Monday, January 9, 2017

REVIEW: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Title: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Genre: Controversial/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Release Date: August 9/2016
Acquired: Purchased ebook
Goodreads: ADD

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.


I have a mantra on repeat in my head as I write this, it goes something like "It's okay to have liked this book, oh DEAR GOD it's okay that I enjoyed it". I've read some seriously controversial books in my reading lifetime, but All the Ugly and Wonderful Things pretty much takes the top layer of the cake. It is a love story, yes. And I would be lying if I said my heart didn't beat a little bit faster whilst rooting for this unsettling pairing.

The book begins with Wavy, in all of her quietly damaged glory, told through the perspective of her cousin Amy. So many assumptions are easily made in these first few chapters, so many questions already tucked away in my brain awaiting answers. Why doesn't she speak? What unspeakable hurt is she experiencing? Who can we blame first? The answers came in the way that they tend to do in these cases: unfortunately, and with a heavy heart. Wavy is living a life that many wouldn't wish on their most hated. And though her silence is powerful, so are the things left unsaid, and soon there's only one person who is allowed to hear them.

Enter Kellen. Intimidating, bulky, greasy, TWENTY-SOMETHING-year-old Kellen. He literally crashes into Wavy's life one morning whilst riding his motorcycle. He takes one look at 8-year-old Wavy and drives his motorcycle straight into the ground. As the reader, it was here that the cringy, uncomfortable feelings start. It was here that the author exceeds in her intention to create an attraction, regardless of how small and/or innocent. It was here that Kellen becomes a driving force in Wavy's life, and she in his. He begins to make sure that she gets to school on time, that her little brother Donal is taken care of, and that she is never alone. You want to feel wretched about this situation, you want to HATE that he begins to love her, because it's SO WRONG. But you literally cannot-there wasn't a bone in my body that wanted to shut the book when Kellen grew closer to Wavy as the years progressed, as time somehow shut the gap between their ages to a more appropriate number. So pure were his intentions, so broken were both of their lives.

It all made sense. It all made intensely disturbing, wonderful SENSE. Even from the beginning. What an extremely gifted writer Greenwood is. Her ability to create shock but not for the value of it, to open a space in my heart for something so otherwise appalling. I congratulate her on her bravery, and her unapologetic view of might not be our own reality, but could very well be another's. I am STILL feeling the remnants of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. What a FANTASTIC way to start off my 2017 reading year!

Recommended for Fans of: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall, Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald, Jodi Picoult, Contemporary, Controversial Issues.



CLICK HERE to read more about Bryn on her website's bio page!


Friday, October 7, 2016

REVIEW: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Title: The Best Kind of People
Author: Zoe Whittall
Genre: Contemporary/Controversial
Publisher: Anansi Press
Release Date: August 27/2016
Acquired: Print copy requested
Goodreads: ADD

Recently Shortlisted for the Giller Prize!

What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable?

George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?

With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.


The relevancy of this book is IMMENSE, for right now, for every single year that has already past, and, without a doubt for the years that are to come. The Best Kind of People was a delve into rape culture that was a lot more character based than what I've experienced thus far, but no less resounding for it. It was an exaggerated depiction of the perfect family, the perfect home, and the crippling effects of what an imperfect revelation had on them.

The initial few paragraphs read like a page straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, so it was alike stepping on a landmine in the middle of paradise when the scene suddenly takes a turn for the possibly criminal. Whittall did small town wealth so flawlessly, and with such an emphasis on the perks that come with having everything just "go your way," that when the scandal bomb DID explode, it wasn't just the Woodbury family left wandering aimlessly, I felt that confusion and betrayal in my OWN gut. How could this be happening? This particular thing, the most horrible thing that could possibly be happening, to a family who built a life that resembled the complete OPPOSITE of what this thing created: disloyalty, humiliation, social shunning, loss of reputation, loss of sanity. You're left wondering if there's anyone in your life you can actually trust--how well do you know the person you've spent years loving the most?

I lost track of how many times I changed my mind about George Woodbury's guilt, but it was obvious that Whittall wanted it that way. The Best Kind of People wasn't a crime novel, or a mystery novel, or anything that would have one building pieces to form a clear reveal. It was the method of the madness, that madness being a loss of self, of everything you once held true turned inside out and unrecognizable. It was about a daughter's once fierce trust in a father who held all of life's answers, her pillar of unshakable strength. It was about a son's determination to keep that same image of his father alive by using the law's allowances. And finally, it was about a wife, who could will her mind to believe in her partner's incapability of heinous acts, but what to do about her heart's suspicions? Whittall's writing was confident and so specifically crafted for her desire effect, which was not to keep you guessing, but to keep you feeling. Feeling for the Woodbury family members who were not in jail, the ones who WERE left to keep guessing about their father, and husband's, innocence.

The very last sentence of this novel infuriated me beyond comprehension, but sadly, it mirrors the outcome of so many real life situations with this subject matter.  

The Best Kind of People is a massively important book. It's aim was not to focus on a grand revelation, or drive home the rights you have as a human being, but instead it offered a rare look inside the mental and emotional states of the people who usually suffer silently: the family members of a suspected offender. I urge you to this book keep you in it's heart-gripping vise.

Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Controversial Issues, Jodi Picoult.



CLICK HERE to read more about Zoe on her website's Bio page!



A huge thank-you to Anansi Press for providing a print copy of this book for review!

Friday, September 16, 2016

REVIEW: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Title: Dark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Publisher: Crown (PenguinRandom House)
Release Date: August 2/2016
Acquired: Print copy sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable--something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A SOCIALBOOKCO REVIEW: The Muse by Jessie Burton

Title: The Muse
Author: Jessie Burton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Ecco
Release Date: July 26/2016
Acquired: Print copy sent by SocialBookCo
Goodreads: ADD
Purchase: SocialBookCo

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

A picture hides a thousand words..

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn't know she had, she remains a mystery - no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

REVIEW: With Love from the Inside by Angela Pisel

Title: With Love from the Inside
Author: Angela Pisel
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: August 9/2016
Acquired: e-ARC sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Angela Pisel’s poignant debut explores the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter, and their quest to discover the truth and whether or not love can prevail—even from behind bars.

Grace Bradshaw knows the exact minute she will die. On death row for murdering her infant son, her last breath will be taken on February 15 at 12:01 a.m. Eleven years, five months, and twenty-seven days separate her from the last time she heard her precious daughter’s voice and the final moment she’d heard anyone call her Mom. Out of appeals, she can focus on only one thing—reconnecting with her daughter and making sure she knows the truth.

Secrets lurk behind Sophie Logan’s big house and even bigger bank account. Every day when she kisses her husband good-bye, she worries her fabricated life is about to come crumbling down. No one knows the unforgivable things her mother did to tear her family apart—not her husband, who is a prominent plastic surgeon, or her “synthetic” friends who live in her upscale neighborhood.

Grace’s looming execution date forces Sophie to revisit the traumatic events that haunted her childhood. When she returns to her hometown, she discovers new evidence about her baby brother William’s death seventeen years ago—proof that might set her mother free but shatter her marriage forever. Sophie must quickly decide if her mother is the monster the prosecutor made her out to be or the loving mother she remembers—the one who painted her toenails glittery pink and plastered Post-it notes with inspiring quotes (“100 percent failure rate if you don't try”) all over Sophie’s bathroom mirror—before their time runs out.