Mini Reviews: Woman in Cabin 10 + Wesley James Ruined My Life

MiniI have one more mini-review from my July reads to share plus another book I picked up in August. You probably won’t see another set of mini-reviews until the end of September, possibly October. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Series: N/A
Pages: 340
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Pres
Release Date: July 19th 2017

      “In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

swirl (2)

“A hand grabbed at my wrist, the grip far stronger than mine. Blind, mad with panic, I groped in the pitch black with my free hand, searching for something, anything, to use as a weapon, and my hand closed over the bedside lamp.”

Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 did not have as many thrills as I would have liked, but is still the kind of novel that reminds me that I need to give this genre another go. The novel opens with a bang as the protagonist undergoes a traumatic experience with a burglary. Ware does a great job of showing the aftereffects of Lo’s experience as she tries to regain a feeling of security. Still in an emotionally fragile state, she boards The Aurora, an upscale cruise liner, on its maiden voyage. Lo never gets a chance to catch her breath as she stumbles upon what she believes to be a murder, but with everyone on the boat accounted for, no one is taking her seriously. Lo’s growing sense of isolation is what drives the story forward as she is determined to find answers. She doesn’t know who to trust and begins to doubt herself. There are plenty of suspects in this one and I would have liked the author to have given more time to different players beside Lo. With mysteries, I always feel like as a reader I need to be a part of the unraveling portion of the story, so would have appreciated knowing more about the other people on the cruise. Overall, The Woman in Cabin 10 was a decent psychological thriller that has me contemplating what other books from the genre I need to pick up. Give me your book recommendations in the comments!

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: Wesley James Ruined My Life
Author: Jennifer Honeybourn
Series: N/A
Pages: 256
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: July 18th 2017 

      “Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.
      So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.
      But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

swirl (2)

“Unfortunately. I will never not see him because he’s everywhere. And that has to change, because I just can’t take it.”

I wanted to enjoy Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life so much. It had all the makings of a really entertaining, fast-paced contemporary, but as soon as I got more acquainted with Quinn’s animosity for former friend Wesley James, it lost me. In truth, the only reason I ended up finishing this one instead of setting it aside was because it was so short. Quinn hatches an immediately plan to get rid of Wesley from her life as soon as he reenters it. He may be over their falling out that took place five years ago, but Quinn isn’t. While I can buy into an eleven-year-old Quinn hating Wesley for revealing a secret that ended up being the last straw for her mother, ending her parents’ marriage, I found it really silly that a sixteen-year-old Quinn would still use the same kind of flawed logic. While I understand that Quinn needs someone to blame and for her it’s hard to see her father as the catalyst for the disintegration of her parents’ marriage, it still bothered me that she needed this spelled out before she could even begin to forgive Wesley. I will say that I enjoyed both the complicated and rich familial relationships in this book. Quinn is incredibly close to her grandmother and has been struggling to come to terms with her Alzheimer’s diagnosis and what it means for their relationship. Quinn’s father has a gambling addiction that the protagonist isn’t always sure how to deal with. I do think it would have been nice to see her mother take a more active role in helping Quinn cope with having a father with an addiction, but she was mostly absent.

Rating: 2/5

★★

Advertisements

Mini Reviews: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda + Lucky in Love

MiniYes, I have yet another set of mini reviews for you. If you haven’t written mini-reviews yourself for the blog, I highly recommend them when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on a full review or you feel like the words just aren’t coming as readily as they should. This week I have a few thoughts to share on Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Kasie West’s latest release Lucky in Love. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 7th 2015 

      “Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
      With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

swirl (2)

“So, I keep thinking about the idea of secret identities. Do you ever feel locked into yourself? I’m not sure if I’m making sense here. I guess what I mean is that sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me.”

Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is as charming as its reputation. Simon Spier has never officially come out and has been dreading it thanks to his overly enthusiastic family. When his emails to the mysterious “Blue” fall into the wrong hands, Simon’s not-so-clear relationship with his secret penpal is in danger of crashing and burning before he ever figures out who Blue is in real life. I absolutely adored Simon’s voice from the very first sentences. He’s an emotionally complex character whose journey I really enjoyed reading about. His email exchanges with Blue are an absolute delight and if the You’ve Got Mail trope is your thing, you need to pick this one up yesterday. I had a pretty good idea early on who Blue was, but still really loved getting to know him along with Simon through emails first. He’s very introverted and hesitant to open up. As much as this is about Simon finding himself, it’s also about Blue as well and how the two teens find strength and inspiration in each other. Albertalli’s minor characters are a treat. They all feel incredibly real and I was surprised to find how much depth each of them had. There’s a really messy, yet interesting dynamic between Simon and his three best friends. It felt like those growing pains you go through when everyone in your close-knit group are all discovering who they are and how you relate to one another begins to evolve. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a novel I regret not picking up sooner as it had me grinning from ear to ear with its final pages.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★


Title: Lucky in Love
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 333
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: July 25th 2017 

      “Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —
      She wins!
      In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.
      Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?
Why does happiness have to be so hard?”

swirl (2)

“In the kitchen, all by myself, I leaned against the counter and covered my face with my hands. I was a multimillionaire. All our problems were about to disappear. This is what true happiness felt like, I was sure of it.”

While Kasie West’s newest release Lucky in Love is not my favorite by her, it’s nonetheless a fun and adorable contemporary read. Maddie Parker is a driven protagonist who has worked hard to earn her way into college. But with money tight at home, college seems like an impossible dream without financial assistance. When she buys a lottery ticket on a whim and wins, her life takes a dramatic turn. Maddie is a protagonist that I immediately related too. Family is incredibly important to her and she feels responsible for keeping them happy and together. There is a tension under every conversation between her parents. Her father lost his job several years ago and her mother juggles two jobs just to keep the family afloat. Her older bother Beau is back from school, hoping to find a job to pay for his next semester of college. Maddie is constantly trying to make things right between her parents, so winning the lottery feels like a godsend. She learns that money isn’t always a blessing and that it can only be a temporary fix for people’s real problems. So much of Maddie’s life revolves around what makes other people happy and she doesn’t often put herself first. She can be a bit of a pushover and I grew a little frustrated over how often she let other people manipulate her, but also understood it was a part of her personality and lack of experience with having this kind of wealth. I really liked the dynamic between Maddie and her friends, Blaire and Elise, but probably would have liked to have gotten to know both more. Seth was a sweet love interest who very much cared about Maddie. His easy smiles always brightened her day, but it was the small glimpses of the more serious side of his personality that I wanted to hear more about. Despite its flaws, Kasie West’s Lucky in Love is still a must for fans of the author.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: Heartstone + By Your Side

MiniHave I mentioned how nice it is to write a couple of mini reviews during the month? I love writing reviews (mostly), but sometimes I don’t have the time to write down all my thoughts and sometimes I just can’t seem to find the words. It’s nice having this alternative way of sharing my thoughts on books. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Heartstone
Author: Elle Katharine White
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 17th 2017 

      “A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.
      They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.
      Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.
      Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.
      It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

swirl (2)

“My breath rattled in my ears. I stared at the creature twitching at my feet. Even deep in it death throes, its talons raked the ground, reaching for me to rend, to kill.

If there’s one kind of retelling that I find hard to resist it’s Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Elle Katharine White’s Heartstone reimagines the classic in a world filled with dragons, gryphons, and adorable hobgoblins. Aliza is brave and opinionated, not easily intimidated and I really liked how important her family was to her. Alastair Daired, dragon Rider and far too arrogant for his own good, is standoffish and rigid in his opinions, but still has an unmistakable charm that’s hard not to fall for. It’s hard not to compare White’s characters to their inspirations. There were several characters whose reincarnations I found a lot more enjoyable. Aliza’s sister Leyda still retained the silliness I’m used to seeing in Lydia Bennet, but unlike her counterpart, who’s obsession with marriage is both infuriating and understandable, Leyda’s ambitions lie in her desire to be a Rider. She longs for adventure, to not be the sister everyone overlooks and I really sympathized with her character. Overall, Heartstone was a fast-paced and fun retelling that I’d recommend to those looking for a different take on the classic.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 342
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 31st 2017

      “When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
      Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?”

swirl (2)

      “A voice in the back of my head told me to calm down before I made it worse. Everything was fine. So I was stuck alone in a library, but I was safe. I could read and jog the stairs and stay busy. There were plenty of distractions here.
      In my new quiet state, I heard something behind me. Footsteps on wood.”

If there is one contemporary author whose books always seem to lift my spirits, it’s Kasie West. Her stories are entertaining and her characters enjoyable. Her latest novel By Your Side is fun, fast-paced contemporary that had me smiling throughout. Autumn Collins thinks she knows exactly what she wants, but when she ends up trapped in her school library for a weekend with Dax Miller, their connection throws her for a loop. Autumn is a people pleaser, her friends tend to be more outgoing than herself, and she often finds it difficult to say no to them. She also has an anxiety disorder that can sometimes interfere with her social life. In Dax, she finds someone whose personality she finds calming and who she wants more than anything to help. But By Your Side is more than just about Autumn trying to figure out what she wants for herself. She also learns how important self-care is despite outside pressure from her friends. I really liked Dax, despite the parts of his personality that can be called cliché, but once again with West’s love interests, I wish we could have learned more about him and his situation. On my wish list: a Kasie West book with dual perspectives.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56: By Your Side

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“What was wrong with me? I thought now, clicking off the television. Whenever I was away from Jeff, outside of our interactions, I could easily pick up on all the signs. But whenever I was near him, it was like my brain short-circuited and I couldn’t tell if he liked me or not.”

Kasie West’s By Your Side is another fast-paced, light read for the contemporary fan. The protagonist gets trapped in a library, which I’m sure is a dream come true for many of us. I smiled a lot while reading this. My mini review of this one will go up later this month. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
     
Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

The Friday 56: P.S. I Like You

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“How about we discuss the fact that you’re a guy. Let’s get married and have cute Indie Rock babies.”

Some plot lines are really predictable, but these same plot lines can be really addicting regardless. Kasie West’s P.S. I Like You may be a very predictable contemporary read, but it is utterly adorable and made me smile in the best possible way. Check out my full review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!
      Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Title: P.S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: Point
Release Date: July 26th 2016 

      “While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!
      Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

swirl (2)

“I didn’t have that sad of a social life. I had a fun and perfectly normal relationship with an anonymous pen pal. Okay, so an anonymous pen pal didn’t exactly sound normal, but I would ignore that fact.

I recently read Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things which has a similar premise to Kasie West’s newest release P.S. I Like You. The premise behind both isn’t the most complicated, two characters end up exchanging notes of some kind in an anonymous fashion and soon begin to develop feelings for each other. The plot of these stories is often predictable, the reveal easy to call after the first few chapters, and yet I keep coming back to them. It would be really easy to get hung up on the logistics of these stories, but to do so would completely miss the point. These novels are meant to entertain, to make you smile and squeal silently when you know what’s coming but the characters themselves remain clueless. This is exactly what I did while reading P.S. I Like You, because sometimes a feel good book is just what you’re looking for.

Lily Abbott has an undeniable charm. Unable to hold back her own thoughts, she’s known for saying odd things at the most inopportune moments. She’s sassy and cynical, prone to sarcastic replies and awkward social exchanges. The most important things in her life are her family and her music. Her house is always full, loud, and chaotic. I loved how much Lily’s family meant to her, especially her siblings. Though I admit I have a soft spot for the young Jonah. Lily has always sought refuge in her songwriting where she has a chance to form the words needed to express herself, something that isn’t always easy for her with other people. But Lily is also very self-conscious. It’s difficult for her to share this side of herself because she fears rejection. This self-consciousness is a constant hurdle for her throughout the novel.

The exchanges Lily has with her secret pen pal are a delight to read. They go from funny and light to tackling personal struggles in both the characters’ lives. Lily has always felt that she could express herself better on paper and these letters are the perfect way for her to really find her voice. I’ve complained in the past about not getting to know the love-interests enough in Kasie West’s books, but this plot really allows readers insight into Lily’s counterpart. My only complaint is that I wish the novel had been longer. I would have liked to have seen more interactions between Lily and her pen pal after the big reveal, but that may be because I could not get enough of them together.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★