Book Reviews · Recommendations

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
By: Becky Albertalli

Published: January, 2018
Published by: Balzer + Bray 
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

 

Synopsis

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.

My Thoughts

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an award winning YA novel about a closeted homosexual teenage boy and his first love. This was my first time reading a male/male romance and I found it to be quite cute and innocent. I think that there will be a lot of people who could relate to Simon’s character.

Unfortunately I felt quite underwhelmed by this novel. I had heard so much hype about how wonderful it was, that it was one of my most highly anticipated books to read. However, in my opinion it was just an okay story. I didn’t absolutely love it like I thought I would, which was disappointing. Hopefully I will enjoy the movie adaptation more.

Still I think it is a decent book, with a good message and I would recommend it to fans of Young Adult LGBT fiction.

Note: I read the movie tie-in edition of this novel, which featured bonus content including; excerpts, an interview and photos from the movie.

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Book Reviews · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: September 2018

Total Books Read in September: 4
Total Books Read in 2018: 24

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1) by Jacqueline Winspear
Narrated by: Rita Barrington
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Series
My Rating: 4/5

 

The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens 
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 2/5
Quick Thoughts: Peter Behrens The Law of Dreams follows an orphaned boy during the Irish potato famine, as he forges a new life for himself. Many historical fiction novels I’ve read doesn’t delve far into why immigrants leave them homelands. However this book did and for that I found it interesting. Unfortunately I struggled with some of the disturbing content and found it quite long. I didn’t feel as if I got to know our main character as well as the people he came across on his journey.

 

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
My Rating: 3.5/5

 

Deadly Voyage: R.M.S. Titanic, Jamie Laidlaw, April 14, 1912 by High Brewster
Genre: Middle-grade, Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 4
Total Number of Fiction: 4
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 0
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 3
Total Library Books Read: 1

Formats Read

Physical Books: 2
eBooks: 1
Audio Books: 1

 

Currently Reading

 

October TBR

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Perfect Mother
By Aimee Molloy

Published: May 2018
Published by: HarperLuxe
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

My Thoughts

The Perfect Mother was an enjoyable mystery that I flew through. As newer mother, I found that I could relate to a lot of the emotions the women felt postpartum and how overwhelming life with a newborn can become. I too even joined a local mommy group, like they did in this novel. Thankfully I’ve met some wonderful people, however, unfortunately the plot of this story isn’t quite so far fetched as it may initially sound.

Several times while reading The Perfect Mother, I thought I had the mystery solved, but then a twist would send me off in another direction. Even though I wasn’t able to perfectly predict the outcome, I didn’t find the ending to be quite as suspenseful or thrilling as I anticipated.

I would recommend Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother to fans of contemporary mysteries.

Book Reviews · Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: August 2018

Total Books Read in August: 3
Total Books Read in 2018: 20

Tide and Tempest (Edge of Freedom, #3)
By: Elizabeth Ludwig
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
My Rating: 3/5
Quick thoughts: Tide and Tempest was an interesting end to the Edge of Freedom series. I enjoyed the time period, New York city setting and being reunited with characters from the previous two novels. However this wasn’t my favourite book in the trilogy as I didn’t find the main characters to be as interesting as others. I also felt that the end was rushed. I would still recommend Elizabeth Ludwig’s novels to fans of Christian historical fiction.

 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
By: Becky Albertalli
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
My Rating: 3/5

 

An Amish Kitchen
By: Beth Wiseman, Amy Clipston, Kelly Long
Narrated by: Heather Henderson
Genre: Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction
My Rating: 4/5

 

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 3
Total Number of Fiction: 3
Total Number of Non-fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 0
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 2
Total Library Books Read: 1

Formats Read

Physical Books: 1
eBooks: 1
Audio Books: 1

Currently Reading

 

September TBR

 

Book Reviews

A High-End Finish (A Fixer-Upper Mystery #1) by Kate Carlisle

A High-End Finish
(A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #1)
By: Kate Carlisle

Published: November 2014
Published by: NAL
Format Read: Kobo, eBook
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

In the seaside town of Lighthouse Cove in northern California, everyone knows the best man for the job is actually a woman—contractor Shannon Hammer. But while Shannon can do wonders with a power drill and a little elbow grease, she’s about to discover that some problems aren’t so easily fixed….

Shannon’s home-renovation and repair business is booming, but her love life needs work. On a blind date with real estate agent Jerry Saxton, she has to whip out a pair of pliers to keep Jerry from getting too hands on. Shannon is happy to put her rotten date behind her, but when Jerry’s found dead in a run-down Victorian home that she’s been hired to restore, the town’s attractive new police chief suspects that her threats may have laid the foundation for murder.

Determined to clear her name, Shannon conducts her own investigation—with the help of her four best friends, her eccentric father, a nosy neighbor or two, and a handsome crime writer who’s just moved to town. But as they get closer to prying out the murderer’s identity, Shannon is viciously attacked. Now she’ll have to nail down the truth—or end up in permanent foreclosure.…

My Thoughts

I decided to pick up Kate Carlisle’s A High-End Finish because of my interest in cozy mysteries and home renovations. Shannon’s business restoring and building Victorian style homes was quite interesting to me as I’ve been a long time fan of anything on HGTV. The descriptions of Lighthouse Cove made it sound like a beautiful place.

Although the story kept my attention, I felt there were some aspects of the plot that lacked detail. While there were others that unnecessarily took up too much detail. I have yet to decide if I will continue on with the Fixer-Upper Mystery series.

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Ebb and Flow by Heather Smith

Ebb and Flow
By: Heather Smith

Published: April 2018
Published By: Kids Can Press
Format Read: Hardcover, Library Book
Genre: Middle Grade, Poetry

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

One summer,
after a long plane ride
and a rotten bad year
I went to Grandma Jo’s.
It was my mother’s idea.
Jett, what you need is a change of scenery.
I think she needed a change of scenery, too.
One without me.
Because that rotten bad year?
That was my fault.

Thus begins the poignant story, told in free verse, of eleven-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend – a shameful secret he still hasn’t forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?

Writing in artfully crafted free-verse vignettes, Heather T. Smith uses a deceptively simple style to tell a powerful and emotionally charged story. The engaging narrative and the mystery of Jett’s secret keep the pages turning and will appeal to both reluctant and avid readers. This captivating book offers a terrific opportunity for classroom discussions about the many ways to tell a story and how a small number of carefully chosen words can have a huge impact. It also showcases the positive character traits of empathy resilience, courage, and responsibility.

My Thoughts

Ebb and Flow is another library book that I picked up on a whim. The cover instantly reminded me of Newfoundland and I was pleased to learn that it was indeed set in that province. I’ve never been a fan of poetry, but decided to give this book a try anyway.

Surprisingly this was one of the top books I’ve read in 2018 to date. Wrote in free verse, it tells the story of a troubled boy, sent to spend the summer with his Grandmother. In flash backs, readers learn about the terrible year he had.

Geared for the Middle Grades it teaches an important lesson about following your moral compass and forgiveness. It was beautifully written, which interesting characters. I found several poems to be really touching and the metaphors can be applied to many different situations.

I would highly recommend Heather Smith’s Ebb and Flow. It would be a great addition to school curriculum’s as well.

Book Reviews

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, #1) by Sophie Kinsella

Confessions of a Shopaholic
(Shopaholic, #1)
By: Sophie Kinsella

Published: November, 2003
Published by: Dell Publishing Company
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season’s must-haves. The only trouble is, she can’t actually afford it—not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Saving magazine not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all. And lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from the bank—letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read. She tries cutting back. But none of her efforts succeeds. Her only consolation is to buy herself something . . . just a little something.

Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life—and the lives of those around her—forever.

My Thoughts

I first read Confessions of a Shopaholic in high school. I don’t remember a lot about this book (aside from the basic plot), however I do remember that it wasn’t one of my favourite books. I decided to give it a second try, as I have added the series to a challenge I am trying to complete. I also hoped that perhaps I would enjoy it more than I did the first time around.

It didn’t take me long, once I started reading to understand why I didn’t love this book the first time I read it. Simply put, Becky Bloomwood is probably one of the most frustrating characters I’ve ever come across. She was really quite selfish and superficial. However this seems to be a theme in previous Sophie Kinsella books I’ve read. Another similarity I’ve noticed is that many of her characters have a very overactive imagination. Becky’s personality is meant to be humorous, but I often found it irritating, which was reminiscent of how I felt reading Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada.

Confessions of a Shopaholic isn’t one of my favourite books by this author, but it did have its entertaining moments and it was quick to read. I hope that I enjoy the second installment in this series more than I did the first.

 

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Hopeless (Hopeless, #1) by Colleen Hoover

Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)
By: Colleen Hoover

Published: December, 2012
Format Read: eBook, Kindle
Genre: Romance, New Adult, Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 5/5

♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…

That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.

Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.

My Thoughts

Colleen Hoover is another author who I became curious about after hearing a lot of hype on Book Tube. I definitely wasn’t prepared for how much of an emotional impact Hopeless would have.

The dramatic prologue to Sky’s story had me hooked immediately.  However I was unsure if I wanted to continue once I figured out where the plot was heading. The subject matter featured in this book is extremely hard to read. Some may even find it very problematic and triggering. Thankfully I decided to continue on, as this ended up being a 5 star read for me.

Hopeless was one of the most intense books I have ever read. Although I was able to predict early on the outcome, I still couldn’t put it down.

I would highly recommend Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless to fans of new adult fiction. However I advise caution to those who are sensitive to triggering subject matter.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy

Nights of Rain and Stars
By: Maeve Binchy

Published: 2005
Published By: Orion Books
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction

Rating: 5/5

 

Synopsis

In a Greek taverna, high over the small village of Aghia Anna, four people meet for the first time: Fiona, an Irish nurse, Thomas, a Californian academic; Elsa, a German television presenter; and David a shy English boy. Along with Andreas, the old man who runs the taverna, they become close to each other after witnessing a tragedy when a pleasure steamer catches fire in the harbour. NIGHTS OF RAIN AND STARS is the story of one summer when Fiona, Thomas, Elsa and David all have to face the particular life crisis which first made them leave their homes and end up in Greece. With the help of Vonni, a middle-aged Irish woman who lives in the village and is now a near-native, they each find a solution – although not necessarily the one they anticipated…

 

My Thoughts

In this novel a group of very different people find themselves at a Greek taverna as a tragedy unfolds in the bay below them. This catastrophe makes them contemplate their own lives and the decisions that led them to the village.

After hearing my Mom rave about Maeve Binchy’s Nights of Rain and Stars, I bumped it up on my reading list. I’m glad that I did because it allowed us to discuss it when it was fresh in her mind. I ended up enjoying this story much more than I anticipated.

The cast of characters was ripe with flaws and faults. In fact as individuals, they weren’t very likable at all, but together they formed friendships that brought out the best qualities in each other. Not only was the setting beautiful, but the solidarity the villagers showed during the time of tragedy was very touching.

Nights of Rain and Stars would make for a good beach read and I would recommend it to fans of Maeve Binchy.

 

Notable Quotes

“…Someone who had not shown the courage to change because he had not known what opportunities for change there were.”

“Now I will open a bottle of wine to celebrate that we were here tonight, with all our hopes and dreams still left to us as we sit in another night of stars.”

“Cry a lot, but laugh as well. It’s how we survive.”

“If hearts can be heavy in heaven her poor heart will be like a lump of lead.”

Book Reviews · Recommendations

More than 50%: Woman’s Life in a Newfoundland Outport 1900-1950 by Hilda Chaulk Murray

More than 50%: Woman ‘s Life in a Newfoundland Outport 1900-1950
By Hilda Chaulk Murray

Published: 2010 (Originally 1980)
Published By: Flanker Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

Synopsis

Hilda Chaulk Murray’s More Than 50% is an important piece of Atlantic folklore that encapsulates a woman’s role in the Newfoundland and Labrador outport community. In the days before Confederation, women and men worked hard to prosecute the province’s robust cod fishery, and although women’s work kept them on shore, their contribution to this once-thriving industry was no less important than men’s. In fact, it was universally accepted that the matriarch was the driving force in meeting the family’s and indeed the entire community’s needs. Murray’s hometown of Elliston, Trinity Bay, in the early twentieth century is the setting for this book, in which she gives a guided tour of the female’s unique and ever-changing roles, from girlhood to womanhood, in the outport way of life.

My Thoughts

More Than 50% was derived from the authors academic thesis for Memorial University (Memorial University of Newfoundland). I came across this book in a small gift shop, when I last visited the island. The topic of women’s life in out-port communities interested me, as that is where my own family were born and raised. Although they are from different communities and weren’t in the fishery, much of the content pertained to what my grandmothers lives would have entailed. And of course those who came before them, as well.

Yes, this book could use some more editing, however it was the content itself that kept my attention. I felt that Hilda Chaulk Murray painted a clear picture of life during the time periods she covered. It must have been fascinating to travel around her home community interviewing its older residents.  She talked of old Newfoundland traditions that were passed through the generations as well as the impact the decline in the fishery had on its people. I found it especially interesting to learn about life in pre-confederation Newfoundland, including how many felt more connected to the United States than they did the country they would eventually join.

The roles of women in the both the fishery and household made for an important topic to be covered. I would recommend it to those who are interested in Newfoundland culture and history.

 

Notable Quotes

“The inshore cod fishery was the main work but the only thing certain about it was the uncertainly.”