Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty follows a group of nine people as they enter a health resort run by Masha an eccentric health nut willing to do anything to make people feel the best that they possibly can. Using rigorous physical and mental exercises as well as controlling their food intake. Each member has a plan set in front of them depending on what they want when they come out of their health retreat experience. Does Masha truly care about their health or is she will she go too far?

This is not Moriarty’s best book, from five that I’ve read this was my least favorite. By far. I spent the whole book waiting for the psychological thriller part to happen. It never did. I really don’t even know what the plot was actually supposed to be. Really. I made my best guess, but man, it was up in the air for this one.

Most of the characters were unmemorable and really over the top when it came to caricaturization. For instance, there is a couple who are going through a rough spot in their marriage and go to the resort to sort out their problems. Another family has suffered through a tragic death in their family. These were all very obvious and uncreative reasons for someone to go to a health resort. I wish she could have picked different reason for them to be there. Really the only characters that I liked were Frances, Heather and Zoe. Masha was fun to watch with her descent into madness. But only liking 3 of the 9 Strangers and one of the people who works at the resort. Those are not good odds.

I hope that this book is just a slump in her writing career because I really enjoyed her other novels. Nine Perfect Strangers is not one of those novels however. Avoid this novel and pick up one of her other ones. My suggestion would be The Husband’s Secret or Little Big Lies.

Her One Mistake – Heidi Perks

I was given an E-Advanced Reader copy in exchange for a fair review. Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to do so.

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks is a stunning thriller that takes place after a child, Alice, is left in the care of Charlotte. Charlotte takes Alice and her 3 children to a fair. While in her care Alice disappears, seemingly without a trace. Her children don’t know where she went and no one at fair saw her either. Not only is Charlotte devastated but Alice’s mother, Harriet, who made the choice to leave Alice with her friend. As it goes when people disappear, everything is not how it seems.

Her One Mistake, in a world of thrillers that are full of the same things happening over and over, is not entirely unique. However, Perks manages to build tension and keep it there leaving you wanting to keep reading until you finish. I found myself to actually be nervous while reading the book, waiting to find out what happened, especially during the last third of the book. It was refreshing to know a good majority of the plot twists, by guessing, and still be held in suspense through the authors writing and pacing.

As I said before there isn’t really anything special plot wise about this book. There are thousands of books that are about children who go missing and even more that have questionable parents. However, the author chooses to not use physical or sexual abuse, but goes for mental abuse using gaslighting. This gave me a sense of doubt who was telling the truth and who was not. This helped build tension and kept me guessing if my theory was correct or not.

Her One Mistake is a quick read, mostly due to the fact that there aren’t any luls in the suspense of the story. There was really no good place to stop reading that wasn’t going to leave you with some kind of desire to pick the book up again with in minutes to continue reading. I really appreciated that the book didn’t follow the detective of the case. Instead Perks utilises the families involved. There is part of the novel that takes place in the a police station but again the focus is on the main character’s thoughts when being questioned by a detective and not the other way around. So often this side of a thriller is missed when the main character is involved in the investigation.

Her One Mistake was definitely not a mistake to read. This easily the best thriller that I’ve read all year. I highly recommend it to people who like mystery and thriller novels, especially psychological thrillers.

Ghosted -Rosie Walsh

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh is a romance novel that follows Sarah who after and accident in her hometown she moves to Los Angeles. During a visit to her parents she meets Eddie David, who she instantly falls for. They spend her week in England together, when the end of the week comes they promise to keep in touch. Weeks go by and Eddie has not responded to her. Sarah fears she’s been ghosted, but she refuses to give up. Soon she finds out the real reason he stopped talking to her and she’s devastated. She hopes that they can make it work, but knows that it probably won’t.

Have you ever had that book that you kept reading, but you don’t know why you did? That was Ghosted for me. This novel takes forever to get going, it’s not until the second part of the book, which is about halfway through, for the first real twist to happen. That twist made me want to know what happened but in the end I ended up being disappointed.

The character development over all wasn’t bad but the romance between Sarah and Eddie did make me hope that they would end up together. I wish that their week together was more drawn out and affectionate so that I would care about their relationship. Their relationship is the most important one in the whole book and yet the week that they spend together is maybe a quarter of the book. There’s a problem when you feel more connected to a side character who has been dead for years.

Ghosted needed to have a twist before it did, but the big twist would have been enough for the novel. After this twist is revealed there are many other smaller ones in the last half of the book that did not seem necessary. They added in character development for characters that were not involved in the story besides having the main characters talk about them. I really didn’t see the need to learn more about Hannah, Alex or Sarah’s abusive ex-boyfriend. However, I don’t think that taking them out would have helped save this book for me.

Walsh’s novel left many things to be desired, from the late story twists to character development. I was initially intrigued by the synopsis but now I wish I would have forgone reading it and moved on to a book that captured my attention better.

The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality by Morgan Lev Edward Holleb

Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for an E-Advanced Reader Copy of this comic. I was given this in exchange for a fair review.

The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality by Morgan Lev Edward Holleb is a comprehensive guide to terms used for gender and sexuality topics. Something that is needed in a world where terms in this area are forever evolving and emerging. While this is not a bad thing it does make a book like this necessary to know what the correct terminology to use is.

This glossary is extremely educational, as I hoped it would be. It has many terms that I had never heard of and it was fun to learn about their existence. I was especially excited to see different gender neutral terms other than they/them. I was annoyed by the examples that were given for using them in a sentence though. Here there was no usage of punctuation which made it hard to determine the proper way to use them. I hope that this will be fixed in the finished copy.

For being advertised as a glossary this the definitions were quite wordy and political at times. I chose this book to use more like a reference when reading LGBTQ+ novels. Finding a term quickly is important when it comes to this usage. This made it quite annoying for me to use, there were terms that took up whole pages. This made me really dislike this format.

Along with this I was looking for a glossary or a dictionary not a history lesson which is what happened soooo many times here. While it was interesting to read at times, I didn’t think that it was the place for it to be included.

It was incredibly frustrating to be told that something was going to be a glossary of terms and get told things, that while they were related to the word they weren’t needed to know what the word meant. This is not something that I would recommend for what it advertises. Go into this book to not only learn definitions but also to hear more things that are related to the more complex and charged terms. Unfortunately, I could not give it a good rating because of this.  

The Enchanted Sonata – Heather Dixon Wallwork

Heather Dixon Wallwork’s The Enchanted Sonata is a retelling of The Nutcracker in which Clara is spirited away to world where the children and soldiers have been turned into toys. Even the Prince has been turned into a nutcracker, weeks before his coronation. The mastermind of the curse uses music in effort an effort to make the country turn against their future king, who he thinks isn’t worthy of the title. Clara teamed up with the prince work together to break the curse, keep his kingdom’s faith, saving the kingdom from giant rats and get Clara back to her world in time for her to play piano at a concert in the evening.

Just to be clear, I know nothing of the story of the Nutcracker. I may have to read it later just to how much was changed and how they compare them to each other. I really did enjoy The Enchanted Sonata, both Clara and Nutcracker seemed like real people. They both had their flaws and weren’t perfect. Which is something that authors tend to forget because they want people to like their characters and in doing this they make their characters unrelatable because none of them are humanly flawed. This makes me really appreciate authors that give their characters flawed.

I liked that the villain of the novel had motives that are a little gray. They make him more of a villain because of the circumstance rather than someone who was just evil because they can be. Dixon Wallwork takes the time to explain the villains motives and goes into his back story. Which is also something that authors forget to do especially in shorter novels. Though his personality could have been developed more, but it was nice to at least have a backstory.

The Enchanted Sonata is a pretty quick read and was a lot less holiday related than I thought. There wasn’t a whole lot of mention of snow. Christmas was really only mentioned when Clara was in her world. I was unfortunately looking for more of a holiday story. Though, this may just be unfair because I was thinking it was a holiday story just because The Nutcracker is something I associate with Christmas. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of it, but it made the atmosphere a little weird to me.

Over all The Enchanted Sonata is a fun read with some life lessons to be learned. It had a bit of a fairy tale feel due to there being a very clear moral to the story, but because of this the novel had a more whimsical feel(the fairies also helped.) I’d recommend this one to someone who is looking for a light and fun read. While it was almost 400 pages, it didn’t feel like it.

Read-A-Thon! Tistheseasonathon

This week I decided to participate in my first read-a-thon!

This read-a-thon is hosted BookablesChelsea Dolling ReadsSuper Space ChickBetween Chapters, and A Court of Crowns and Quills. I learned about it from Bookables and thought that it would be a fun thing to try. I’m not sure how well I will do with this challenge but I’m going to try it out anyway. The Instagram for this challenge is located here.

The theme, if you couldn’t tell, is Christmas/Holiday theme. As such each book had to fill a certain criteria.

Read a book that has red or green on the cover.

Nine Perfect Strangers

I know there’s a whole lot of red on this one but I needed an excuse to read it durning this read-a-thon.

Read a book while listening to Holiday music.

This one I haven’t quite decided if I want to do yet.

Read a warm and fuzzy book.

rateddimple

Read a short book. (250 pages or less)

ratedsnow

Read a Holiday themed book.

ratedEnchanted sonata

There was a bonus book to read but I wasn’t feeling that one so much.

I’ll do an update on Sunday about how well I did.

How to be a Good Creature – Sy Montgomery

How to be a Good Creature is Sy Montgomery’s way of exploring her life, doing so with the animals that have being involved with her life from her pets to research animals. Montgomery’s way of writing her memoir is innovative and imaginative. Who would have thought of telling parts of your life using the animals who also shared that time period with you? Sy Montgomery did, and I’m so glad that she thought of it. It was so fun to read her story this way.

Montgomery’s choice of illustrator, Rebecca Green, was a great one. She captures the personalities of each of the animals exquisitely. Some pictures feature a quote from the chapter, others just the animal. Even in though these images are black and white, aside from some text, they capture the eye and make you wonder if Green pulled these from snapshots that Montgomery had of the moments that they reflect, that’s how well they fit.

My main complaint with this is that it I wish it was longer. I feel like her life has a lot more interesting things in it outside of these animals and I wish that those events could have been addressed as well. However, this didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the memoir so it it wasn’t a huge problem.

I don’t know why I didn’t expect this from a book filled with animals but this memoir was sadder than I expected it to be. Many animals have shorter lifespans than people do, and  why wouldn’t I expect that their deaths to be included, when they had such an integral part of Montgomery’s life? While it was sad I appreciated that it was integrated into her memoir. Life isn’t always happy nor is it perfect.

How to be a Good Creature an interesting exploration of Sy Montgomery’s life. It was sad but also warm and fun. Montgomery is innovative by using the animals that filled her life to explore her own. It wasn’t my favorite memoir ever, but I didn’t hate it either.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities -J.R. Zuckerberg

Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for an E-Advanced Reader copy of this comic. I was given this in exchange for a fair review.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities written by J.R. Zuckerberg, illustrated by Mady G, is exactly what it advertises. It is indeed an easy guide to Queer and Trans Identities. Mady’s illustrations add cuteness and spunk to an otherwise hard topics. Zuckerberg’s writing complements the illustrations wonderfully. The writing makes you feel more like you’re sitting with a group of people listening to someone talk about a topic and answering questions that the group has.

I loved that the author made the decision to use snails to have a conversation instead of people, lightened it up and made it educational without it being like a textbook. The vibrancy of the colors also add to this, using bright pinks, purples, yellow and a variety of blues and greens. As such I would not recommend getting the kindle version of this if you are reading on a device that is only black and white. The light colors make it almost impossible to read in black and white. The usage of a comic format for this was a genius idea. Not only does it make for an easy, comprehensible read, it brings creativity to a topic that is usually spoken about in a more clinical, an apathetic way when it comes to educational material. Again this makes it feel like a casual conversation while still being able to teach the reader.

There was something that confused me, however. There’s a chapter on relationship basics that seems a little strange to be in comic that advertises that it is about Queer and Trans identities. While what it talked about in the chapter is important to be addressed it doesn’t fit into the category of identity. The only way that I can think of this to address this is to change the title from using identities to topics, but, again it is only this chapter that I didn’t find to fit the overall theme.

I glad that this book took some time to explain the reclamation of the word Queer. Back in my day(Ha! I’m only 25.) it was not a positive thing to called Queer. It is hard for me to see this this term used in books as a positive descriptor because of this. Maybe someday I will be able to use it in a nonacademic way but for now it is ingrained in my brain that is derogatory and should not be used. However, it does clear up that the usage of it in the comic is positive because the community has reclaimed the word to make it a positive once again.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities is a thoroughly enjoyable comic, that is informative and creative. It is a great start for anyone who is curious about identification in the LGBTQ+ community. Even those who are currently questioning their identity and sexuality will benefit due to the in depth conversations about the different types of people in the broad spectrum of sexuality and identification. This is also a good start for someone who has just come out and has people in their family or social circles that are having a hard time understanding their ‘new’ identity. It is a short and easy read, but stockpiled with information for helping these groups. I highly recommend that anyone picks up this comic.

Daughters of the Storm – Kim Wilkins

Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins follows five sisters as they try to save their father, The King, from a mysterious illness that has suddenly put him into a deep slumber. Convinced that his illness is caused by a spell the sisters take him, in secret, to try and find a witch that specialises in illegal dark magic. While the five sisters have a common goal they are all different, a proud warrior, an adultress, one harbors potentially dark magic, another is vain and the last sister is a sacrilegious zealot. Each follows their own path doing what they believe is best for their father and themselves.

Wilkins’ imagination for the creation of her characters is astounding. Each character is different from the other. Which is unexpected with books that involve siblings. They often end up blending together and making it hard to remember who is who. Willow and Ash were the most interesting to be as Willow follows a religion that isn’t talked about in depth which made it intriguing. I am hoping that Mavaa will become more clear in the next novel. Ash has a magic that is very powerful but isn’t really explained fully, though it is made a little more clear by the end. Ash’s destiny is also said to be blighted and I’m curious to see how that will play out. The other sisters’ actions throughout the novel are fairly obvious, which was a little disappointing but, aside from Ivy, it was made it by their personality and the writing of their actions.

While the overarching plot of the novel is saving the King from certain death so much does on that I sort of forgot about it. I didn’t think that this was a bad thing because, let’s face it, who would want to read a book that was just five sisters sitting around their father hoping that he gets better. Not me. I’m glad that the novel branched out to follow the sisters through their own separate parts and that was the most enjoyable part to me, mostly because the King doesn’t have the time to develop so I didn’t care much if he recovered or not.

I’m excited to see how the magic system of this series is going to play out. It isn’t until the last quarter of the book that it’s magic is talked about to a deeper extent. It could be interesting as it seems that it is unusually for someone to gain magic powers until they are much older, seeming to be more like their 30’s, though it is just stated that Ash is too young to have any kind of magic.

I appreciated that Wilkins had a twist at the end of the novel but it was still a satisfying ending. If the epilogue was cut out it could have easily been a stand alone. It was nice to find an author that relied more on her writing to get people to come back to read the next installment than having an extreme cliff hanger for the ending.

Daughters of the Storm is a novel that will take you on an adventure, through 5 very different sisters. Each of them giving their own viewpoints on their world and each other. I’d suggest picking this book up if you’re looking for a book that has some crossings into Game of Thrones but with less characters and political intrigue to follow.

The Storyteller’s Secret – Sanjal Badani

I received an eBook from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to do so.

After having 3 miscarriages Jaya’s life and marriage are falling apart. Jaya finds out that her grandfather has requested that her mother goes back to India so that he can give her something before he dies. When Jaya’s mother refuses, Jaya, hoping to get away from her life goes instead not understanding her mother’s refusal to return to India to see her father. When she gets to India she meets Ravi, one of her father’s former servants. From hearing her Grandmother’s story she learns things about her family and herself.   

I have mixed feelings about The Storyteller’s Secret by Sajal Badani. On one hand, it it is a fun story to read but on the other it didn’t have anything in it that wasn’t unexpected. Everything that happened in the novel I saw coming from a mile away and this ruined some of the fun of reading it. For instance, as Jaya learns more about her Grandmother, and in turn her mother, she suddenly forgives her mother for all of her years of distance and apparent dislike of her. I find it hard to believe that this could happen just from learning a few things and having very minor talks with her mother on the phone while she was in India. Wounds like that take longer than a few weeks to heal.

Badani does do a good job of giving the main characters personality. I found myself really enjoying Jaya’s interactions with Ravi and his family. Really, I would read a book that is just about Ravi, he has such a well constructed character and he is so fun to listen to. However, I did have some issues with relating to the characters just because of the subject matter. I’m privileged enough to not know what extreme poverty is like. I haven’t experienced the grief of a miscarriage or divorce. I am glad that can’t relate to those experiences, it just makes it hard to relate to at times. But I did enjoy the characters. Jaya’s husband and her parents could have been developed more, but overall I did like the characters.  

The romance is this book annoyed me a little bit. It seemed like the two characters went from hating each other to suddenly loving each other again. This could have been delved into more so it didn’t seem so sudden. Their conversations between each other didn’t really hint at the fact that they were ready to make their relationship work. Here again is the problem with things that seem like a huge issue healing over a few weeks times.

If you’re looking for something that would be a quick read without much real sustenance this would be a good book for you. It is definitely not a book for someone who is easily annoyed when they can guess future plot point in a novel.