The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

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Publisher: Tuxbury Publishing LLC

Publication Date: March 20, 2014

Pages: 274

Genre: New Adult Romance (Sport, Friend to Lover)

Rating: 4/5

The Year We Fell Down is about Corey Callahan who recently had a hockey accident that has left her with no feelings in her legs. So when she starts college she is put into an extra big dorm room which is across from another handicapped room which is where she meets Adam Hartley. Hartley is also a hockey player although he is only temporarily not playing because of a broken leg. Corey and Hartley strike up a friendship that starts to turn into more. The only problem is that Hartley has a girlfriend and Corey is also dealing with learning how to be confident in this new version of herself.

This book has the distinction of being my first hockey romance. I can’t believe I’ve made it this far in my life without reading one but I really enjoyed it. The Year We Fell Down really shines when it comes to the romance and the hockey. I love that Hartley and Corey connected over their love of hockey and how much they connected over the things that had in common. I also really appreciated that Hartley always saw Corey as a strong woman who was capable of doing things. My other favorite aspect of this book was all the side characters. I’m excited that this is the first in a series of companion novels because I can’t wait to learn more about some of the other characters.

One thing I didn’t like in this book was the Hartley’s girlfriend is portrayed. I understand she is the mean girl but it seems like more time was spent on how she is rich, beautiful and into her looks than on people bringing up that she didn’t treat people the right way. Also, she might not have been perfect but she definitely deserved to be treated better by her boyfriend. I actually liked Hartley a whole lot more the second half of the book than I did the first half. It wasn’t until then that he seemed like a real fleshed out character.

Since I liked this book so much I have been actively looking for more sport romances to try. I have already added a bunch to my TBR but if there are any that you really enjoy please let me know!

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

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The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Publication Date: September 17, 2019

Publisher: Oni Press

Pages: 136

Genre: Children’s graphic novel

Rating: 5/5

This is the sequel to The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill and I loved this just as much as I loved the first one. This story primarily follows along with Rinn and Aedhan, who is a real dragon, and their friendship. Rinn has grown up with tea dragons but she has never met a real dragon before until the day she stumbles upon Aedhan who has been sleeping for a long time. Hesekiel and Erik from The Tea Dragon Society are also in this book and I really enjoyed getting to see more of them.

This series is the cutest graphic novel series that I have ever read. I absolutely love all the characters. There is so much diversity and all the characters have such pure good hearts that I can’t help but love them all. There was also different tea dragons introduced into this book and I seriously wish they were a real thing.

The message behind this book was of friendship and really being intentional about helping our friends through their troubles. I can’t say it enough about how loving and sweet all the characters in this book are. Also, the illustrations in this book are simply stunning. The colors, the style, the details, it is all simply so perfect.

I recommend this book to everyone. You absolutely cannot go wrong with this heartwarming graphic novel series.

~Cassie

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

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Publisher: Penguin

Publication Date: December 1817

Pages: 236

Genre: Classic, Romance

Rating: 5/5

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abby is about Catherine who goes on vacation with her neighbors, the Allen’s, to Bath and while there she meets some new people. One is a family friend of her brother, the Thorpe’s , and the other is the Tilney family. In the Thorpe’s she finds a close friend, Isabella and her aggressive older brother, John. In the Tilney’s she meets Henry and his sister Eleanor. The story follows along with Catherine’s adventures with all four of these new friends. The latter part of the novel is about Catherine traveling with the Tilney’s to have an extended visit at their home, Northanger Abbey.

I went into this book not really knowing what it was about and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it was a sweet little romance. Catherine and Henry were so cute together and it is always fun to read a classic and be reminded of how different things were then between men and women. But at the same time there are so many things that are similar. The feeling of having a crush and being excited to see them are universal throughout history. Also universal is how frustrating and annoying an aggressive male can be who thinks that there is no way that you won’t like him. Another theme of this book is friendship. It was interesting to see how Catherine’s friendship with Isabella developed through the story especially in comparison to her friendship with Eleanor.

Some people describe Northanger Abbey as being gothic and creepy. There are definitely some veins of that throughout the story (mostly towards the end) but I don’t think there is enough to qualify as such. However, it probably was considered gothic at the time it was written, the late 1700’s. I have previously read two other Jane Austen books before but I think this one has to be my favorite. I plan on reading more of course but I really enjoyed the character of Catherine a lot. I also liked how Austen chose to write this book with a satirical approach. A lot of the commentary she made on social issues and on relationships  still pertain to now.

Austen has given us a coming of age contemporary romance that I think translates very well into our world  today. If you enjoy romance and are hesitant to pick up a classic I highly recommend this book to you. Not only is it short but it is very well written and has all the drama you could need.

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal

Pages: 368

Publication Date: August 13, 2019

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Genre: Gothic, horror, psychological thriller

Rating: 3.5/5

Trigger Warning: animal abuse, animal torture, animal death (One of the main characters is a taxidermist)

The Doll Factory is set in 1850’s London and follows the perspectives of Silas Reed (a taxidermist who runs his own shop), Iris (who works at a doll shop painting dolls and desperately wants to work on her art), and Albie (a young boy who works odd jobs to help take care of him and his sister). Silas is a man with a dark past who has never fit in and when he sees Iris for the first time he is immediately obsessed with her.

When I first started this book I didn’t think I was going to like it because it started off so slow. Over time though I found myself getting so attached to the characters that I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen and where this story was going. Iris went through a lot of character growth in this story and I really liked following her story along. Her interactions with Louis, a painter, was one of my favorite parts of the story.  The character of Albie was so sweet and I loved his relationship with his sister and how much he cared about her. Silas was so interesting to read from because the way he could take a situation and twist it in his head was fascinating. He is a character very out of touch with reality and the way he could justify things to himself was almost impressive. Macneal did an amazing job writing such well fleshed out characters and I am blown away that she is a debut author. I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.

However, there was an event that happened in this book that I really didn’t appreciate at all. In fact, it made me so mad that I wanted to close my kindle and not finish this book. It is a huge spoiler so I am going to be vague but I got so upset because I didn’t think it was necessary to the story or plot at all. It felt almost exploitative in the way it messed with my feelings for no reason other than to be shocking. Upon finishing the book I can see why Macneal made the choice that she did but off the top of my head I can come up with three or four different ways she could have achieved the same result. I looked up reviews for this book when I finished and I can’t find anyone who mentioned what I am talking about so I’m definitely in the minority with my reaction.

This book is listed as psychological thriller and there are definitely aspects of that in this book but to me it read much more like a gothic horror. The Doll Factory also has veins of You by Caroline Kepnes so if you liked that book and have been wanting to try something darker I think this might be what you are looking for.

~Cassie

 

#Classicsathon wrap up

This was a successful month of reading for me. I was able to read a lot of books and five of them were classics. If you remember the only goal of #Classicsathon was to read one classic during the month of August. All of the classics are on the shorter side but I’m still happy to have been able to read more than a few of them.

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is the sweetest children’s book.  The adventure part of the story is perfect for kids and all the deeper meanings that can be read into the Little Prince are perfect for adults. I wasn’t expecting the end of this book to deal with grief and it brought me to tears.

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The Pearl by John Steinbeck

This book follows the story of Kino, his wife Juana and their baby boy. One day Kino finds a massive pearl and the book is all about the things that happen to them afterward. I liked the insight into how the poor people like Kino lived versus how the rich people in the village lived. The Pearl also perfectly captures the dark side of wealth, privilege, and greed. I was not prepared for how dark this book was and wow that ending was something that I never saw coming.

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Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this graphic novel adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. This is adapted from the book series and not the movie so I did find it interesting the differences between the two. I was previously only familiar with the movie and I have to say that I like that version the best. Although I do want to give the actual book a try in the future and see if my opinion changes. The writing in this graphic novel was pretty juvenile and I would have to take breaks while reading because I could feel myself getting annoyed. Also, the art in this was not the best. When the action scenes were happening it was hard to see what was happening because of how dark it was. (Very reminiscent of the Battle of Winterfell.) The art was also gothic and dark compared to how young the writing was. I definitely would have appreciated the art more if there wasn’t such a disconnect with the writing.

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Animal Farm by George Orwell

While reading this book I was reminded of how dangerous it is to have a leader with unchecked power.  In Animal Farm there is a saying, “Four legs bad. Two legs good.” To translate that to today it would be “Republicans bad. Democrats good.” This book also reminds us that while someone might start off with a better way of doing things, if they are in the position where no one is making sure that they are doing right by their people it will never end well. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and history has consistently proven that true time and time again.

~Cassie

 

Netgalley Review: The Favorite Daughter

I received this free ebook in exchange for this review, however all opinions are 100% my own.

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Publisher: Graydon House

Publication Date: May 21, 2019

Pages: 368

Genre: Psychological thriller

Rating: 3/5

The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda

This book really puts you into the mind of a narcissistic mother, Jane, who is coming out of the fog of grief when she lost her oldest, Mary, (and favorite) daughter a year ago. Things are not going well for her in her life and she is trying everything she can to hold on to the life she used to have. Her husband, David, is never home and her youngest daughter, Betsy,  is about to graduate and is leading a secret life that her mother knows nothing about.

This is a fun read in the way that it takes you into the mind of a disturbed woman. She is talking directly to the reader which makes you (the reader) feel like you a part of the story.  It was amusing to hear the way she justifies her actions and thoughts about the outlandish things she was doing and thinking. The book really shines when you see Jane implementing her schemes. Jane also has a fascination with all the ways someone can accidentally die. The story is peppered with random facts about how someone has died in the most bizarre way.

One of the downfalls of the book for me is how much takes place off the page. We go into the book with Jane already knowing 90% of what she needs to know. So the reader goes in blind and there is a big disconnect when certain reveals are happening because the book is told with us in Jane’s head. It just started to feel like a cheap trick when it happened but that may be because the ending was very predictable so I don’t think trying to trick the reader was necessary. I also want to make clear that I’m not talking about the big reveal because that wouldn’t make sense for the readers to know any earlier but some of the other reveals could have been mentioned before they were.

I also want to mention that I unfortunately know someone who is narcissistic and totally out of touch with how their behavior effects people so that may have influenced my feelings of this book. Thankfully, that person is no longer in my life but the whole time I was reading it I kept getting flashbacks of her. If you are lucky enough not to know someone like Jane then I think you will find her character much more enjoyable than I did.

I’m sure you have already figured it out, but this book is pretty similar to You by Caroline Kepnes. The are both creepy people who are doing not great things but you still find something likable about them. I also want to recommend The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton. I read and reviewed this book earlier this year and it is another fun book with a more likable character (to me) where she does the most unbelievable stuff.

~Cassie

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

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The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

Pages: 72

Publisher: Oni Press

Publication Date: October 18, 2017

Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Rating: 5/5

This is the sweetest graphic novel I have ever read. I am seriously in love with everything about this book. From the art, to the diverse characters, to the colors and the tea dragon handbook at the end. Everything is perfection. This book follows Greta, who rescues a tea dragon, and when she gives the dragon back she is invited by Hesekiel and Erik to learn how to take care of them. There is also another character, Minette and I loved her back story and her friendship with Greta. This is a short graphic novel so I don’t want to give too much away. Just know that it is a beautiful story. The message behind this book brought me to tears because it deals with what we pass on to future generations (like memories, stories, a craft) and the importance of doing so.  I think for anyone who has lost someone important to them this story will touch your heart in a beautiful healing way.

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for my review of this book, all opinions are 100% my own.

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The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

Pages: 432

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Rating: 5/5

This is a fast paced thriller where the main character, Abbie, is an AI replica of a tech owner’s wife. The original Abbie went missing after a surfing accident and her husband was so devastated at the loss of her that he used his company and their background of building robots to create the first AI person. This book is told in two different perspectives. The first one being the robot Abbie and the second being an employee of her husband Tim’s tech company. I loved the way the two perspectives shaped the story and worked so well together. I found myself really looking forward to what was going to happen next on both sides of the story.

I read this book so quickly because the suspense stayed pretty consistent throughout the entire read. There are a lot of twist and turns during the story and most of them worked really well. A couple of them felt out of place but overall this is another fantastic thriller from J.P. Delaney. Also, for all the people who are like me and thought that this is a far fetched sci fi thriller, Delaney lets us know that this technology is currently being developed and talked about. So if we think about it, this has the potential of being labelled as a domestic thriller.

If you are a fan of Delaney’s previous books than I definitely think you would like this one as well. I think his books are consistently good and I will forever read anything he writes.  If you are in the mood for a fast paced thriller that will constantly keep you on your toes I highly recommend this on to you.

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for giving me a free copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: We Went to the Woods

Author: Caite Dolan-Leach

Pages: 353

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 4.5/5

This is my second Dolan-Leach novel this year and I can confidently say that she is a must read author for me. She is so incredibly talented at writing characters and compelling stories. We Went to the Woods is a story about a group of five friends who decide live off the grid and start their own commune. Two members of the group are hardcore environmentalists who are against anything unnatural happening to the earth. The other members of the commune are just interested in their friendship group and commune living. The group also has a close friendship with some members of another commune living nearby.  This story is told all from the perspective of Mack who has a shady past involving a reality show and another commune and who is extremely interested in the past history of the other communes who live/lived in and around their property.

Over time I found myself really invested in the members of the group and where their story was heading. From the very beginning the author lets the reader know that something bad happened to the group and Mack is telling us the story of how the group came to be and all the events that lead up to the terrible thing that happened. I was also happily surprised to see that some characters from the Dolan-Leach’s first book popped up in this story. It adds another level of excitement for me when it comes to her third book because I can’t wait to see if there is further overlap in her stories.

If you love character driven books I really think you would enjoy this. Also for anyone, like me, who is interested in cults you will really like the different perspectives this book gives for them. It is more of a background of how cults get started and innocuous they can start off. There is also a side story where Mack is investigating a commune (or better referred to as a cult) that existed a hundred years ago. We get glimpses into that group and what led to their downfall. For me, I find cults so fascinating because I don’t understand what draws people to them and this book really opened my eyes to how harmless and ordinary they can start off as/ be.

~Cassie

ARC Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Thank you to Netgalley and Dutton for allowing me to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: Lock Every Door

Author: Riley Sager

Pages: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror

Rating: 5/5

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

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The two things I loved the most about this book are the pacing and the creepiness level. Out of all three of Sager’s books this is the one that legitimately creeped me out the most. The whole premise of this story is so genius and it kept me guessing the entire time. I could never have figured out the ending and I loved how dark and twisted it was. The atmosphere of the story really added to the creepiness factor. I love how everything was described and I was able to clearly imagine everything that was happening. Lock Every Door takes place over six days. I love this because it really amped up the suspense knowing that things were going to happen quickly. But at the same time nothing ever felt rushed.

My only complaint about this book is that out of all three of his books I felt the least connected to Jules. You know how in some movies you are yelling at a character that they shouldn’t do what they are about to do because it’s obviously not going to turn out good. Well, that was me with this character. She had a couple of moments where I was like what the hell are you doing/thinking?! But at the same time I think that it adds to the fun of it all. Think Scream when Stu is watching the movie and Ghostface is behind him. We are all yelling (or thinking) look behind you! Those kinds of things are what can make horror fun (or maybe that’s just my perverse love of horror) and I liked the element that it brought to the book.

This book cemented my belief that Riley Sager is one of my top favorite authors of all time. Sager’s books are the exact type of horror/mystery that I absolutely love. I will forever read his books and I honestly can’t ever picture myself giving anything he writes less than five stars. I feel confident that anyone who loves thrillers/mysteries will love them as well.

~Cassie