the current Democratic gubernatorial candidate of Texas. In an attempt to stop the ensuing scandal and help Logan, Alexis agrees to pretend she's been dating--and continuing to date--Logan. Nothing will go wrong with this foolproof plan, right?

What follows is a cute, witty story filled with funny banter and sexual tension. I loved sweet Alexis, who just needed to find herself, and tough, stoic Logan. While this is a romance, it also covers serious topics such as the importance of teachers and school funding, the impact of banned books, and politics in general. There are a few ups and downs (oh, please, everyone, just communicate), but they are balanced out by the humor. The side characters are great, too, and it's fun to see Lee and Ben again. Overall, this is a really sweet romance (power to the introverts). 4+ stars.

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Friday, September 15, 2023

My past has caught up to me, and I've lost track: GREYWAREN.

Greywaren (Dreamer Trilogy, #3)Greywaren by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm not sure I can adequately review this book, because the magical world within is so intricate that it feels wrong to judge it. I still get a little confused reading this series, with all the dreamers and Zeds and Moderators and dreaming worlds and real worlds, but I love it anyway. Perhaps the most amazing thing about book 3 is that it made me like Declan, ha! Overall I found this to be a fitting end to the trilogy, even if it dragged just a bit in the middle. 3.5+ stars.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

If I cause you pain, my own sweet child: OUR MISSING HEARTS.

Our Missing HeartsOur Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so thankful to my #backlistbooks challenge, because it introduced me to this lovely book. HEARTS is insanely good. It's a beautifully written dystopian tale that seems like its story could happen tomorrow. The plot focuses on patriotism, racism, and a scared nation. The country is divided by hatred and turning against each other, especially Asians, whom they are blaming for America's economic downfall. When citizens start to fight back, the Government's response is to take books from the shelves and children from their families. It really doesn't sound so far-fetched, does it?

Through the eyes of twelve-year-old Bird, we learn about the power of PACT, a series of laws to root out anti-American elements after a time of deep instability. When a group of dissidents uses the words of Bird's mother, a poet, to fight back, she has to go on the run, and Bird and his father must disavow all knowledge of her. But when Bird receives a coded message from his mother, he begins to question PACT and everything's he's been told. As he searches for his mom, Ng weaves a gorgeous story about the love of a mother, the power of stories and folktales, and the lengths we go to fight for what we believe in.

This is a lovely yet terrifying story, as we see Bird finding his way through the prism of his parents, and we see how much his parents want to protect their child--but at what cost? The greater backdrop of society looms large, and it's impossible not to compare our present society to Ng's. This is a thoughtful story, a touching story, and a scary one. I highly recommend it. 4.5 stars.

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Monday, September 11, 2023

He'd have his foot on the pedal and my heart on the brake: GONE TONIGHT.

Gone TonightGone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It seems like Ruth and her daughter Catherine are close. It's always been the two of them, even as they've frequently moved around and Ruth has kept much of her past from her daughter. But as Catherine prepares to move away for the first time, Ruth feels panic at the thought of her daughter being apart from her, and their careful little world starts to crumble.

This fast-paced thriller is easy to read, with short chapters that tell us both Catherine and Ruth's point of view, but kept me waiting for a bigger twist that never came. Most of the surprises were pretty obvious. And while I know we needed drama for the story to move forward, I am not a fan of books where being honest would have just saved everyone most of the trouble! Ugh, just don't keep giant life changing secrets that affect everyone's safety, folks.

Pekkanen excels at writing "creepy," so you can't help but turn the pages and feel like something bad is going to happen. There are some eerie personalities at play here. I just wish things were a little more exciting and less predictable. 3 stars.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Press and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Saturday, September 09, 2023

Now I need to rewind real slow: THIS TIME TOMORROW.

This Time TomorrowThis Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

TIME is a quiet book that weaves time traveling in with the themes of family, love, and loss. I always get slightly confused in time traveling books, because I am a slow individual, but this book presents an interesting premise for sure. What would you do if you could go back into your life? At nearly 40, Alice is slightly aimless, working in admissions at the same school she once attended. Her father is very sick, and she fears losing him. When she wakes up and realizes she's now sixteen again, while she's fascinated at being young again, having a new chance with an old flame, and hanging out with her best friend, she cannot help but focus on her father the most: her young, healthy, vibrant father. Can she do anything to keep him this way? Or can just keep returning back in time to be with him?

Straub is always good at weaving stories. While time travel always feels a bit repetitive to me (Alice returns back to her sixteenth birthday over and over--also so many descriptions of people smoking), I was quite drawn into the story of her and her father, Leonard. The world of parallel lives is an interesting thing. Watching Alice grow up by going back in time is a pretty neat trick.

This is an enjoyable love story between father and daughter. 3.75+ stars.

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