Thursday, August 17, 2017

REVIEW: The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

Title: The Leaf Reader
Author: Emily Arsenault
Genre: YA Mystery
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Acquired: E-arc acquired via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Maybe, occasionally, some of the pictures I saw in teacups were not for the tea drinkers. Maybe some of them were for me.

Marnie Wells knows that she creeps people out. It’s not really her fault; her brother is always in trouble, and her grandmother, who’s been their guardian since Mom took off is…eccentric. So no one even bats an eye when Marnie finds an old book about reading tea leaves and starts telling fortunes. The ceremony and symbols are weirdly soothing, but she knows—and hopes everyone else does too—that none of it’s real.

Then basketball star Matt Cotrell asks for a reading. He’s been getting emails from someone claiming to be his best friend, Andrea Quinley, who disappeared and is presumed dead. And while they’d always denied they were romantically involved, a cloud of suspicion now hangs over Matt. But Marnie sees a kindred spirit: someone who, like her, is damaged by association.

Suddenly the readings seem real. And, despite the fact that they’re telling Marnie things about Matt that make him seem increasingly dangerous, she can’t shake her initial attraction to him. In fact, it’s getting stronger. And that could turn out to be deadly.


Re-reading the synopsis before I began writing this review ALMOST made me want to pick up the book again and give it a solid second chance. The synopsis hints at a semi-spooky, luringly mysterious narrative that might have the potential of holding one's interest. Alas, it did not even ATTEMPT to make grabby hands at my interest. The innards of The Leaf Reader took a back road and inevitably got lost.

This book felt like a choppy phone call. Like I was getting to hear every other word, but I was definitely missing out on the good parts. There was so much more happening that we weren't being told about; so many more building blocks, and puzzle pieces fitting perfectly together. So many ways I could have been more drawn into the mystery that was unfolding. The Leaf Reader is a mere 240 pages long so I can appreciate the author not being able to fully flesh out her characters, or provide an in-depth back story, but it was the lack of basic plot essentials that made it feel so disjointed. 

Marnie's relationships were confusing and felt extremely forced. Her interactions with other characters seemed to start in the middle, and never really make its way to an end or a direction that made much sense. Her social status was ever-changing and thus deliriously unclear-what she the quiet, nerd type, or just a more shy acquaintance to the entire school body? There were literally only 1-2 characters who were sure of their personalities, and even then, their missing back stories prevented me from ever fully appreciating them. 

The big HURRAH of the story was thrown in casually and without fanfare, as was the eventual solving of the main 'mystery'. I quote 'mystery' because it was wasn't really so, it was more of a mildly interested 'pondering'.

Actually, I'd say that perfectly sums up how I felt about The Leaf Reader: mildly interested.

Read if you liked:  The Second Sight Series by Heather Topham Wood
Key themes: paranormal occurrences, family, self-worth, friendship




Click HERE to find out more about Emily on the "Author" page of her website.



A huge thank-you to Soho Teen for providing 
an e-arc of this book via Edelweiss for review.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Title: The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Acquired: E-arc acquired via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?


I want to start off with trigger warnings. Because I've never started off that way, and I feel like you all deserve a fair warning before venturing into this book. If you read The Enchanted by this transformative author, you will know that her narratives are steeped in allusions of a disturbing nature. Disturbing to your very core, without ever really knowing if the feeling warrants it. Meaning, I read sentences in this novel that simultaneously soothed me, and made me DRY HEAVE with its implications. The Child Finder will take you by the hand and drag you to some pretty unpleasant places. So, now that you've been warned...

Madison is missing.

And Naomi knows a few things about being missing, especially if the fractured memories of her own tragic story can be trusted. 

Prompted by her unrivalled reputation in the criminal field as "The Child Finder", she is hired by Madison's parents to use her unique set of skills to find their daughter. The story then branches off into two perspectives, that of Naomi's herself, and the incredibly heart-wrenching view through Madison's eyes. And then even deeper it delves, as Naomi takes on an additional missing child case; as she chases the demons from her past. 

I want to say it was like coming back to an old friend, reading Denfeld's writing again. But at some point during this narrative, I began to wonder when I was going to start feeling more connected to it all. I've donned the hat of "innocent bystander" quite a few times in my years of reading, and many of those times getting myself deeply involved, without even realising it. But I couldn't do that with The Child Finder. I was interested, but I wasn't committed. I wanted to know the ending, but I wasn't in a rush to get there. I couldn't get a grasp on Naomi, nor could I accept the personality traits that Denfeld tried to convince me that Naomi had. "Friendly" was the one I had the biggest issue with, because truthfully if it were up to me I would have been hard-pressed to help that woman if it didn't involve a child--she was off-putting, and a few degrees colder than I could comfortably handle. I just couldn't associate her obviously damaged psyche with her childhood trauma. I just needed MORE convincing, perhaps in the form of more character development. 

The added romance in this novel also rubbed me the wrong way, it seemed forced, contrived, a "love" story just to say that this narrative contains love. And filled with love it was, but not in the ways that you would ever want to encounter. Read The Child Finder for the sole reason of getting to know Madison, and the imagined reality she weaves once she gets captured. It is here that you will remember why Denfeld blew your entire mind with her previous work. 

Read if you liked:  All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Key themes: controversial issues, mental illness, disassociation, sexual abuse




Click HERE to find out more about Rene on the "Biography" page of her website.



A huge thank-you to Harper for providing an e-arc of this book via Edelweiss for review.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

REVIEW: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Title: Modern Romance
Author: Aziz AnsariEric Klinenberg
Genre: Sociology, Comedic Non-fiction 
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: June 16/2015
Acquired: Print copy sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Now a New York Times Bestseller

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices.

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

Friday, February 10, 2017

REVIEW: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: January 24/2017
Acquired: Obtained via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

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.