Review: The Last Time I Lied // So Frikkin Good

By Riley Sager

Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Community Rating: 4.18

Genre: Psycho Mystery / Thriller

Publication Date: July 3rd 2018

Format Read: Kindle Ebook

Goodreads Summary: Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

Continue reading “Review: The Last Time I Lied // So Frikkin Good”

Review: Big Little Lies // Suspenseful with An End You Won’t See Coming

By Liane Moriarty

Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Community Rating: 4.24

Genre: Psycho Thriller

Publication Date: July 29th 2014

Format Read: Paperback

Triggers: Anxiety, Domestic Abuse, Bullying

Goodreads Summary: Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive. 

Continue reading “Review: Big Little Lies // Suspenseful with An End You Won’t See Coming”

Review: Small Great Things // Eye Opening and Attention Grabbing

By Jodi Picoult

Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Community Rating: 4.34

Genre: Contemporary Fiction w/ racism focus

Publication Date: October 11th 2016

Format Read: Hardcover

Goodreads Summary: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

Continue reading “Review: Small Great Things // Eye Opening and Attention Grabbing”

Review: Strange the Dreamer // Lazlo Freaking Strange, Love of My Life

By Laini Taylor

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Community Rating: 4.39

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: March 28th 2017

Format Read: Audiobook

Goodreads Summary: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.

Continue reading “Review: Strange the Dreamer // Lazlo Freaking Strange, Love of My Life”

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi // The Cutest YA Romance I’ve Read in a While

By Sandyha Menon

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Goodreads Community Rating: 3.79

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: May 30th 2017

Format Read: Hardcover

Goodreads Summary: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Continue reading “Review: When Dimple Met Rishi // The Cutest YA Romance I’ve Read in a While”

Review: Revelation (Short Story)

A 5 star review of Revelation, by Flannery O’connor

by Flannery O’Connor

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

This short story is about a woman, named Mrs.Turpin, and her thoughts and feelings over the course of a day.  The main setting is a doctor’s waiting room, where Mrs.Turpin goes because of her husband, Claud.  Mrs.Turpin is instantly judgemental, thinking about the different classes each person in the waiting room falls into, and how she is better than the majority of people on Earth.  Then comes Mary Grace, an “ugly” overweight, acne covered girl who sits there, glaring at Mrs.Turpin and reading a book.  Mrs.Turpin, being the way that she is, doesn’t exceptionally like Mary Grace… and it goes from there.

This is a classic Flannery O’Connor short story whose theme relates good-from-bad, and right-from-wrong.  It has a great plot, and it leaves you filled with emotions about each of the main characters.  It should only take about 20 minutes to read, so it is great for if you, like Mrs.Turpin, are stuck in a waiting room.  Even though it is short, the themes and the thoughts which it provokes will stick with you for much longer.  I found myself judging Mrs.Turpin, and then wondering if I was just like her, and panicking (you’ll understand if you read the book) and then going back to wondering just what the author was trying to convey.

For the most part, it is entirely realistic even if, like me, you are not a devout Catholic.  The only part where I found it to be a bit too dramatic was the very end.  O’Connor added this part, as it was not originally included, and in my opinion I feel as though she should have just left it out entirely.  It became very religious, god comes back to Earth feel, which I personally didn’t like.  That being said, it is only for the very last paragraph of the story so by all means do not let that discourage you.

The book is filled with the in depth thoughts of Mrs.Turpin, and her descriptions of the people around her, but there are also some very comical moments interspersed, allowing you to become even more involved in what you are reading.  This is a great short story, and I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a short yet thought provoking next read.

Have you read this or any of Flannery O’Connor’s other short stories? What did you think? Let us know, comment below!

 

 

Review: Orphan Train

A 5 star review of Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

By Christina Baker Kline

Genre: Historical Fiction

Major Themes: Growing up, being alone, orphans, foster care, value of family

Age: 14+

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

Orphan Train is a book that takes place in two very different timeframes– the early 1900s (an era of depression and poverty), and today– with two seemingly different women.  In the present day, 17 year old Molly Ayer is forced into a community service position in order to avoid going to juvie.  Luckily, her boyfriend sets her up cleaning the attic of a rich, elderly woman named Vivian Daly.  Molly hates Vivian, and instantly begins to act negatively, her typical outward attitude.  However, Vivian has some secrets.  She used to be a foster child as well, traveling on the “orphan trains” from the east coast to the Midwest in an attempt to find someone who would care for her.  Vivian’s story is one of loss and struggle, just as Molly’s is.  As the two begin to connect, something special happens, and the readers also get to appreciate Vivian’s entire story from her perspective due to the time switch.  

Overall, I LOVED this book.  Vivian and Molly were both very relatable, and their stories were realistic without being over-the-top or stereotypical, something that is difficult to achieve when writing about a troubled foster child.  I think the time switch worked beautifully as you slowly learned parts of Vivian’s story at the same time which Molly did, making you believe that you were also helping to clean out the attic.  

As far as I can tell, the book was historically accurate, as “Orphan Train” scenarios happened quite often, and many with little success.  Kline was able to portray the poverty of the outside world, and of Vivian’s own life, vividly, and you began to relate deeply with the main character.  This book can be emotionally taxing, as there are many struggles depicted, but it is written in a way that makes you want to keep reading.  So no, this is not a “beach read”, but you are definitely not going to have to force yourself to keep turning the pages.  

I think this is a good choice for someone even if they are not particularly interested in historical fiction, because Kline never forces historical details at the reader, instead working on writing a basic story of friendship and tribulations.  Plus, the fact that it alternates between history and present day allows a bit of change for people who may become bored with one timeframe.  That being said, I don’t think you will get bored.  The fact that it is alternating means there is always something going on, as it is possible to skip many days in the characters lives without actually missing anything.  

Kline’s writing is amazing, and her characterization of Vivian and Molly is flawless.  The only thing I wish is that Molly’s boyfriend had a bit larger of a personality, as he was not fully developed, although he was mentioned often.  Other background characters, such as another orphan Vivian was friends with, and the foster parents of Molly were very developed, and so the boyfriend seemed lacking.  That being said, it did not take away from the overall impression of the book.  If this isn’t already on your “to-read” shelf, you should definitely add it today.   

Buy on Amazon

Kline’s Website

Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

A 5 star review of a historical fiction book based in the time of the Tudors

By Philippa Gregory

Genre: Historical Fiction based on real 16th century aristocrats
Major Themes: royalty, right from wrong, self versus family, family versus country, 16th century Europe, Boleyn girls, “true” selves, serving the greater good, women’s roles, whores
Age: 16+ for seduction, sexual promiscuity and content, fairly high level writing, and just general sexual innuendo
Smiles Book Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

The Other Boleyn girl is based on the true story of Anne and Mary Boleyn, two aristocratic sisters who lived in court at the time when King Henry VIII was in power. Apparently, this is a well known time in history for most people who know anything about that, but I knew nothing to the point of where I didn’t even realize it was based on a true story until after I read it and somebody told me. So, because of that I am going to give a brief non-spoiler summary. I feel like that’s the best way to do it without ruining the story for people who don’t already know it, because if you’re ignorant of history there are many twists and turns.
Mary Boleyn, the character in whose perspective this book is told, is the younger sister of Anne Boleyn. She is constantly frightened of being overshadowed by her dramatic, flirtatious, nearly perfect sister, a fear further exacerbated by the fact that they are living at court as the Queen’s ladies in waiting, a place where everyone’s eyes are on the prettiest girl in the room. Luckily for young Mary, she is already married to William Carey, a kind man who is willing to treat Mary gently, as she is just 14 years old at the time of their marriage. The Howard family (Mary’s mother’s side of the family) is far too ambitious for their own good, and are constantly scheming in an attempt to better their position in life. This means that when King Henry takes an interest in Mary, they are quick to throw her into the King’s path. The story continues from here, and slowly Mary grows from a young starstruck girl to a mature woman who realizes that she has her own opinions. Yet, Howard ambition is strong in everyone, and as is the competition between sisters. Through the drama of court life, it is difficult for Mary to understand what she really wants.
The characterization in this book is fairly good, especially of the main three characters, Mary, her sister Anne, and her brother George. The rest of the characters are left a bit vague, but it does not matter much as you become attached, or resentful, of the first three and that is enough to get you through the book. Anne is very clever, and she will do anything to better her own position in life, hurting everyone around her in the process. She is terribly arrogant, and I think you will find that it would be better if she was dead. George, is the sweetest brother you will ever meet, constantly delighting his sisters and the other women at the court because of his kind mannerisms– but perhaps he is too kind? There is something surrounding George and his friends that certain people at court do not seem to like.
It’s a huge book, but you will find that you read it quickly, because strangely enough the plot manages to keep moving forward. There is a significant amount of time hopping, where the next chapter will take you weeks, months, or sometimes years into the future in order to prevent a dull repetitive monologue, and it works for the way which the book is written. There is typically always something of interest going on, but not in a way where action happens each page of the book. Even reading about Mary’s walks through the woods or her thoughts are made interesting due to the sheer amount of activity which is going on in the court around her.

OTHER PEOPLE’S COMPLAINTS: I’ve heard some complaints come up when talking to others about the book, and since I didn’t have them personally, I didn’t include them above, but I figured to give an accurate review I should tell you the “problems” others had with it. I would not recommend this book if you were sensitive about talk of sex or the description of it, as that comes up nearly throughout. I read reviews on Goodreads where people complained about it, but honestly I didn’t think it was that graphic, it was just a fact of life. However, that aside, the book is very very good and will be sure to keep you interested in the drama of everyone’s lives. Mary is such a dynamic character, and Gregory did a great job of making her seem real. I have also heard some people complain that Gregory “takes liberties” with history, but I would like to point out that it is supposed to be FICTION. Like I said earlier, I don’t know much about history, but as far as I can tell the general facts are fairly accurate, and this part of history is highly theorized and unknown anyways for the most part, given all of the behind-the-scenes undocumented action going on. I mean, there’s hardly going to be written papers about how the king was disloyal to his wife! Overall, if you’re not going to be picky and you understand that this is historical FICTION, please please read the book, it was amazing!
If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear what you thought below!

Buy on Amazon