Tuesday, July 14, 2020

REVIEW: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

The Safe Place
Superbly tense and oozing with atmosphere, Anna Downs's debut is the perfect summer suspense, with the modern gothic feel of Ruth Ware and the morally complex family dynamics of Lisa Jewell.

Welcome to paradise...will you ever be able to leave?

Emily is a mess.

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day.

Emily is desperate.

Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.

Emily is perfect.

Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn't play along, the consequences could be deadly.
I read an excerpt of this book on Bookish First and was intrigued enough to read the full book.

Emily is a young aspiring actress. With her auditions not leading her anywhere, she works an office job. Except she doesn't do such a great job at it and ends up losing the job. When her ex-boss offers her an intriguing new job prospect, she's curious. He needs someone to be a sort of housekeeper at his French estate, keeping his wife and daughter company. She jumps at the chance, but is this too good to be true?

While the book was slow at first, it quickly turns into an engrossing read. Even though there are plenty of scenes where not much happens, there is always suspense in the background. We have a very beautiful setting, but our main character is in complete isolation from the rest of the world. There's only her, the boss's wife (Nina), the daughter (Aurelia), and a staff member that rarely speaks. All throughout the book, you know something is wrong with either the setting or the characters but you don't know what. It made me what to turn the pages and try to figure out what was really going on here.

The book is from dual POV, though Emily is the main character. Scott (her ex-boss) also narrates part of the book. His narration blurs whether we can trust him or not. There are plenty of moments where his narration creeped me out (and I believe we are supposed to be weirded out by his narration), but he carries the outward appearance of a CEO. In the first part of the book, Scott is adamant that Emily is the one for the job, and it was never really clear why she was the one for the job. She doesn't seem that special, which may have been the point. She is a bit naive in the beginning, and she ignores any bad feelings she has. She does end up having a strong character arc in the book as she gains further insights on what really is happening at the estate.

I found this book to be absolutely entertaining, but I am torn by what level of entertaining I found this to be. I do think the book did a great job of creating suspense in the background of every scene Throughout the book, I enjoyed seeing Emily grow close to Nina and Aurelia, but the book never fully lets the reader put their guard down. There is always the question of whether we should trust them. Even though I was completely engrossed in the story, I felt like the plot did not take as many risks as it should have. The story wasn't entirely predictable, but it wasn't as strong as a mystery as I expected. I think by the end I felt like I was reading a Lifetime movie in book format. Still entertaining, but not as memorable as I hoped.


Overall, I did enjoy reading this book. This book had a slow pace at first, but once we got to the French estate setting, I was completely engrossed in the book. The suspense was done well, but I feel like the book didn't push the envelope in terms of the mystery. Once everything was revealed, it just didn't feel unique. It honestly felt like a Lifetime movie and I wish the book took more risks. I don't know whether I will read more from the author, I'll see what else she writes, but this was a solid debut.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Monday, July 13, 2020

REVIEW: The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune's YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick's best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl meets Marissa Meyer's Renegades in TJ Klune's YA debut.

I had been seeing this book around but until I read the excerpt on Bookish First, I didn't know that I absolutely needed to read it. This book was a lot like what was promised, superheroes meets Fangirl, with LGTQ rep.

In a world where superheroes called Extraordinaries exist, Nick is ordinary. He spends his time writing fanfiction about Shadow Star, his city's biggest hero (and Nick's crush). When Nick decides to become Extraordinary himself, he ropes his friends into the adventure, but he ends up pulled into the Extraordinaries more than he expected.

It's weird that I don't like watching superhero movies, but I absolutely love reading books featuring superheroes. Once I realized this was a book featuring a world where superheroes are real, I was on board. I was definitely on board after reading the first few chapters. The world in this book is ordinary with the exception that these superheroes are celebrities. There was no confusion on the world, and I understood quickly how the extraordinaire worked. As close to our world this book is, it still felt extraordinary, especially when we see the world through Nick's eyes. I'll admit that since reading this book I've been daydreaming about a world with superheroes.

I did have some difficulty with this book, though. There were a couple of major plot points that were obvious to me from the get-go, but it took so long for Nick to figure out. This made for some cringey moments. At the start, I was excited for Nick to know these things, but I grew tired of waiting. This also made the pacing feel slow in the first half. The pacing did pick up and once Nick started putting the puzzle pieces together, I grew excited once more.

Nick's voice was very strong in this book. He has humor, and while we don't live in a world with superheroes (that we know of), his obsession with Shadow Star was completely relatable. He also has ADHD and while I can't speak of how great the rep was, it felt genuine in the book and was just a part of him. He honestly read like a teenage boy. He makes a lot of mistakes in this book, and there are so many cringey moments, but that's what it is like being a teenager. I did want to shake him sometimes because there are things that were so obvious to me, but it took 80% of the book for Nick to figure things out. [highlight to view spoiler] One, that Seth had a crush on him. Two, that he actually knew both Shadow Star and Pyro Storm. I guessed that from the synopsis (though I went back and forth throughout the book on guessing who was who. I knew which two people though) [end of spoiler] Even though things were obvious to me, I did like seeing Nick try to figure things out.

As for other characters, this book has such a great cast. Nick has a group of supportive friends that don't really understand Nick's obsession with Shadow Star, but they still try to help him and lovingly joke with him about it. They also try to talk some sense into him when he gets into dangerous situations. Nick's friendship with Seth is adorable. I also loved Nick's relationship with his dad, which we don't always get to see in YA books. It was so comfortable and I loved their back and forth humor.

The ending of this book was huge and made up for the early pacing issues. I'm not sure how I feel about the last chapter. [highlight to view spoiler] I don't know if I find it exciting that Nick has powers or disappointing because I kind of wanted him to be ordinary. [end of spoiler] Either way, I'm excited for the next book!


Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. The pacing was slow at first, and some plot points were obvious, but I enjoyed the characters, the extraordinary abilities, and seeing everything come together!

I hereby give this book
3.5 Stars
Meaning: I liked it, but it wasn't quite amazing.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

New Releases in YA! (July 12th-18th)

Every week I list all (or almost all) of the YA books (and the occasional MG) that are coming out within that week!
P.S. Click on the book's cover for the Goodreads page!

Did I miss any books?
What books, if any, do you plan to read?

Friday, July 10, 2020

REVIEW: The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

The Silver Kiss

Zoe is wary when, in the dead of night, the beautiful yet frightening Simon comes to her house. Simon seems to understand the pain of loneliness and death and Zoe's brooding thoughts of her dying mother.
Simon is one of the undead, a vampire, seeking revenge for the gruesome death of his mother three hundred years before. Does Simon dare ask Zoe to help free him from this lifeless chase and its insufferable loneliness?

Full disclosure: This wasn't my kind of book in the first place, and I knew that going in. From the synopsis, this sounded like the typical paranormal romance, which just isn't my jam anymore. However, this book and Annette Curtis Klause are considered classics of YA, so I thought I should at least give it a shot. I was disappointed, but I wasn't surprised by my disappointment.

Zoe's mother is dying, and there is nothing she could do about it. In fact, Zoe feels like her mother is already dead. She already feels the loneliness. She's restricted from visiting her mother in the hospital, her father is rarely home anymore, and no one around her wants to talk about it. It is when she is wandering around at night that she meets Simon. Simon is a vampire, but now he hunting for the one who killed his mother centuries before. This same person has been brutally killing women in Zoe's town, and Zoe may be able to put a stop to him.

I listened to this book on audio. The edition I listened to included two short stories, one that takes place before, and one after. I went ahead and started listening to the first one, but I couldn't get through it. It seemed to be based around an animal death, and since I listened to this audiobook just days after my dog died, I really didn't want to continue that story. I didn't bother listening to the second story.

There were plenty of moments throughout this book where I was tempted to give up, but then there would be one good scene so I kept going. Then I was so far in that I figured I should just keep going. This book has two different plot-points carrying the book. There's the plot-point of Zoe's mother dying of cancer, and there's the vampire plot-point. I liked how there was the other, more realistic, plot-point balancing the book. It made Zoe's character feel more real. It helped us understand her mindset, and it set the mood for the book.

As for the vampire plot-point, I have mixed feelings. I liked that the vampires were not shown in a positive light. They don't sparkle. Even with Simon, we see him in monstrous states. What gives me mixed feelings, is that I'm not sure if I was supposed to find Simon monstrous at times. He is often romanticized in Zoe's eyes, but I couldn't help but find him creepy. I do think the mystery was fairly interesting. There is a slight murder mystery plot that starts solely in the background. Though, I felt like the thrilling aspects were put on the backburner, which I found disappointing. Most of the latter plot focused on Simon's backstory (which was quite lengthy) and creepy love scenes between Simon and Zoe.

I really couldn't stand the romance in this book. I found Simon to be creepy. I actually found everything interaction between Zoe and Simon incredibly disturbing, and I felt uncomfortable during these scenes. There were many times when I said "Yuck!" out loud. The romance between them happens really quickly and didn't make sense. It also made me like Zoe less because she wasn't using her brain. I think the book would have benefitted without the romance. I wish it focused on the mystery more.

Overall, this book disappointed me. It had some interesting ideas, but I found the romance kind of gross and the writing was clunky. I can see how this book influenced other paranormal YA, and I'm glad that it helped form YA, but I was not a fan. I own a copy of Blood and Chocolate by Klause as well, but I'm going to donate it. I don't think these books are for me (and I like werewolves even less than vampires). 

I hereby give this book
2 Stars
Meaning: It was okay

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Paris on Repeat by Amy Bearce

Waiting on Wednesday (or Can't Wait Wednesday) is a weekly meme, hosted by Wishful Endings, where we talk about the books we're waiting (a bit impatiently) for!

This week I am waiting for...

Paris on Repeat

GROUNDHOG DAY gets a hilarious French twist in this delightful upper middle grade novel about first crushes and friendship when an eighth-grade class trip to Paris goes horribly wrong and the worst day of one girl’s life keeps happening over and over.

Fourteen-year-old Eve Hollis is ready to push through her fears and finally let her crush know how she feels. And what better place to tell him than on top of the Eiffel Tower in the City of Love? But things don’t go as planned, and Eve is sure she’s had the worst day of her life— until she wakes up the next morning to realize the whole disaster of a day is happening again. She’s trapped in a time loop.

Desperate to make it stop, Eve will have to take some big risks and learn from her mistakes or she’s destined to live the most awkwardly painful day of her life over and over again, forever.
Release Date: July 14st, 2020

Why am I waiting?
I love to read books featuring repeating days! This book also sounds like loads of fun and I desperately want a feel-good read right now!
What book are you waiting for this week?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Read Authors (in the last five years)

Hosted each week by The Broke and the Bookish, it's a meme for listing the top ten for everything bookish.

Today's topic is Most Read Authors. I did this topic back in 2015 and after looking at my most read authors today, I noticed that not much has changed. So, I'm going to list my most read authors from the last five years!

Janet Evanovich
Janet Evanovich
Number of books read: 30
Favorite: No favorite
I started reading the Stephanie Plum series a couple of years ago. My mom recommended the series, especially the audio. It makes really easy audiobook listening, but all the books are usually just 3 stars from me (or sometimes 2.5 stars). 

Cate Tiernan
Cate Tiernan
Number of books read: 18
I really liked the Immortal Beloved books, so I couldn't choose a favorite between the three. I also liked the Sweep series, though not as much. If anyone does decide to pick up the Sweep series, by the way, I recommend skipping the last book because it ruins the rest of the series.

Victoria Schwab/V.E. Schwab
V.E. Schwab
Number of books read: 14
Favorite(s): Shades of Magic and  Monsters of Verity
Now, it was much harder to pick favorites for this one because Victoria Schwab is one of my favorite authors!

Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler
Lemony Snicket
Number of books read: 13
I read the first book in A Series of Unfortunate Events in 2014 (before the start of this list), and I didn't continue the series until the Netflix series started. I really loved reading the series, even more after I picked it up after the long break. Now, I didn't enjoy Why We Broke Up as much.

Meg Cabot
Meg Cabot
Number of books read: 12
Favorite: No Favorite
Like Janet Evanovich, I don't really love Meg Cabot's books. I just read a lot of them because they were popular, easy reading, and I picked up a bunch from used book sales. Both books from her got between 2-3 stars from me. (The only books that received more than three stars were a couple of books in the Mediator series, which I read right before the cut-off for this list).

Louise Rennison
Louise Rennison
Number of books read: 10
This is a really entertaining series, and I highly recommend it when you want to read something a little silly

Holly Black
Holly Black
Number of books read: 10

Kasie West
Kasie West
Number of books read: 9
Favorite: Pivot Point
I still hope for another book as great as Pivot Point from her.

Jay Kristoff
Jay Kristoff
Number of books read: 9
Another one of my favorite authors!

E Lockhart
E. Lockhart
Number of books read: 8

Who are your most read authors?

Monday, July 6, 2020

REVIEW: Everless by Sara Holland

Everless (Everless, #1)
In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself. 
I both read this book in hardcover and listened to this book on audio. I switched between the two throughout the book.

Jules lives in a kingdom where time is currency. Days, weeks, months, and years can be extracted from someone via their blood. Her father is dying after extracting too much time in order to pay off debts. To save her father, and make money, Jules decides to work at Everless, the aristocratic household that her and her father once worked until they had to flee. Now Jules will have to confront her past, but being at Everless may just put her in more danger.

This book has an intriguing concept, but it had trouble grasping my attention. I actually fell asleep a couple of times while listening to the book. Not much happens in the middle of the book. I actually went back to make sure I didn't miss anything, and I really didn't miss anything that affected understanding the story.

Now, there is quite a lot of action in the beginning and the end. It also in these points that we see the concept the strongest. This book takes place in a world where time becomes currency. The rich live centuries, while the poor take months and years off their lives in order to pay debts. The magic in this world is unique and I think for the most part the concept was shown well in the book. The world itself does unfortunately sound familiar, with a high percent of the population in poverty and a small percent taking in excess what the poor had to pay to survive. I do think the book did a great job in showing this concept, yet I never felt like I was fully in this world. I think maybe it has to do with the fact that a big reveal in the story is based on a story passed down in this world that was not fully explained.

I think throughout the book I just felt like the plot was dragging. I knew I should care about these characters, but I didn't care as much as I should have. Closer to the end, the plot did pick up. While I didn't quite understand every reveal, it did take the book in a unique direction. I also liked how the book tried to expand upon how magic is used in this world, and how it used time in a way beyond the general concept.

As for romance, from the synopsis, I expected a love triangle and there wasn't really a love triangle (thank goodness). There are two guys, but Jules spends most of the time attracted to one and hating the other. There isn't really any romance in the book beyond attraction. I don't mind it when books have little romance (I actually prefer it when there isn't romance), but I got the feeling that we were supposed to read more into it and see a relationship and I just didn't.

Overall, this book has a really intriguing idea and I think it had some really interesting scenes, but a good chunk of the book felt drawn out and boring. The book ended on a pretty strong note, but I doubt I will continue the series. I just don't feel that compelled to know more about the characters, and the next book doesn't have that great of an average rating for a sequel/series conclusion.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Sunday, July 5, 2020

New Releases in YA! (July 1st-11th)

Every week I list all (or almost all) of the YA books (and the occasional MG) that are coming out within that week!
P.S. Click on the book's cover for the Goodreads page!

Did I miss any books?
What books, if any, do you plan to read?