Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review: The Lost for Words Bookshop - Stephanie Butland

Lost For Words
by Stephanie Butland
Published: June 19, 2018 by St. Martin's Press
Genre: Women's Fiction

You can trust a book to keep your secret . . .

Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look closely, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are things she'll never show you.

Fifteen years ago Loveday lost all she knew and loved in one unspeakable night. Now, she finds refuge in the unique little York bookshop where she works.

Everything is about to change for Loveday. Someone knows about her past. Someone is trying to send her a message. And she can't hide any longer.

Lost for Words is a compelling, irresistible and heart-rending novel, with the emotional intensity of The Shock of the Fall and all the charm of The Little Paris Bookshop and 84 Charing Cross Road.

5 Stars

Wow, this book got to me in ways I never expected it to. The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland left me with my heart hurting, tears streaming down my face, and a desire for it to go on and on and never end. We follow Loveday in present-day 2016 and learn of her, at first wonderful and later difficult, past in flashback chapters. We see her in school plays, reading with her father, baking with her mother, and hiding with her secrets in her bedroom. She's kept her past private, her family consisting of the people she chooses, specifically bookshop owner Archie. Lost for Words is her happy place, her escape with the books she connects to better than people, but the bookstore also brings to her people, like a lover, a poet, and someone with boxes that take her right back into the past.

"It's good to be reminded that the world is full of stories that are, potentially, at least as painful as yours."

Loveday is an enigma, she functions with little help from others, shares very little personal information, but allows the first lines of novels to tell her story for her as tattoos on her skin. She's hiding from a past she doesn't want to admit she has, hiding from comfort of sharing herself with another, and yet so desperate to tie the books she reads to her past in some way. She's like a child in many ways, though more caution with her feelings and matters of the heart. I ached for her, even before I knew what her past was made up of. She was meek in many ways and yet so strong and stubborn in others. Her past making up much of who she is, though unaware of how impactful those around her presently also are in making her into someone new. Loveday is a reader and The Lost for Words Bookshop is a book for book lovers.

"I suppose it's the fact that these small memories come from the kind of tiny reminders that you simply can't predict, and so can't protect yourself from, and they catch you, paper cuts across the heart."

Stephanie Butland's writing is lyrical, the story is fresh, and the poems that tie Loveday to another such a romantic way to reveal feelings. I loved every single secondary character in this novel, even those who are more foe than friend. Each sparks a match to Loveday, pushing her to reveal more of herself, to accept more of herself, and showing her to accept the open arms of others. Archie is the best man I've ever met in a book and he's not even what one would consider handsome. He's described as portly and jovial, the kind of man who tells a tale that you know must be embellished, only he's got the odd friends to show for it. His love of Loveday, his support of her, is so much like that of a father and I really ached for Loveday and how she didn't recognize him as such. He's so important in her growth in this novel and I easily could have read the story of them working together for ten years forever. They're quite the pair, I think I would've liked to know him. Of course, there's Nathan, a boy who charms her and disarms her, bringing forth a Loveday that I had come to think we would only see in her childhood flashbacks. He's the knight who helps her take down the walls she'd spent so long building and fortifying. Every character felt so real, with Stephanie Butland's descriptive storytelling bringing each to life along with the quant York setting.

"'And be brave, Loveday. Ask the questions you want to ask. Seek out the people you want in your life. It might not be as hard as you think.'"

The Lost for Words Bookshop is not what I would call chick lit, but rather Women's Literature and really a book anyone with difficult baggage can relate to. With heavy topics covered like mental health, trauma, and abuse, Stephanie Butland tells a romantic story with a purpose. As a bibliophile I connected with this book, with Loveday and her only-in-my-dreams tattoos, and the unique take Stephanie Butland had on burying the hatchet, finding oneself, and embracing life's quirks whether joyous or difficult. I had a fantastic giggle when Loveday, as a child, pointed at that being a reader makes saying words aloud so much more difficult, as we really haven't a clue how it really should sound. So true. I do suggest you prepare yourself with tissues, because for every laugh I had at the character's wittiness I also shed a tear for the heartache Loveday had come to accept. I know this is a book I will reread many times, in fact I can already picture the cold winter nights with cocoa in hand and Loveday to keep me company.

Review: Freshmen - Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Published: June 12, 2018
Genre: New Adult

A laugh-out-loud, realistic portrayal of a freshman year in college for fans of Girls and Broad City. 

Getting in is just the beginning.

Phoebe can't wait to get to college. On her own, discovering new things, no curfew . . . she'll be free. And she'll be totally different: cooler, prettier, smarter . . . the perfect potential girlfriend. Convenient: the only person from her high school also going to York is her longtime crush, Luke.

Luke didn't set out to redefine himself, but as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself dumping his long-term long-distance girlfriend. And the changes don't stop there. In fact, being on a soccer team is the only thing that stays the same.

Just when things start looking up (and Phoebe and Luke start hooking up), drama looms on the horizon. Rumors swirl about the Wall of Shame, a secret text chain run by Luke's soccer team, filled with compromising photos of girls. As the women on campus determine to expose the team and shut down the account, Luke and Phoebe find themselves grappling with confusing feelings and wondering how they'll ever make it through freshman year.

4 Stars

Freshmen is a classic NA college novel, the pages filled with partying, hook ups, and an occasional class. Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison take the fun a step farther by exploring loneliness, homesickness, and shameful events that can make or break the college experience. I really connected with both Phoebe and Luke, their experiences similar to my own four year adventure. It was a fun-to-read novel, the sort that gets you out of reality, but doesn't challenge you too much. I laughed quite a bit, appreciated the focus on events beyond drinking and one night stands, and ultimately found this book to be a really great, positive new adult read. It was a very authentic portrayal of college that took me back in time.

Though Freshmen is labeled as a YA novel, I'd put in more in NA adult territory. There is a lot of drinking, time spent between the sheets and literally everywhere else, and a serious, thought provoking question of appropriateness and questioning what everyone else is doing. I really appreciated the secondary characters, but they seemed more well rounded than Phoebe and Luke at times, their voices more mature and adult than that of the narrators. Additionally, the end left me feeling like it was unfinished, like maybe there must be more to the story, a happier ending. I wish there had been an epilogue that revealed all is well for the characters after a dramatic freshman year.

Freshmen is a must read for young adult and new adult fans, I mean, I want to hand it out to freshmen on college campuses right now. It was so accurate, funny, and had a very smart message to it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: Providence - Caroline Kepnes


by Caroline Kepnes
Published: June 19, 2018
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

A propulsive new thriller about the obsessive nature of love when an intensifying relationship between best friends is disrupted by a kidnapping.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he's suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and "fit in" with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity--but he's soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters' lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.
4 Stars

There is no other way for me to describe this book other than heavy. At times it seems there is no real purpose to this book, there's no glowing happily ever after promised, but as you get into the minds of Jon, Chloe, and Eggs we begin to understand how obsession can take over your life. The teacher was obsessed with a book and a crazy idea, Jon is obsessed with finding a way to be with Chloe and around others, Chloe is obsessed with Jon and popularity, Eggs is obsessed with finding the answer. Each is in a terrible position where their life is out of control and though each could sit back and accept it, they don't.

Providence certainly wasn't the easiest book I've ever read, in fact it took me four days to get through it, but that's mainly due to the weight. The emotions in this book are heavy, it's very sad and disheartening how each character is so affected by a single event. Jon's world is not easy, there's no possible pathforward to make it easier either, but he pushes on and I loved that about him. I ached for him, for his life stunted in his youth, but he took what happened to him and I do feel like he lived in a smart way. His effort to save others, to protect them at all costs, and to still be a productive, functioning member of society is something I applaud. Chloe was impossible to connect to, a flighty woman who really only is herself when she is painting. I liked her and I hated her all at once. Eggs, on the other hand, is this sort of character you are so fascinated by, but you are also terrified of him. Readers grow to care for Jon, we want him safe, he doesn't mean for things to happen, so Eggs' efforts to find him, to take him down, are hard to accept. That said, his desperate obsession with Jon is so interesting, especially with his own personal experiences with life being so out of control, with illness taking over. For me, the heart of this story is in the characters, in the way they obsess and grow and come full circle.

Caroline Kepnes uses a sort of odd humor at certain times and the favorited pop culture references she is known for are weaved into the story. I know of H.P. Lovecraft, but I can't say I ever have or ever would read his work, so I felt a bit disconnected from the Lovecraft obsession. Kepnes gives a very solid effort to include details from Lovecraft's books, but when weird fiction just isn't your thing it sometimes just didn't click. I did love that it was a thing though, that there are these people who follow his work, who live by it in an odd sort of way, that Jon could see others who knew the stories even if they didn't know just how much of those stories are a part of him.

I didn't quite know what I was getting into when I started Providence, but I'm glad I read it. It's different, a very fascinating story that, though unreal at times, is easily applied to real life. I'm not usually a science fiction fan and lucky for me I can say this doesn't have as much in it as you might think. It's there, it moves the story along, but it isn't what the book is about. I definitely suggest Providence to thriller fans and I think fans of Caroline Kepnes' previous novels should open their minds up for something a bit different. It's not Hidden Bodies or You., but it is Providence and it is very good.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Lies You Never Told Me - Jennifer Donaldson

Lies You Never Told Me
by Jennifer Donaldson
Published May 29th 2018 by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Suspense

Gabe and Elyse have never met. But they both have something to hide.

Quiet, shy Elyse can't believe it when she's cast as the lead in her Portland high school's production of Romeo and Juliet. Her best friend, Brynn, is usually the star, and Elyse isn't sure she's up to the task. But when someone at rehearsals starts to catch her eye--someone she knows she absolutely shouldn't be with--she can't help but be pulled into the spotlight.

Austin native Gabe is contemplating the unthinkable--breaking up with Sasha, his headstrong, popular girlfriend. She's not going to let him slip through her fingers, though, and when rumors start to circulate around school, he knows she has the power to change his life forever.

Gabe and Elyse both make the mistake of falling for the wrong person, and falling hard. Told in parallel narratives, this twisty, shocking story shows how one bad choice can lead to a spiral of unforeseen consequences that not everyone will survive.

4 Stars

Elyse. Gabe. Sasha. Caroline. Four students, four very different lives. Lies You Never Told Me is a twisted tale told from the perspective of Gabe and Elyse, two high school students who have never met, but whose lives are about to be changed forever. A gripping Young Adult Thriller, Lies You Never Told Me is a novel about consequences. Elyse is starring in a school play for her first time and she catches the eye of a handsome, new fellow. The spotlight is new for her, its promises too enticing, but there's a line that once crossed she may never come back from. Gabe wants to leave the comfortable life as the popular girl's boyfriend behind, but Sasha is vindictive and not about to let him go. Quiet loner Caroline is just the sort of girl he'd like to spend his time with, but she has secrets and soon the truth and lies are too tangled to differentiate.

This novel had my attention right away, from the intriguing summary to the unique cover, but I never expected to be so caught up in a young adult thriller. The story is gripping, with characters that are believable and events that, though realistic, are unfathomable to think of. There's prejudice, abuse, mental illness, forbidden romance, addiction, poverty, and more lies than I could possibly keep track of. It's a well written novel that reads true to American teen's experiences growing up today. While I guessed at the twist very quickly, I remained engaged from start to finish, loving how Jennifer Donaldson amped up the drama and weaved two very different stories together. I really felt for both main characters, the weight of their personal situations too heavy for youth. Each has had to be more mature than is expected of others their age and their daily life is very different from others. While some guys are playing football, Gabe is picking up his younger sister and doing his best to protect her from Sasha's dangerous plan. Elyse has been in the shadows forever, picking up the pieces at home and parenting her mother, it was obvious that positive attention is something she sorely lacked. Each ends up in a dangerous position, the lies each has told pulling them farther from the protection of adults and deeper into the deceitful web of a vengeful ex and a man far too old to be romancing a high schooler.

There's a fine balance between high school life and the thriller nature of the novel taking over that, but I found it to be blended quite well. There's classroom gossip and locker room flirting, each tinged a shade of red as the characters await what could come next. Jennifer Donaldson has written an incredible suspenseful thriller with Lies You Never Told Me. Readers of all ages will enjoy the did they, didn't they storyline and will appreciate the relevant social issues that make this novel so diverse. I found it to be very clever considering it's a debut novel and am interested to see what comes next from author Jennifer Donaldson.

ARC provided by Razorbill of Penguin Random House.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cover Reveal: Jackal - Fisher & Aster

Find out why readers are LOVING this new series by Fisher & Aster! Are you ready for Jackal?Release Date: June 29, 2018
Jackal Emerson has never taken himself seriously. Dubbed the “orgy king,” he’s renowned for his reputation as the wild End Man. But with the uprising on the horizon and his best friend missing, Jackal is having a hard time living the same carefree existence.
And then he meets a thief and everything changes.
Phoenix Moyo, principal dancer of a notorious ballet company, lives a life of rigidity. When her world collides with Jackal’s, their chemistry is evident to everyone except her. Forced to work with him to steal the most precious commodity of the Regions, she realizes too late that there is no escaping Jackal’s charisma.
When unimaginable crimes come to light, the Regions begin to crumble. No one is safe. Families divide and secrets are exposed, danger running rampant on every side. For some, sacrifice costs everything.
Pre-order Jackal on Amazon


Start the End of Men series today with Book 1 - Folsom
"Your hearts will be racing as the Gwen and Folsom's story gallops towards its suspense filled ending! Talk about having your heart in your mouth!" ~TotallyBooked Blog
The nation as we know it is a thing of the past.
With the male species on the verge of extinction, a society called the End Men is formed to save the world. Folsom Donahue is one of twelve men whose sole purpose is to repopulate the Regions. The endless days spent having sex with strangers leaves Folsom with an emptiness no amount of women, money, or status can fill.
Until Gwen.
Gwen has wanted a child for as long as she can remember, but when she finally gets a chance to have her own, she uncovers a long hidden truth. The injustice she sees moves her to help save the men whom no one else believes need saving.
A forbidden love, grown in a time of despair, ignites a revolution.
Folsom and Gwen, torn between their love for each other and their sense of duty, must make a choice. But some will stop at nothing to destroy them.

About the Authors
Tarryn Fisher is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of nine novels. Born a sun hater, she currently makes her home in Seattle, Washington with her children, husband, and psychotic husky. Tarryn writes about villains.

Willow Aster is the author of True Love Story, In the Fields, Maybe Maby, Fade to Red, and Lilith. She’s also the co-author of Folsom, The End of Men series with Tarryn Fisher. Willow loves nothing more than writing the day away—anywhere will do. Her husband and two children graciously put up with her endless daydreaming and make fun of her for reading while cooking.

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