Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date: January 24th, 2017
Pages: 400
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

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 churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

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’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Review:

Only few books can shake me. Allegedly is one of them.

After I finished this compelling novel, I needed some time to process everything that was going on in the book, as well as calm myself so I could understand my feelings.

Reading this, you probably think I’m exaggerating.
If I was you, I’d probably think the same.
But I am telling the truth. Sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to react to a certain book, and sometimes our reactions can surprise us.

Going into this story, I knew it would be difficult for me. I was even aware how disturbing it was.
You probably hear about Allegedly, as one of novels written in own voices, one that was praised in “reading diversity” movement (if that’s a movement, I’m not 100% sure), the book that is important to read.

First of all, I agree with the statement how it is important for this book to be read, and for author’s voice to be heard.
This is one hugely important, disturbing book that represents not only people of color, but minority that we don’t get to read often about – teenagers in group home.

Honestly, I am afraid how I’m going to sound when I say this, but I will say it anyway: this novel reminded me how happy my life is. When I reflect and compare it to lives like ones I read about in this novel, to teenagers who yes, committed crimes during their lives, but are still alive and have to live with invisible “Scarlet letter” that follows them every where they go, without support of their families, in poverty and with someone else deciding about everything in their life, I understand how privileged I actually am.
And once again, I used the word I am really not a fan of, but there is no other word to say it better.

The story is told in first person, following Mary’s POV.
Beside Mary’s narration (and I have to state that Mary is one of the best narrators I had a pleasure to read about), there are bunch of newspaper articles, police interviews, excerpts from doctor’s papers and other similar stuff.

Reading Allegedly was thought provoking and emotional experience.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
Some scenes were violent and disturbing, some were harder to understand, some were extremely sad, but what hit me the most was how everyone underestimated Mary all the time.

I rooted for her, even though she never stated if she did it, if she killed the baby. She said she did, allegedly.
But yet, you as a reader don’t believe she would do such a thing. She does not seem like that kind of person.

The writing style is amazing, and I simply can not believe this is a debut novel.

One more thing I’d like to emphasize is the role of the State (here I mean criminal justice system and state foster care).
Mary’s (and other girls’) destiny depended so much on those two, that it feels like the State has it’s own personality.

There is one more thing we need to discuss: the last chapter.
I tried and tried to decide whether I like how this story ended.
At fist I was shocked, but resolved that I liked it.
Now, after some thinking, I wish the story ended differently.
Why?
Because, even though I understand why the writer chose to end the story the way she did, I can’t help but feel that some messages delivered through the story were (partly) erased with that conclusion.

Fun fact: When doing my research, I found out that this book was inspired by true event that happened in 2012, when 10 years old girl was charged with manslaughter of a three month old baby.

Advertisements

Book Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: January 31st, 2017
Pages: 352
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

An irresistible story from Kasie West that explores the timeless question What do you do when you fall for the person you least expect?

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn at first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

Review:

If you know me, you know Kasie West is my contemporary queen.
I simply adore her books, and I always feature them in my WoW posts, because I am always eagerly anticipating her new releases.

Since I loved every single book she wrote, I don’t think I have to underline that my expectations for By Your Side were high as Empire State Building (and yes, I am copying that group/band Fun here).

I could blame my level of expectations for the fact that this was my least favorite book written by Kasie West I read so far (I still have to read her paranormal series).
I could, but I won’t, because, truth be told, By Your Side is just a solid contemporary story that explores mental illness.
When I say solid, I mean good solid.
You see, this book is good, but it isn’t special in any way, nor will it stay with me long (I mean, it will because I know it was written by West, but if it was written by some author I read for the first time, it’d probably end up in my “to-be-donated pile).

The story talks about Autumn who finds herself locked in a library for the whole weekend.
What would be a terrible experience turns out to be a bit easier event because she was not alone. Dax, a mysterious guy who goes to school with her, is there with her.
As they spend time together, they get to know each other better and become closer.

First of all, we bookworms would be happy as hell if we got to spend weekend locked in library (okay, maybe we wouldn’t be THAT happy, but still we wouldn’t mind because we love books).
Here, there is a totally different story, because Autumn is not a reader, so in my opinion, those two could have ended up being locked in the wood storage or steal depository, the story would be the same.

Second, what kind of library doesn’t have a landline??

Third, I don’t mind love triangles, but please, if you decide to put one of guys into coma and make him a part of love triangle, please give me a chance to meet him and potentially fall in love with him before you doom his destiny.
Therefore, I would prefer if this book had two more chapters in which we’d get to know Autumn, Jeff and their friends before the whole library thing.

The best part of this novel is West’s writing style. She is always amazing when telling the story, and this one was no exception.

I also liked was how anxiety was presented in this novel. From my own experience, it was believable.
Then again, I saw some reviewers saying it wasn’t presented properly, so I guess it depends on one’s experience and own observing.
I guess everyone handles anxiety in his own way, so interpretations can be different.

What turned me off from the story was how most of the characters were selfish and self-centered.
From Autumn’s friends who didn’t even notice her missing, to Autumn herself.
I get that she was anxious, but she was also selfish.
Jeff’s best friend (whose name I forgot) was also jealous for no reason other but because he was self centred.

All in all, By Your Side is a good book to pick up when you need a light read that will entertain you, but don’t expect too much from it.

Book Review: Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

cruel-beautiful-world

Title: Cruel Beautiful World
Author: Caroline Leavitt
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Date: October 4th, 2016
Pages: 357
Format: eARC
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Set in the early 1970s against the specter of the Manson girls, when the peace and love movement begins to turn ugly, this is the story of a runaway teenager’s disappearance and her sister’s quest to discover the truth.

Caroline Leavitt is at her mesmerizing best in this haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.

It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into nightmare.

With gorgeous prose and indelible characters, Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and what happens when you’re responsible for things you can’t fix.

vrpca

Review:

Cruel Beautiful World hit me in a way only few books can.
The story, even though is fictional, became personal to me.
Reading this book, written in the most beautiful way, became hard for me.
I already know that writing this review will be even harder.

Cruel Beautiful World talks about three sisters, Lucy and Charlotte, adopted by their aunt much older sister Iris.
Set in late 1960s and early 1970s, the story briefly talks about Mason girls and perfectly describes the atmosphere and fear that was present in that time.

Lucy is 16 years old girl who falls in love for the first time. She thinks no one understands her completely, no one but the man she loves – William, her teacher who encourages her to write, because he believes she could be a famous writer one day.

After some time, William gets a new job, in free school, and Lucy decides to move away with him.
Because she is a minor, she must not tell anyone, not even her sister, where the two of them will be going.
When they settle down in a small house in rural Pennsylvania, William controls Lucy’s every move and, because she is often alone in the house (waiting for him to come back) she realizes that the kind of life she chose for herself is not the kind she wants.

Charlotte is Lucy’s older sister, who has always been her protector. She is in college, an excellent student, but after Lucy starts missing, she can’t concentrate on anything. Her soul can’t have rest until she finds her.

Iris thought she would never be a mother, but once the girls come into her life they become her world.
She never told them she is their sister, they think they are her nieces.
After Lucy’s disapearance, Iris can’t have piece. She lives for the day she’ll reunite with Lucy.

Cruel Beautiful World is beautifully written story. Caroline Leavitt really captured the 1970s atmosphere well, but where she did the best job was in describing feelings.

While reading this book, one can not help but feel. Feel love, feel fear, feel sadness, feel anger, and feel the feelings that are hard to explain with words.

Lucy was my favorite character. In fact, she got so under my skin, that she became one of my all time favorite characters.
Maybe that is why I was so concerned about her.

I hated William. I still hate him. There are a lot of personal reasons why I hate him, but it is what it is.
I rarely hate book characters, I even often like villains, but I hate William passionately.

Cruel Beautiful World is beautiful, emotional book with an open ending, that I would highly recommend to literary fiction lovers out there.

4

Book review: The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

the-fifth-letter

Title: The Fifth Letter
Author: Nicola Moriarty
Publisher: Penguin, Michael Joseph
Date: March 2nd, 2017
Pages: 362
Format: Paperback
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden.

Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever.

But now they are in their thirties and real life – husbands, children, work – has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect.

Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers.

Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit.

And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?

vrpca

Review:

When it comes to my reading experience with this book, there’s no other word to describe it but “lazy”.
I confess: I started this (mystery) book knowing that all the questions will be answered eventually and that, with time, I’ll find out who wrote the fifth letter and which from four letters belong to whom, so I didn’t bother.
I just read, the most relaxed as one reader can be, lazy to try to figure out myself.

Is it my fault for not getting invested into the book as much as the author probably wanted me to be?
Definitely.
But is it also the author’s fault for that, because her story didn’t make me want to know the answers right away?
I can’t say for sure.

But let me tell you: I liked this book. I don’t regret my laziness because I enjoyed reading this novel the way I did.

The story follows four friends who every year spend few days together on vacation. It is their tradition.
This year, they decide that each of them will write a letter in which they will tell a secret they haven’t told anyone before.
The idea sounds interesting and fun, especially because the letters won’t be signed.
What starts as a game turns into more serious situation after Joni finds the fifth letter, written by one of them, in which the one spells her bitterness and hatred for one of them.

I liked the premise of the story, and the idea of the plot, but if I’m being completely honest, I think that the content of the fifth letter wasn’t as disturbing (but then again, if I was one of four friends, maybe I’d think differently).
Also, in my humble opinion, some secrets should have stayed what they were in the first place – secrets.

Even though there was too much drama at time, I really, really liked what The Fifth Letter offered.

The main character, Joni, was the one I could relate to the most.
Trina was my second favorite, while I sometimes had problem separating Deb and Eden.

The Fifth Letter is written in third person. It is pretty easy to read, but at the same time it does not read quickly (at least it didn’t in my case).

Overall, The Fifth Letter is a solid, enjoyable read that I would recommend.

3,75

Book Review: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

freeks-digital

Title: Freeks
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: Tor Books HQ, Pan
Date: February 9th, 2016
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Bestselling author Amanda Hocking draws readers inside the dark and mysterious world of Freeks.

vrpca

Review:

Amanda Hocking won my heart with her Trylle Trilogy.
I never binge read series (in fact, I only binge read two series in my whole life: Trylle by A. Hocking and MacKinnon Curse by J.A. Templeton), but that was my first time when I read like a maniac, devouring the world and it’s characters within.

Since then, I knew Hocking will be the one author I will have my eye on, eagerly waiting for new books to feed my appetite.

Amanda Hocking did it again. She wrote yet another unputdownable book.
It caught my attention, kept me on the edge of my sit, my eyes were flying through the pages and, before I even realized, I finished a book.
My usual reading speed is 30 pages per hour, but with this book, it doubled (and it is not large print!).
You can say it’s because of simplicity of language, but I say it’s because of interesting plot.

This book was AMAZING!

With unique characters, unforgetable plot placed in 1987, Freeks is the book that stands out from other pieces in paranormal genre.

The story follows Mara, who works and travels with carnival. Her coworkers and family are paranormal, unusual or in contact with higher powers.
When they come to state Louisiana, small town Caudry, one of their members dissapears.
Not long after that, they discover that something/someone is after them, as well as their abilities start to weak.

I love how smart Hocking was when outlining this story.
She did her math well!
By introducing us to new characters, making them unusual but still very relatable, she made us care for every single “Freek”, and then she sent that mysterious thing after them, making us, readers, afraid for them.

She also wrote a good story line.

There was an insta love, be aware, but I liked it.
I also liked how main character, Mara, was 18 and her guy, Gabe, 19 (that’s why I didn’t mind things between them developing fast).

I loved the setting.
The vibe that small town gives was so well described.
Also, I welcome the fact that the story was set in 1987. It made a lot sense to put it in that time, because technology was not developed back then (so there weren’t mobile phones, and land lines weren’t on every step).
I can imagine that carnivals had more meaning back then, and pop culture references from that period also gave their charm to the story.

One thing that also needs to be stressed out: there’s a great representation of diversity.

The only thing that confused me a bit (and I bet most people don’t even pay attention to this kind of things) is the lack of Acknowledgments.

Let me tell you, this book is hard to put down!
Once you start reading it, it is very likely you will want to finish it in one sitting (but with almost 350 pages long book, that is hardly possible).

I highly, highly recommend this one to paranormal lovers out there!

5

Book Review: Alabaster: What is Most Precious is Also Most Fragile by Chris Aslan

chris-aslan

Title: Alabaster: What is Most Precious is Also Most Fragile
Author: Chris Aslan
Publisher: Lion Hudson
Date: November 18th, 2016
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Maryam is stuck in an abusive marriage, living with her in-laws, in a conservative, toxically religious Middle Eastern setting. A few years back, her father was given a jar of priceless perfume by a dying leper and it seemed as if their fortunes would improve, but then Maryam’s father contracted leprosy and was exiled by the village. Maryam and her brother, Eleazar, and sister, Marta, experience the shame and ostracism this brings. The precious jar that was meant to bring them freedom, but it only seems to have brought destruction. But rumours abound concerning a new doctor; perhaps hope is on the horizon…

vrpca

Review:

Don’t let the look of this book fool you!
It is short. It has only 208 pages. It’s dimensions are also not big.
But the story in it is.
It is so rare for me to finish a book and wonder “How come so many things happened in such a short book?”, but it happened with this novel.
I finished this book so satisfied with what I’ve read, because I got so much from those pages, learned things I didn’t know before and remembered things I forgot.

Alabaster talks the story about Maryam. Her life is not easy. Very young she married into a family that does not appreciate her. Her husband is violent and the one person she cares the most for, her father, is banished from the town she lives in.
The reason: leprosy.

The story takes place in time when Jesus walked among peole. It is told in first person, from Maryam’s POV.

First of all, I think it should be stressed out that this is a piece of christian fiction.
Some people are not comfortable with reading that genre, and I complitely understand it.
It is also shelved as woman’s fiction, but in my opinion, this book reads as young adult.

Although Maryam is married and her life is not an easy one, she is very, very young. At the begginging of the story she is only 15 years old.
Her voice and the way she narrates the story gives an atmosphere similar to the one reader has while reading ya.

I read in one review that the reader felt like the author pushes christian faith to readers, but I’d take that with grand of salt.
I mean, this is a piece of christian fiction and Jesus is one of characters in the story (he shows up in last third of the book), but his role in this story is the one of doctor who can cure leprusy.

Alabaster talks more about hard lives of women during that era, as well as how big of a problem one disease caused not only to families, but to whole society at time.

In his writing, Aslan does not shy away.
Women were abused, and he shows it. There are physical abuse as well as sexual insults described in this book. There is no sugarcoating, but the writer knows where there’s no need for more words, because the reader’s imagination does the rest of the job.

This is an emotional story and one can not help but care.
My heart ached sometimes, because of how hard Maryam’s life was.

If you’re christian, you will probably recognize main characters (Maryam, her sister and brother) from the Bible. It took me some time to realize who they were, because their names were changed (the author made them sound more modern, from what I understand).

This was my first 5 stars worth read of this year.
While I was reading, I wondered “How come more people do not talk about this book?”, but then it came to me.
This is christian fiction, and one of it’s cons is that it is not for everybody, nor do all people want to try that genre, christians or not.

Anyway, I am glad I am one of readers who gave this book a chance, because the time I spent on this book was so worth it.

5

Book Review: White Lies and Wishes by Cathy Bramley

white-lies-and-wishes-blue

Title: White Lies and Wishes
Author: Cathy Bramley
Publisher: Punguin Random House UK, Corgi
Date: January 26th, 2017
Pages: 384
Format: Physical ARC
Source: from Publisher for review

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): What happens when what you wish for is only half the story…?

Flirtatious, straight-talking Jo Gold says she’s got no time for love; she’s determined to save her family’s failing footwear business.

New mother Sarah Hudson has cut short her maternity leave to return to work. She says she’ll do whatever it takes to make partner at the accountancy firm.

Bored, over-eating housewife Carrie Radley says she just wants to shift the pounds – she’d love to finally wear a bikini in public.

The unlikely trio meet by chance one winter’s day, and in a moment of ‘Carpe Diem’ madness, embark on a mission to make their wishes come true by September.

Easy. At least it would be, if they hadn’t been just the teensiest bit stingy with the truth…

With hidden issues, hidden talents, and hidden demons to overcome, new friends Jo, Carrie and Sarah must admit to what they really, really want, if they are ever to get their happy endings.

A feel-good romantic comedy that’s guaranteed to make you smile – perfect for fans of Carole Matthews, Trisha Ashley and Katie Fforde.

 

vrpca

Review:

Cathy Bramley is the author I found out about because of blogging community.
Her book Wickham Hall was so well received, and I couldn’t help but added it to my ever-growing tbr list.
Unfortunately, I still haven’t got a chance to read it, but when I saw there was an opportunity to read and review Bramley’s newest novel, I had to grab it.

White Lies & Wishes is a story about three women, very different at the first glance, but with one thing in common: all of them have wishes they want to make happen’, all of them want more from life.

These three women, Jo, Sarah and Carrie, meet at the funeral. It’s not a happy event, but it makes them realize that life is short, and they have to make the best out of it while it lasts.
They promise to help each other reach their goals – every one of them makes a wish, and with common support, they will do their best for their wishes to become reality.

Out of all the three characters, I honestly can not say that I have a favorite.
They were all somewhere in the middle, when it comes to likeability.
Each of them had some flaws, as well as good features, and that is why, in my opinion, they felt real to me.

I enjoyed reading all of the stories, but I have to admit that the one about Jo was predictable.
It also took me longest to like Sarah, because I just couldn’t understand her. In my eyes, she was too selfish, chasing her career and not appreciating her husband enough.

The story is written in third person.
It reads really easily, but for the better reading experience, I decided to take my time with it.

White Lies and Wishes not only made me think about my life and how it is still not too late to do something more from it, but it also reminded me that it is never too late to make new, true friendships.

I would recommend this novel to women’s fiction lovers out there.

3,75