Review | Jar of Hearts

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Title: Jar of Hearts
Author: Jennifer Hillier
Publisher: Macmillan
Imprint: Minotaur Books
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Series Details: Standalone
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Pages: 311

Blurb from Goodreads:

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

My Thoughts-01

Murder, concealment, and secrecy are the main ingredients of Jennifer Hillier’s suspense novel, Jar of Hearts. Topped with tastefully complicated relationships between characters, this book is a recipe for one great read. This is solidly entertaining, chilling, and wonderfully twisted, page-turner! But be warned—aside from the murders described in gruesome details, this book also contains other unsettling things like violence, abusive relationship, and graphic rape scenes which could be extremely uncomfortable to read.

In every story, there’s a hero and villain.
Sometimes one person can be both.

Read More »

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Review | Circe

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Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Hatchette Book Group, Inc.
Imprint: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Series Details: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 400

Blurb from Goodreads:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

My Thoughts-01

Admittedly, Greek mythology wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. And that may have contributed to my less-than-four rating. But, I think, if you’re into mythology you’d be in for a treat.

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

The heaviest pulling factor of this book, for me, is the fact that this is a story about Circe—a lesser god on the unpopular side who hasn’t been given this much attention before. I gather that she appears in Homer’s Odyssey and a couple more books but I haven’t read those yet (I know. I can almost hear Septa Unella chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” behind me). This is the first book (that I know of) about a god named Circe which makes this more interesting.       Read More »

Review | The Fill-In Boyfriend

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Title: The Fill-In Boyfriend
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: HarperTeen
Release Date: May 05, 2015
Series Details: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 346

Blurb from Goodreads:

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

My Thoughts-01

One thing is clear—this book’s main ingredients are pretty clichéd. I’d bet you all have read something similar to this before. I can’t say the plot was very creative. There were some holes in it. The circumstances that our characters are in aren’t really something I haven’t seen somewhere else either. Kasie West’s writing is impeccable though. And that is what hooked me in. It works its own magic, giving thousands of tiny teeth and hooks to these tropes. So when you’re reading, you don’t think much about the predictable premise, and instead, it makes you focus on how adorable and fun and sweet and cute the story is.

Behind all the clichés there’s a lot more depth that I wasn’t expecting from this book. It all came as a nice surprise to me. More than just romance, it also takes on common teenage issues, unhealthy friendships, and family relationships. It’s about knowing who you are, learning the effects of telling lies. It shows the significance of friendship and the influence of friends, and it presents a picture of how social media can impact on a person’s life. West deals with all that without sounding preachy and instead brought it in a fun and relatable way.
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Review | The Wedding Date

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Title: The Wedding Date
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Imprint: Headline Eternal
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Type: Standalone
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320

Blurb from Goodreads:

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew Nichols is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is not something Alexa Monroe would normally do. But Drew’s proposal proves hard to resist.

After their wedding date turns into a whole weekend of fun in San Francisco, Drew and Alexa return to their all-consuming careers – his in LA and hers in Berkeley. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about each other…

It could be the long-distance dating disaster of the century – or Drew and Alexa could be just a flight away from what each of them truly wants.

My Thoughts-01

For a romance book, this wasn’t very romantic. At first it was really cute—because I love meet cutes, and hot “stuck-together-in-an-enclosed-space” stories, and even some good fake-dating tropes, cliché as they may sound. Sue me. All the nice things in this book is in its first quarter. Sadly, it all ended there. A good three quarters of this was painfully flat, forced, uneventful, and immature. I was bored out of my wits.

Everything started on a nice note for me. Drew and Alexa were both intriguing characters thrust into a pretty interesting situation— they were stuck together in the elevator. Shortly after that, they agreed to pose as a dating couple at a wedding. And I honestly find it cute and exciting. But then the wedding is over and everything just stopped being interesting. Everything I read after that was of Drew and Alexa having sex, eating, sleeping, one of them flying back home. Then one of them would fly to visit the other on weekends. Then back to having sex, eating, taking a shower… You can skip a chapter and not miss anything important to the story.Read More »

Review | The Handmaid’s Tale

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Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Vintage Classics
Release Date: October 07, 2010
First Published: 1985
Type: Standalone
Genre: Adult, Classic
Pages: 324

Blurb from Goodreads:

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America explores a world in which oppression of women, and repression of the truth, have become justified.

My Thoughts-01

The future is a harrowing nightmare in Margaret Atwood’s chilling yet compelling masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale. In this book, Atwood painted a future that you surely wouldn’t wish to be in. A future wherein women are only valued for their ability to give birth. So as a woman, and a mother, this has totally been a hard one to read. And disturbing. And scary. Just imagine being stripped off of everything you have—from your possessions, your freedom, your rights, down to your name! Imagine being put entirely in the “care” of men that you aren’t even allowed to walk the streets without their permission. It’s infuriating and frightening, this book. But what’s most terrifying about this extraordinary work of fiction is the possibility of it happening in reality.

A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.

Here we see a country, Gilead, under a totalitarian government run by despotic rulers and religious extremists. Obviously, nothing good came out of that combination. And we witness the injustices and the atrocities of this regime through the eyes of our main character, Offred. Read More »

Review | One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Title: One of Us Is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Imprint: Delacorte Press
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Type: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery & Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 361

Blurb from Goodreads:

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My Thoughts-01

What good is a mystery/thriller if you’re not suspecting your favorite character and pretty much everyone mentioned in the book? Brace yourselves YA and mystery fans because One of Us Is Lying is a book set to mess with your brain a little bit and have you guessing all the way to the very end. It’s a very well put together book with a well-constructed storyline and cleverly plotted mystery. I bet many readers won’t guess this right. I’ve had over a dozen speculations about whodunit and who’s the exceptionally skilled liar among the characters. Still, I wasn’t able to hit the bull’s eye in the end.

The mystery was quite intriguing. Four outstanding students quickly turned murder suspects after a fellow student, Simon Kelleher, died in front of them during detention. Simon was widely hated though—being the administrator of a gossip app that has already managed to ruin lives by sharing people’s deepest secrets to the public. Simon’s killer could be anyone from school. And despite being good students it turns out that Bronwyn, Addy, Cooper, and Nate had secrets to keep and each had a potential motive for killing Simon. Well, I think the lesson from this story is—if you’re smart enough to develop an app, make it something helpful instead of something meant to bring people down so you don’t end up being so alone and hated by everyone to the point that they would wish you were dead.Read More »

Review | When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Type: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 380

Blurb from Goodreads:

The rom-com that everyone’s talking about! Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about two Indian-American teens whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage.

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.

My Thoughts-01

Let me summarize my experience with this book in a few words. This book was like looking at a fancy cake you’ve been waiting to devour for days. And when you finally get to eat it, you find that the cake’s base was tasteless and the frosting was too sweet that it makes you want to gag. But you eat it anyway because you effing paid for it!

I could end my review right there but I was way too disappointed with this book that I couldn’t just keep quiet. I thought this was going to be an amazing read—like, off the charts kind of amazing—given its catchy premise and all those four and five star ratings. But my feelings for this book quickly changed from intrigued to disinterested until I finally don’t care.

The representation of some of the Indian traditions was the only thing that’s noteworthy about this book and one that I really appreciate. We don’t usually get Indian leads in this genre so this book was somewhat refreshing in a way. I may have huge issues here but I love how the author used this book as a platform where she introduced Indian culture to the world through its readers. Not only that, this also promotes their language as the characters sometimes switches from English to their native tongue. I can see how proud the author is of her roots! Read More »

Review | The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia

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Title: The Lovely Reckless
Author: Kami Garcia
Publisher: Macmillan
Imprint: Imprint
Release Date: October 04, 2016
Type: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 374

Blurb from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

My Thoughts-01

Last year I remember this book flooding my Goodreads feed and attached to it were amazing five star ratings. So I promised myself not to let this just pass me by. This is the first time I’m reading anything from Kami Garcia. Maybe I should have picked her other works first before picking this up. Because this, I didn’t fully enjoyed. There was nothing special in this book, sadly. If anything, this felt like a collection of all clichés known to this kind of genre.

The street racing idea was a refreshing touch though. It’s something I don’t usually see in YA books and I enjoyed reading about it. But the rest of the book was so average for me. The storyline was pretty common and basic. I’ve seen it used a hundred times in a hundred different books. It simply lacked the substance that could make it stand-out. Read More »

Review | Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Type: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 374

Blurb from Goodreads:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My Thoughts-01

And here’s yet another of my highly anticipated retelling that just turned out to be such a disappointment. Hunted has the finest ingredients for a retelling—Beauty and the Beast mixed with a number of interesting Russian tales—but still it lacked flavor. The whole thing was quite dull. Its characters were flat. The world was even flatter. The plot sticks very closely to the Beauty and the Beast story. And because I prefer my retellings to venture a bit further from the original tale, I didn’t find this very interesting. It simply lacked the twists and the pull to make it different from the original. And it was so slow, I was bored to tears.

I usually don’t have problems with slow-paced books as long as their reason for being slow is:

A.) It is trying to build a solid world for me to enjoy.
B.) It is focused on giving depth to the characters to make me want to care for them.

This book did none of those. The world-building was so vague but I don’t think it’s with the writing because I quite liked Spooner’s writing style. I think it wouldn’t be hard to picture a world with her writing if only there were enough details given for me to visualize. There isn’t much detail with regards to the world in this book except that it snowed a lot and that our main protagonist, Yeva, used to live in luxury with her family and later moved to a cabin in the woods after her father’s downfall. Then there’s the Beast who lives in a crumbling castle in the middle of the woods. I’m assuming that this castle is somehow warded by magic because it’s so hard to find but… so easy to find? Okay, hell, that was confusing. But that’s it for world-building. Read More »