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Review | Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Dangerous Girls - Abigail Haas, Abby McDonald

Wouldn't we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?

Dangerous Girls is an incredibly difficult book to review, given that any preconceived notions will dampen this reading experience. It's incredibly well-crafted, suspenseful, and so much darker than I had expected.

The trial itself was very authentic and carefully researched. It was frustrating, enraging, and so incredibly intense, making it very easy for me to become completely invested in its outcome. Anna's account of the event was completely enthralling, and it was easy to see how the media could become caught up in painting her as a "cold blooded killer" - and somewhat scary to think about how this actually happens.

Dangerous Girls' strongest feature, though, is the way in which it is told. The present murder trial is interspersed with flashbacks starting from how Anna and Elise met and leading up until the present day. While this helped me piece together who the murderer was, it also caused me to suspect absolutely everyone. Despite this thick layer of suspicion, I still wasn't expecting the reveal at the end, and I can honestly say that I'm still reeling from it.

Overall, Dangerous Girls was a twisted, psychological thriller that completely messed with my mind. And I loved every minute of it.

Review | The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was nothing like I had expected. I went into it expecting an eerie story that would cause me to sleep with the lights on for the next little while; unfortunately, while the beginning started off on such a high note, it was quickly overshadowed by romance.

While the creepy parts lasted, they were done exceptionally well. From unexplained hallucinations to a disturbing event that no one could remember, it was easy to say that I was completely absorbed in determining what exactly had happened to Mara and what was still happening to her. Unfortunately, the last 100 pages or so were rather disappointing in that regard: while the paranormal elements that I had been promised finally kicked in at the end, it was unoriginal and predictable. I had so many great theories about what had been happening (my personal favourite of which was dissociative identity disorder), and these paranormal aspects felt incredibly out of place in a book that had read as a contemporary novel/psychological thriller up until that point.

The romance, which took over the majority of the story, was formulaic and cliched. The illustrious Noah Shaw is a prime example of wish fulfillment: he's gorgeous, intelligent, British, speaks multiple languages, lives in what can only be described as a "palace," and has eyes only for the new girl, Mara. He's overprotective and possessive, to the point where he fights to "defend" Mara's honour. All of this together made me dislike him for the majority of the book, but somehow - inexplicably - he started to grow on me, particularly when he let his guard down or uttered one of his many witty one-liners. I couldn't forgive the initial impression that he left on me, but I can (kind of) understand why other readers seem to be in love with him.

In terms of the other characters, Mara included, the characterization was a bit rocky and underdeveloped. I didn't feel as if I got to know any of them - and while it may be that Mara doesn't really know herself, it was hard to connect with her. Her brothers were just kind of there: one adorably trusting, and the other was the quintessential perfect child. I did appreciate that her parents were present, although they were prone to disappearing at the most convenient times. Mara's best friend, Jamie, seemed only to be included to diversify the cast, as he didn't receive much page time or development. The worst characterization, though, goes to Anna, the requisite "mean girl" who was subject to so much slut shaming. 

However, despite the many reasons as to why The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer shouldn't have worked for me, I somehow found myself enjoying it. Here's hoping the sequel is just as addictive.

Book Review: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

The Museum of Intangible Things - Wendy Wunder

“There is no stronger bond than the one that gets you through childhood. This is our story.”


As soon as I saw that gorgeous cover, the hipster part of me knew that I needed to read this book. Reading the synopsis completely solidified that fact: two girls who don’t have the best circumstances set out on a road trip to discover something more that life has to offer.


The Museum of Intangible Things was a beautifully written narrative that made even the most mundane actions seem beautiful. Wunder’s writing is beautiful and lyrical, and filled with many quotes that I just had to bookmark. The fact that the chapters were titled with the intangible lesson that each contained instead of a traditional number was a subtle addition to this story’s charm.


“Even in the midst of our scrambling escape, when we step outside, nature has crystallized itself for me. I notice the sharp bright pins of the stars, the distinct shapes of the constellations, how they pierce the purple blue of the sky.”


Our two leads, Hannah and Zoe, are polar opposites, aside from their love for one another. Hannah is calm, rational, and dependable, while Zoe is more impulsive and uninhibited. At times, Zoe embodied the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and while that was due to her mental illness, she was a bright, burning star that made Hannah feel very plain and boring by comparison.


The Museum of Intangible Things was not the happy, fun road trip story that I was expecting. Instead, heavy, dark, and emotional themes such as alcoholism and mental illness filled its pages, culminating in a heartbreaking yet powerful finish.

At its core, The Museum of Intangible Things is a love story. While the romance fell flat for me, the relationship between Hannah and Zoe was incredibly poignant. They’re not only best friends; they’re each other’s family. And, shown time and time again, they are willing to sacrifice their own ideals (and even commit petty crime) to ensure the other’s happiness.


My only complaint about The Museum of Intangible Things is that many of the side-stories were not elaborated upon. While I understand that this is Hannah and Zoe’s story, I would have loved to have had a more in-depth look at Noah’s Asperger syndrome, Hannah’s dad’s struggle with alcoholism, and her mom’s struggle with depression.


Overall, The Museum of Intangible Things was a beautifully written story about the unconditional love and support that best friendship brings. While it was certainly not a light-hearted read, this story was poignant and unforgettable, and I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Book Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle - Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle would make an excellent movie. It's action-packed, adorable, and oh so much fun. It felt like watching a supernatural comedy film (is that even a genre?), and I really did not want to put it down.

Harper Price is your ideal Southern Belle. She's involved in absolutely everything at school - from student council to cheerleading. She's homecoming queen, participates in the Cotillion, has the hottest boyfriend, and believes "that the F-word should be saved for dire occasions." Despite this, Harper proves that frills, lace, and pom poms aren't mutually exclusive to strength and capability - a message that I wish more books would include. Friendship and family are extremely important to Harper, and that dedication shines through in her every action.

The romance was cute yet frustrating, mostly due to the presence of a love triangle. One one hand, you had the perfect gentleman, Ryan, who Harper had been dating for a couple of years; on the other, there was David Stark, her hipster arch-nemesis that she was assigned to protect. I really enjoyed the chemistry and banter between Harper and David, and loved the fact that gender roles were reversed in that David was the one who needed protection/rescuing... I just wish that the love triangle wasn't dragged out for almost the entire book.

Overall, Rebel Belle was exactly what I needed: a cute, fun read that had me smiling throughout the entire thing.

Book Review: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

The Good Luck of Right Now - Matthew Quick

“When something bad happens to us, something good happens – often to someone else. And that’s The Good Luck of Right Now. We must believe it. We must. We must. We must.”

The Good Luck of Right Now is an epistolary novel, in that it is comprised entirely of letters written to the actor, Richard Gere. As a result, it’s fairly easy to say that The Good Luck of Right Now is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.


Our protagonist, Bartholemew Neil, is a 38 year old man who lives in a codependent relationship with his mother, keeps a journal of interesting things, and is in love with a Girlbrarian that he’s never spoken to. And he may be borderline autistic (though it was never explicitly confirmed). After his mother dies from cancer, his therapist, Wendy, advises that he make like a little bird discovering independence, and with the help of Richard Gere, a foul-mouthed man who loves cats, the Girlbrarian, and an ex-priest, he’s able to find his flock. This rag-tag group of characters was incredibly quirky, and yet Quick was still able to make me care about them – both because of their incredible strangeness and their normalcy.


Although The Good Luck of Right Now contains many difficult subjects (such as abuse and loss of a loved one), it is also incredibly uplifting. Despite his poor circumstances, Bartholemew is still able to see the good in people and selflessly offer his assistance, and even his home, to those in need. The idea of synchronicity – or “the good luck of right now” – is also an important theme; whether or not you believe that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, or that something good happens for every bad thing that occurs, it’s such a moving and powerful notion.


Overall, despite it’s overwhelming strangeness, I did enjoy The Good Luck of Right Now. I can’t wait to see what quirky story Matthew Quick comes up with next.

Book Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Just One Day  - Gayle Forman

“We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day.”

I went into Just One Day expecting an adorable, fluffy romance for the majority of the book, culminating in a heartbreaking ending. And while elements of that expectation held true, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more there was to the story.


The romance between Allyson and Willem was sweet but short-lived. I don’t exactly believe in love at first sight, so it was initially difficult for me to believe the depth of the feelings that Allyson had for Willem – especially after knowing him for just one day. As the story progressed, however, Allyson and I both came to realize that her search for Willem was less about him and more about the person that he brought out in her.


At its core, Just One Day is about a journey to self-identity and independence. As an only child, Alyson has grown up following her controlling parent’s expectations and plans for her. An impromptu trip to Paris with Willem causes her to reinvent herself as “Lulu,” a girl who is less reserved and more adventurous, and who makes going back to being just Allyson incredibly difficult.


What I loved the most about Just One Day is that it takes a while for Allyson to find herself. We see a former honours student struggling in her post-secondary courses, a girl whose dreams don’t line up with her parents’ anymore, and someone who is losing touch with old friends while also struggling to make new ones. This experience captures the transition from high school to college perfectly: the friends that you make and the experiences that you have in these years help shape the person you are and the person you are to become.


Overall, Just One Day was a beautiful journey of self-discovery that made me want to travel to Paris with a copy of Just One Year as soon as I finished.

Book Review: The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton & Brenna Yovanoff

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories - Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff

The Curiosities is a collection of mostly unedited short stories, complete with notes from the author that discuss their inspiration for the story, some of the reasons why they chose certain ideas, and what they were hoping to accomplish with it. I loved getting a glimpse into Maggie, Tessa, and Brenna’s heads – not only to help me with my own writing, but to help me appreciate theirs even more.


One of my favourite things about anthologies is that they let you “sample” an author’s writing. The Curiosities reaffirmed my love for Maggie’s vivid writing and compelling narrative voice, while introducing me to Brenna’s subtle magic and Tessa’s imaginative voice. Maggie’s works are already a permanent fixture on my to-read list and, after finishing this collection, Brenna and Tessa’s will be as well.


The stories themselves were equal parts creepy, confusing, and enthralling. I was amazed by how much worldbuilding and character establishment could occur in such a limited amount of page time, and found myself wishing that many of the stories could keep going.


A few of my favourites:
The Vampire Box (Tessa)
A Murder of Gods (Maggie)
Scheherazade (Brenna)
Puddles (Tessa)
The Bone-Tender (Brenna)
Heart-Shaped Box (Maggie)

ARC Review: The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel

The Break-Up Artist - Philip Siegel

"We all like to think that there's one person out there who will rescue us from the tower, slide the glass slipper onto our foot, brush away our one fallen tear and tell us if there's six more weeks of winter. Or something like that. But that's not how the real world works."

As a "singleton" whose friends are all in relationships, I can definitely say that I've occasionally felt inferior to those happy couples. As a result, it was easy for me to understand our protagonist, Becca - even if I'm not quite as cynical about love as she is. Becca's voice is equal bits skeptical, witty, convincing, and funny, making for an engaging read. While she made a few choices that I didn't agree with, it was really interesting to see how Becca's actions shaped her character growth over the course of the novel. And, of course, it was a lot of fun reading about her exploits as the Break-Up Artist and seeing the creativity that was put into her schemes.

Contrary to popular belief, The Break-Up Artist isn't a romance story. It does critically examine high school relationships, but familial relationships and friendships are given equal exploration. These relationships all had their ups and downs, making them authentic in their imperfections. It also explores the question of what love actually is, and how it can vary from person to person and couple to couple.

Overall, The Break-Up Artist was such a cute, fun read that I really didn't want to put down. I can't wait to see what Siegel writes next!

Thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory - Laurie Halse Anderson

"It was always there - fear - and if you don't stay on top of it, you'll drown."

The Impossible Knife of Memory encompasses a very difficult theme: post-traumatic stress disorder. Through a series of flashbacks, readers are given a glimpse at the horrors of war that Andy Kincain experienced - and is forced to relive, day in and day out. The majority of the novel, though, is from his daughter Hayley's perspective. Although this slightly distanced me from the fact that Andy had PTSD (he could have easily been seen as someone with multiple personality disorder or an alcoholic), it showed just how widespread its effects are.

Hayley, our narrator, is cynical, bitter, constantly in fight-or-flight mode, and immediately characterizes everyone as "zombies" or "freaks." This attitude would normally annoy me in a protagonist, but in this case, I found it very easy to sympathize with her. These traits are Hayley's method of coping with her broken family, and showed just how much her father's actions have influenced her. Hayley's love for her father shines through her every action, and she was unfailingly devoted to him.

The side characters that were introduced all had their own problems, as well. From divorcing parents to drug-using sisters to battles with alcoholism, no one's life could be described as "perfect," and it was nice to see Hayley slowly discover this truth. It was unfortunate that some of these threads were dropped shortly after they were introduced; I would have liked to learn more about Trish and Gracie.

This dark subject matter was contrasted nicely with doses of humor and a cute romance. The banter between Hayley and Finn was entertaining (and complete with math pick-up lines!), and their relationship was characterized by awkwardly adorable moments like their "anti-date." What I liked most about their relationship, though, was that it wasn't perfect: both Hayley and Finn had issues that they needed to work through together, and their vastly different approaches to doing so (with snark and cynicism vs. with a smile and humor) made them complement each other perfectly. My only complaint about Hayley and Finn's relationship is that it seemingly started out of nowhere. One moment, we had no idea who Finn was... the next, he was introduced and was immediately interested in dating Hayley. While part of that may have been due to the fact that Hayley was narrating and didn't pay him any attention before, it would have been nice to see the reasons behind his initial attraction.

Between not knowing how to talk to boys and being stressed out about zits, Anderson does a fairly good job of portraying real teenagers. Unfortunately, she doesn't capture their texting abilities very well. Thanks in part to autocorrect, my friends' texts are grammatically correct, and contain properly spelled out words instead of things like, "fin sez he kn spl." After reading a few pages of text speak like that, my head started to hurt a bit.

I now understand why Laurie Halse Anderson is on many readers' automatically-read lists. The Impossible Knife of Memory was the first book that I've read by her, but it certainly won't be my last.

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) isn't really a biography or a memoir; instead, it's a collection of short essays, photos, lists, and life advice. These chapters are written in no discernible order and bounce from one topic to another. You find out about her childhood, and that time she weighed herself in the supply closet. You find out about her plans to create an all-female remake of Ghostbusters. You hear about why she was the best babysitter ever, and that time she worked for a TV psychic. And, of course, you learn about her journey to becoming a writer for The Office. It felt a lot like sitting down at Starbucks and chatting about anything and everything with a new friend - which just further solidifies my belief that Mindy and I should really be best friends.

While I wouldn't say that this book was hilarious, the first half of this book continuously made me smile and had me holding onto every word. After Mindy talked about her experience at The Office and started sharing pictures from her Blackberry, though, it started to go downhill. It seemed as though she had run out of material - which was a shame, given how much I enjoyed earlier essays like "Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities."

Overall, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) was a light, fluffy, fairly entertaining read that mostly lived up to my expectations.

Book Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

Born of Illusion - Teri Brown

I'm a huge fan of books set during the Roaring Twenties, and Born of Illusion is no exception. Between séances, spiritualism, magicians, and prohibition, I absolutely loved the historic New York City atmosphere.

Anna Van Housen is such an easy character to love. Although she hasn't had the easiest or most traditional life, she's such a strong, competent young lady, and her passion for magic shines through her every action. She refuses to let her work be devalued because of her gender, and struggles to find her own place in the world.

The relationship between Anna and her mother was beautifully portrayed, despite how frustrating it was at times. While often characterized by jealousy and petty manipulations, Anna's mother does truly love her - something that Anna discovers slowly over the course of the book, and that served to redeem her mother a bit in my eyes.

The secondary characters, too, become rounded out over the course of the story. As Anna overcomes her initial judgments and reservations, she builds forms close friendships and learns that not everyone is quite how they first appear. Mr. Darby, in particular, surprised me in his transformation from crotchety old man to surprisingly fun neighbour.

There was a touch of romance in Born of Illusion, however it took a backseat role to the magic and mystery in the main plot. The two suitors that vie for Anna's attention are polar opposites, although it was rather easy to determine which one would be chosen.

My main complaint about Born of Illusion is that the mystery was a bit too predictable. I also would have liked more scenes with magic/séances, as those scenes were incredibly well written and creative, and a few more answers regarding Anna's magic and Houdini. But I suppose that's what a sequel is for.

Overall, Born of Illusion was an intriguing mix of paranormal and historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can't wait to read Born of Deception - especially if what I've heard about it involving Rasputin is true.

Book Review: Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

Perfect Fifths  - Megan McCafferty

In a departure from the style of the previous books, Perfect Fifths is not told in the format of one of Jessica's journals; instead, readers are given a glimpse into both Marcus and Jessica's heads through an omniscient narrator. This change in narration took away the air of mystery that made Marcus such an intriguing character and replaced it with an immature, less enlightened individual than I had envisioned. It also distanced me from Jessica's character, which is a shame given how much I love her snarky, authentic thoughts.

In my review for Fourth Comings, I mentioned how nice it was to see that Marcus and Jessica were talking - even if her journal served as the basis for that communication. The conversations that took place in Perfect Fifths, while pretentious at times, provided evidence of their connection that had been missing from previous installments. It also showed just how much Marcus and Jessica had grown and matured - and, at the same time, just how similar they were to their high school counterparts.

Jessica's realization about her feelings for Marcus seemed very contrived. From the Barry Manilow duet to the strange dreams, it just didn't seem real. Worse than that, though, the introduction of Sunny Dae seemed to serve as a plot device to get Marcus and Jessica back together, as opposed to the fleshed-out, sympathetic character that she was intended to be.

Overall, I was fairly disappointed with Perfect Fifths. If I'm ever going to reread this series, I think I'll just stick with books one and two.

Book Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of The Easy - Ruta Sepetys

"My mother's a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She's actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute."

Out of the Easy explores a period that is rarely seen in historical fiction: New Orleans in the 1950s. A place where class is everything, the French Quarter can be dangerous, as Sepetys is not afraid to show.

At its core, Out of the Easy is very much a character-driven story, and home to a well-developed, memorable cast of secondary characters. From Cokie, the generous, kind-hearted driver that works for Willie, to Charlie, the bookstore owner that employs and houses Josie, to Willie herself, the "wicked stepmother with the fairy godmother heart," Sepetys shows that the family you choose can be so much stronger than the one you're born into.

And let's not forget Josie, herself. Her narrations were simple yet poignant, and she was incredibly easy to relate to. At 17, Josie has experienced so much disappointment, yet she remains strong and continues to hope for normalcy. She's intelligent, caring, and ambitious, and I wanted nothing more than for her to find a way out of New Orleans and start a better life.

A large portion of Out of the Easy takes place in a brothel, and centers itself around the life of women in the sex industry. Fate has dealt them a poor hand, so they have taken control of it in the only way they could to ensure their survival. They're strong, caring, and oddly charming - a far cry from the pitiable, tragic, "lusty wenches" that are often portrayed.

My only complaint about Out of the Easy lies in its ending. Everything was resolved far too neatly, and it seemed somewhat rushed. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Out of the Easy, and fully intend to pick up Between Shades of Gray in the near future.

Destroy Me

Destroy Me - Tahereh Mafi

Destroy Me is told entirely from Warner's perspective, meaning that the excessively flowery prose and the endless strikethroughs that contributed to my lack of enjoyment of Shatter Me were thankfully not present. Instead, Warner's thoughts are clear, methodical, and organized - a contrast that is even more striking once Juliette's diary is found.

Mafi easily explains Warner's actions as a result of his upbringing. While his father's actions had made him hardened against the world, he does, in fact, have a heart. Throughout Shatter Me, I found myself wondering if instalove was the only reason for Warner's fascination with Juliette; in Destroy Me, this obsession only deepens as Warner learns just how much he truly understands Juliette. And while I was never on a "team" before, since I didn't particularly care for Adam or Juliette, I'm inclined to admit that Warner might just be better suited for her after all.

The highlight of this e-novella, though, was definitely Warner's tentative friendship of sorts with Delalieu. Born over coffee and inadvertent gratitude, it was a surprisingly adorable (and entirely unexpected) relationship.

Overall, Destroy Me was a pleasantly surprising read. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into Warner's thoughts (even if most of them were focused on his obsession with Juliette), and may just have to give the rest of the series a try.

Charmed Thirds: A Novel (Jessica Darling Novels)

Charmed Thirds  - Megan McCafferty

Unlike Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds took place over the span of four years in Jessica's life. As a result, a lot of events in Jessica's life were glossed over, and the emotional impacts of her actions weren't quite as prevalent as in the first two installments.

While Jessica's voice was just as engaging as before, I was rather unimpressed with her character. She made a lot of very poor decisions, which I'm still not sure she's learned from. A large component of college life is trying to discover who you are and what you desire from life, but it just felt like Jessica was going about it in all the wrong ways.

As Jessica's character became more and more frustrating, Marcus' character became almost saint-like. He underwent a tremendous amount of growth and self-discovery in his limited amount of page time, and I can't wait to see where this reformed bad boy is going to go next.

Jessica's parents and sister played important roles in Charmed Thirds. An important part of growing up is realizing that your parents aren't perfect and that they're human, which is something that Jessica discovers as she learned to understand and sympathize with them.

Overall, I didn't enjoy Charmed Thirds as much as I enjoyed the rest of the previous Jessica Darling books. However, I'm not ready to give up on the series quite yet, so hopefully it picks up again in the next book!

Second Helpings (Jessica Darling, #2)

Second Helpings (Jessica Darling, #2) - Megan McCafferty

Second Helpings picks up in Jessica's senior year, where dating, college applications, and he-who-must-not-be-named are just a few of her problems. Jessica's narration is equal parts crazy, snarky, thought-provoking, engaging, and every bit as wonderful as it was in Sloppy Firsts. I really enjoyed watching Jessica grow and develop over the course of the book, as she made mistakes and learned a lot about herself and her desires.

My trepidations about Marcus Flutie's character were quickly dispelled throughout this read - to the point where I can easily see why practically everyone wants him as a book boyfriend. Mysterious, unpredictable, and sweet, Marcus Flutie managed to capture my heart, and his chemistry with Jessica led me to ship them so, so strongly. I sincerely hope that he'll have his own narration at some point, or be more present in future installments, at the very least.

Relationships are, as always, a prominent portion of this book, and there was even a very well-done love triangle. McCafferty perfectly captures the nature of teenage relationships (or relationships in general): it's often hard to know the nature of your own feelings for someone, and relationships themselves are confusing and complicated.

Overall, Second Helpings was every bit as enjoyable and entertaining as its predecessor, Sloppy Firsts. I can't wait to read the rest of the series!