The other day, my friend Stephanie mentioned that she had looked back on her ratings for books on Goodreads over the past couple of years and had noticed she didn’t read as many 5 star books lately. We then started to discuss whether this was based on the types of books we’ve been reading lately or whether because of Goodreads, we have started judging books more harshly. I also wondered whether blogging had influenced my ratings of books. Since I started this blog, have I rated less books as 5 stars? Is that because I’m reading more critically? Or is it because I’m reading more books for review that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own? Either way, this intrigued me so I went on Goodreads to see what my ratings looked like.

I have made 3 pie charts for each year that I did a Goodreads challenge. I did not start recording books on Goodreads until October 2013, so I started looking at 2014, 2015, and 2016.
I will note that in 2015 and 2016 I re-read more books. During 2016 I re-read all of Harry Potter and in 2015 I re-read a lot of childhood novels. I think that the Harry Potter re-read probably influenced a higher 5 star review leaning than some of the ones I re-read in 2015, but it’s something interesting to note when looking at the numbers.

I was a bit surprised that almost everything seemed pretty even. In fact, last year I had a higher percentage of 4 star ratings than in previous years, even though I felt like I had a less than stellar reading history in 2016. I thought that as my amount of review books increased and that my time having a blog increased my stars would decrease due to harsher judgement, but the numbers don’t show that! In fact, last year I had zero 1 star ratings, whereas the years before I had 1 and 2, so blogging might be influencing me in the opposite direction! 

I did in fact find that in 2014 I had more 5 star ratings. I don't know if that's because I had just gotten back into my reading stride or if I was a little bit more lax with my ratings. I think that because I hadn't been reading as much before 2014, I had a lot of new to me authors that year that became favorites, such as Morgan Matson. I then went back and read all of her current novels and I'm pretty sure they all got 5 stars. Hopefully, I can find a few more favorite authors this year and have a good amount of books to go back and read.

I thought seeing this might change the types of books that I would read this year, but it seems like I’ve been doing pretty well. I do think that in general, I’m going to try to read a few more books outside my comfort zone and maybe read a few more books that really call to me. I know it's hard to find 5 star books that I love, but I apparently did a good job in 2014, so hopefully I can do that again.

Have you ever looked back on your ratings over the years?  

 
 
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By: Mechthild Glaser
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 384

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads):

Amy Lennox doesn't know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother's childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.

Amy's grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy's new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever cost.

                                                     First Impressions
This book is my first 2017 Debut Author's Challenge book. The title is what first caught my eye. What book lover would turn down the ability to jump into their favorite stories? The summary reminded me of the book Between the Lines By Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer, but seemed different enough to be enjoyable.

                                                      What I Thought
I think I liked the idea of this book a little more than I liked the execution.

Amy has grown up with her mother Alexis, far from her mother's home. At the age of 15, Amy and her mother decide to go back to Alexis' home island off the coast of Scotland. While there, Amy learns that she comes from a family that has the ability to jump into books. She is not the only one on the island learning this ability either. There are two other teenagers from the rival family on the island who are learning their craft as well. Shortly after she begins learning the rules of book jumping, story ideas start going missing. Amy needs to learn how to fix what's happening before chaos ensues.

I loved the idea of being able to jump into books being a family inherited trait. However, there was something about it just didn't seem like everything was fully thought out. I know that this book was originally written in German, so maybe something literally got lost in translation, but it seemed like there was a lot missing. I would've loved more history on the family. How did they discover this ability? How did they learn about? What would have happened if Amy had never come back to the island? Why does the ability disappear after the age of 20?

I also found parts of the story to be predictable. With only two other teenagers on the island, it unfortunately doesn't leave much room for guessing. Will is the only other boy Amy's age, so it is fairly obvious that he becomes her love interest. There are a few interesting twists, one of which I also wish could have been explored more.

I wonder if the book had been longer if it would've given me what I craved. The idea of being able to jump into books is just so tempting by all book lovers that I think any reader would've loved more than understanding this gift. While I appreciate that this is a stand alone novel in a world of unnecessary trilogies, I think this could've been better executed as a duology. By being two books, the relationship between Amy and her book jumping abilities and the history of the family could've been explored on a deeper level. Instead, the book skims the surface of book jumping, relationships, the book world, and an enemy they all face.

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Overall, this book was enjoyable. I read it in about 2 days because I wanted to know what was going to happen. However, I was just left craving more. I wanted more meat to the book and that's where my issue lays. The story itself is fun and I think the idea is great, but it didn't satiate me. If you are looking for a book about book jumpers, I would probably recommend Between the Lines over this one. It's definitely cute though, so if it's on your list I'd still say check it out!
That Artsy Reader Girl
 
 
This month's book club choice was a bit different than others. Meghan wanted to pick the book When Breath Becomes Air but knew that it was a heavy book. As a result, she shared the other book that she had debated picking which was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. As a book club, we decided, for the first time, to read two books. I have already read Eligible (Review here), so my book club post this week will just be on When Breath Becomes Air.
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By: Paul Kalanithi
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 230

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads):

t the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
              
                                                       What I thought

When Meghan first shared the summary of this book with us, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I've been in a bit of a book rut (as you know if you are a reader of this blog) and getting the chance to read something different was just what I needed.

When Breath Becomes Air is written by Paul Kalanithi during his battle with cancer. At the age of 36, Kalanithi is in his final year of residency as a neurosurgeon. He is also diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. This book is his way of sharing his journey to becoming a doctor and then the switch of being a doctor to becoming the patient. Unfortunately, Kalanithi did not beat his battle with cancer and, in fact, didn't have a chance to finish the book (or at least not the way he would have wanted to).

This book is a life changer. It's one of those once in a blue moon books that you read and just feel like you can understand a little bit of life more than you did before. The first part of this book is Kalanithi's journey through medical school and residency to become a neurosurgeon. I have always enjoyed science and found the medical world fascinating, so I was enthralled with all of the information. The second part of the book focuses more on Kalanithi's battle with cancer and all of the treatments and other things he goes through.

Before becoming a surgeon, Kalanithi was an English major and thought that he wanted some sort of job that worked with literature. In writing this book, his talent and passion for literature is so obvious. This book isn't very long but it is completely un-put-downable. There aren't any chapters in this book, but I was so drawn in that I didn't even notice until I was about 85 pages in and ready to go to bed. I decided I would finish the chapter and then put the book down, when I realized that during the past hour that I had been reading, I had not come across any chapters. His writing is that captivating.

Even though it is only January, I know that When Breath Becomes Air is easily going to be one of my favorite books of 2017. I'm definitely going to purchase it (maybe even purchase two copies) and push it off on everyone that I know. It is a heavy story, and you will probably cry, but there is a lightness to it and a positive energy that just makes it so wonderful.

                                             What Book Club Thought
We all agreed that this book is beautifully written and has a wonderful message. The one point that we felt a little different on was our opinions on the readability. One of the book club members listened to the audiobook version instead of reading the book and commented that she was glad she went that route because, while it was beautifully written, there were certain points that she thought might have been unreadable. She specifically referenced some of the more philosophical moments as seeming a bit slow and heavy for her reading tastes. On the other hand, myself and one of the other book club members felt like we couldn't put the book down and never felt as though there were any slow points. We didn't get into any super deep philosophical conversations about it, but I think that we definitel could have if we were in the right mood. I would highly recommend this book.

Next Month's Book Club Pick

The Life Intended By: Kristin Harmel
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Play! By Sephora is a monthly subscription box by Sephora. It costs $10 a month and you received 5 beauty and skincare samples plus a perfume sample each month. Previously, you needed to put yourself onto a wait-list and wait to receive an email before you could subscribe, as they were rolling it out to limited quantities.

In addition to the products, Sephora includes a booklet that includes information about the product, the brand, and then tips of how to use the products. Also at the back of the book is a Play! PASS. This Pass gives you a complimentary one-on-one session with a Sephora artist as well as an extra 50 Beauty Insider points when you scan the pass at the register with any purchase. If you have the Sephora app, you can also scan the images of the products to learn more about them.

Previously, everyone received the same exact box. They had a few months where they had two different boxes that went out, and this month it seems like they have a variety of different boxes that went out following their theme of Beauty, Set, Go.

As a heads up, the boxes are a little bit larger and will not fit into a small apartment sized mailbox. For reference, a Birchbox box is able to fit almost perfectly into my mailbox, but this one has no chance. Therefore, I’ve had to go to the post office both months to pick up my box.

The products I received this month are as followed:
IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF 50 (Full-Size $38)

The first product I will talk about this month is a CC cream. I have heard a lot about IT cosmetics and every time that I go into a beauty supply store (usually Ulta but also Sephora) I stop and touch their makeup brushes because they are so soft. I have never actually used anything by IT, so I am excited to try it! This is one that I will probably save for a special occasion since I don’t typically wear foundation or CC creams on a daily basis. It does seem a little more similar to the original Korean CC creams in that it has properties that are meant to help with the skin and not just cover up problems.

Tarte FRIXXXTION Stick Exfoliating Cleanser (Full-Size $22)

This product is an exfoliator/mask/cleanser that is built like a deodorant. It is meant to draw out oils, reduce shine, and purify pores, while at the same time exfoliating your skin. A lot of the reviews on the website are from people who claim to have sensitive skin and they say that it hasn’t irritated them, so that is always a good sign. I just used it for the first time last night and it was so much fun! I can’t yet make any claims for its effectiveness or how my skin reacted. I will say that it felt gentle and that the exfoliant was very fine. I only used it as an exfoliator/cleanser and not as a mask, so I’m looking forward to trying it that way as well. Overall, it’s not a bad price for a cleanser and it’s nice to have one that has a gentle exfoliant a few times a week. This might be on my list next time I need to replace a cleanser!

Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream (Full-Size $60)

I was really excited to see another product by Drunk Elephant in my box! I enjoyed the serum that I received a few months ago, so I’m looking forward to trying the moisturizer. This particular moisturizer has a whipped texture and is meant to improve firmness, decrease fine lines and wrinkles, and help with dryness. It claims to be lightweight, so I definitely will need to try this one both in the winter and the summer. I’m curious to see if a lightweight moisturizer pack enough punch to help my skin against the Chicago winters. If not, it will definitely be nice to have a lightweight moisturizer in the summer when it gets hot. I am a little disappointed that it doesn’t include an SPF and it has a faintly Play-Doh like scent.

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Wherever you want to take pictures... a cat will be there ;)
Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey (Full-Size $17)

While Clinique calls this an “almost lipstick” I’d call it a tinted lip balm. It has that chapstick feel and is very moisturizing on the lips. The color is very sheer and if you want an even amount of color you will need to apply a few layers. When I first put it on, it was a very faint and patchy look. I waited a few seconds to let it settle and then applied some more. The color is a bit more brown than I would usually go for, but it’s a pretty color for the winter and fall.

Ouai Treatment Masque (Full-Size $32)

This hair mask is meant to repair damaged hair, mend split ends, and increase resistance to future damage. Before you shower, you put it in your hair, leave it in for 5-10 minutes and then rinse. They even recommend putting it in your hair before you go to the gym and then let it sit while you work out and rinse during your post-workout shower. I am usually a little lazy when it comes to hair masks, but my hair has been super dry and had a lot of split ends lately so I will have to make an effort to try this one. The full-size packaging looks like individual foil packets which I’m not crazy about. It has a really nice floral scent, so even if it doesn’t work well I think I’ll enjoy the scent it leaves!

Tory Burch Love Relentlessly (Full-Size $86)

I currently own the original Tory Burch scent and I received another one of her scents in a previous box. I liked the other scent, but I didn’t like it on me. This one I love when I put it on! It has notes of pink pepper, rose, orris, patchouli, amber and sandalwood and it is beautiful. It is that just right mix of sophisticated and sexy. The only unfortunate thing is that I find that the Tory Burch perfumes don’t have a long staying power. This is a bit of a bummer considering that they aren’t cheap, but I do get comments on them when I wear them. I can’t wait to try this one again and see what my husband thinks.

This box is definitely one of the best I’ve had in a while. The past few months have been a bit meh for me and I’ve been wondering whether or not it was still worth it for me to keep getting them. However, this box really put them back in the game. I’m really excited for the February box now!

 
 
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By: Judith Kinghorn
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 393

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
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Summary (Provided by Goodreads):
From the acclaimed author of The Last Summer, a captivating and moving story of the unlikely relationship between a lady and her maid on the eve of World War I.
 
As I watched him—his long legs striding the narrow path through the heather, his golden hair catching the sun—I had a hideous feeling in the pit of my stomach. For it seemed as though he was already marching away from me.
 
In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson’s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady’s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell’s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences—and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer.
 
But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline’s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress—a secret that will bind them together forever...

                                                   First Impressions
The cover of this book was so intriguing! I pretty much accepted this book for review based on the cover alone. I mean, I read the summary and was intrigued as well, but the cover truly sold me. Definitely one I would have picked up off of the shelves to read the summary of based on the cover alone. Over the past few years (mostly the blogging years) I have noticed that I enjoy reading World War 2 novels, so this one about World War 1 seemed right up my alley.

                                                    What I thought
I am so sorry, but I truly disliked this book. I wanted so badly to like it, but if it had not been a book I accepted for review, it would've been a DNF (did not finish). I am not one to put books own lightly, so that should say enough in and of itself. I will try to keep this review as positively constructive as possible, but it just was not my cup of tea.

Pearl is 24 years old and a lady's maid. At the beginning of the novel, she accepts a new position under Lady Ottoline, right before the start of World War 1. Pearl takes a trip to Scotland with Lady Ottoline and her family right before war is declared. There she meets Lady Ottoline's cousin Ralph. Pearl had briefly met him at the train station on her way to Lady Ottoline's and introduced herself to him as Ottoline, so she's a bit caught out when she finds out who she is. Regardless, she is attracted to him and drawn to him. However, she finds out that Lady Ottoline and Ralph are having an affair! But wait! No they're not! Lady Ottoline is actually having an affair with someone else. When Pearl finally finds that out, she starts falling back in love with Ralph. Who is married! It's a bit convoluted and seems like no matter Ralph's faults, Pearl is destined to fall in love with him.

All of this drama happens early on in the book. Ralph and Lady Ottoline's sons end up going off to war, leaving the women alone. Ottoline is pregnant with her lover's baby, and surprise surprise, Pearl is pregnant with Ralph's baby (which she doesn't discover until after he is gone). The rest of the story follows Pearl as she tries to survive during war time with a new baby and find herself. Oh! And I forgot! On top of all of this, Pearl has no family. Her mother committed suicide after she was born and her great Aunt Kitty who raised her, died when she was 17.

Are you exhausted yet? I feel like giving the summary is in and of itself an explanation as to why I didn't enjoy this book. There is so much going on and it is under 300 pages! Pearl and Ralph are the definition of an annoying instalove. I typically don't mind when two characters fall in love immediately, but usually we get a bit of relationship building within that. Pearl and Ralph's relationship is so quick that it was completely baffling to me as to why she clung to him for so many years.

I think this would've been much more interesting if the book focused a little more on her family situation. It is talked about throughout the book, but nothing comes of it until about the final quarter of the book, and it happens completely by accident! I just felt like I couldn't connect with Pearl because she couldn't connect with herself. This book wanted to be a coming of age story, but Pearl never figured out who she was.

In addition to the above issues, this book was painfully predictable. So much so that I felt like if I put it down about half way through like I wanted to, I wouldn't have been left wondering what was going to happen. And not just because I truly didn't care.

The beginning of the book started out promising, but then just dragged. There was nothing that kept me interested in where Pearl's life was going. When I finally got there, the ending was satisfying, but not worth the amount of time that it took to get there.

It takes a lot for me to give a book a one star review, and I was tempted to give this book two stars because of that. However, when I think about it, I would never recommend this book and I even stopped reading it before I completely finished it as well. Therefore, I couldn't give this book anything higher. If this book is on your TBR, you can pass on it. Unless you really enjoy these stories and aren't looking for anything fresh.
 
 
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By: Giovanna Fletcher
Published Year: 2013
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Pages: 352

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): In this utterly sweet and moving women's fiction novel, a celebrity comes to town and sweeps a young woman - who is used to being overlooked - off her feet.

Sophie May is content with her life in her small English village, working in the local coffee shop and living with her mom. But when famous actor Billy comes to town to play Mr. Darcy in a new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Sophie's quiet life is quickly turned on its head. Billy is adored by women around the world, but he only wants Sophie on his arm. But being with Billy comes at a price, and Sophie is thrown in the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy?

                                                                         First Impressions

Such a cute chick lit cover! When I first heard that Giovanna Fletcher was coming out with her debut novel, I was really excited to read it. However, it wasn’t available in the US. If it had been, I definitely would’ve read it immediately.
                              
                                                      What I thought


This book was exactly the cute chick lit that I thought it would be and needed.

Sophie May is a small town girl who helps to run a tea shop. She grew up in this same town and never left. She even still lives with her mother. The town gets shaken up when a movie ends up being filmed in their town. An up and coming star shows up for the lead role and falls in love with Sophie. The novel follows them in their new love and all the trials the meeting of their two worlds create.

While initially the story doesn’t seem completely unique, it didn’t play out the way I expected. I expected the story to be about the process of Billy and Sophie falling in love, but instead it’s more of the after. I liked that this was different from a lot of other stories that have had similar plots.

I enjoyed Sophie a lot and liked that she seemed like a normal person with normal problems. She isn’t perfect but it doesn’t seem unbelievable that a movie star would fall in love with her. I will admit that the relationship does come with a bit of insta-love which can be annoying, but their relationship ends up being really sweet. I wish there had been a bit more of playout with the beginning of the relationship as it seems to become very intense very quickly.

I think my favorite character was Sophie’s friend and tea shop owner Molly. She seems so sweet and fun and I wish that she had been in the story a little bit more. I liked that she supported Sophie but that she also told it like it is.

While this story is pretty predictable, the writing definitely puts it a few steps above those similar stories. It is an easy, quick, read and very enjoyable. I know that there is a follow up to this story and I can’t wait to read it to find out what happens with Billy and Sophie. I am so glad that Fletcher’s books are now available in the states and I can’t wait to read the rest of them. I would recommend this to any chick lit lovers or someone looking for a fun, light book.

 
 
Hey Everyone!

I know I've been a bit MIA on the blog lately and while it's mostly due to being busy for the holidays (traveling out of state for family and other things) it's also partly just been a bit of a funk with the blog. Last summer I felt a bit of staleness with my blog and I intended on doing a redesign. But then I was busy with work and an amazing trip to the UK and it never happened, so I think a bit of that carried on. I definitely feel the need to spice things up on here and I hope you readers aren't bored with me!

I know that my beauty and haul posts have been lacking and that is pure laziness. I sit here knowing I should take pictures and write about things I bought but instead this is what I pretty much end up doing.
And while there's nothing wrong with taking time to chill in bed and watch TV, I do feel like I've been letting it impact my content. I've stayed consistent with my book reviews but the beauty and hauls are so rare. So if those are what you keep waiting for and I've disappointed you, I apologize.

I've also started the year in a bit of a reading slump. It's not that I've read bad books or that I don't have a desire to read, but I just can't figure out what I want to read. Like every time I'm looking for a book to read I'm like 'hmmm I don't know if this genre fits what I'm feeling right now." So that's been hard. Since starting this blog I've read a lot of YA and contemporary fiction. While I love those, I do feel a bit like I want to read something drastically different but I can't figure out what that is yet. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below!

That's pretty much what's been going on over here. I don't even have any exciting reasons as to why I've been a slacker. Just your typical blogger slump. I'm hoping that this year I will get back into it a bit more!

Hope you all had a Happy Holidays!
 
 
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By: J.P Delaney
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 320

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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.

Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

                                                                    First Impressions

I received an email for this book and when I read the summary I was instantly drawn in! I was a bit apprehensive because every book I’ve read that’s been compared to Gone Girl is always a letdown, but this one sounded interesting regardless. I feel a bit iffy about the cover, but I probably would have picked it up from a table to see what it was about. It definitely isn’t a buy based on the cover type of book for me though.

                                                               What I thought

This was one of the better thriller/mysteries that I’ve read in a while! I couldn’t put it down and was intrigued from beginning to end.

The Girl Before revolves around the house at One Folgate Street. The house was built by a Edward, a minimalist architect. Not only is the house pretty much bare but for the essentials, but there are over 200 rules that one must follow in order to live there. In addition to that, there is an intense screening process of first filling out a questionnaire, and then if you make it past that moment, completing an in person interview. Emma and her boyfriend Simon are chosen as residents and then three years later, Jane is chosen. The book alternates between Then: Emma and Now: Jane. Both Emma and Jane have ended up at One Folgate Street trying to recover from a tragedy. Emma was recently the victim of a break in and Jane gave birth to a stillborn child.

The way that the story moves between then and now is pretty flawless in my opinion. I love the way that the stories parallel each other and overlap. The house is also a highly technological house which reminded me a bit of Smart House from the Disney channel. It is meant to learn about you as you live there and learn your preferences for light and temperature and even adjust based on your moods.

Edward, the architect is a bit of an odd duck. Not only does he require all of these rules for someone to live inhis house, but the reason he created the house like this was because his wife and son died while making the original property for this spot. When they died, he completely changed the plans for the house and built One Folgate Street. He’s also a bit creepily involved with the residents that live in the house.

In Emma’s story, she is dealing with anxiety from the break-in as well as her current relationship with Simon and how to deal with that after the break-in. In Jane’s story, she is dealing with the grief of a stillborn and leaving her job because of that grief. It’s interesting the both of the main women are dealing with past tragedies and showing how the house and style of living helps them compensate.

As for the mystery aspect of the book, without giving too much away, Edward and the house itself are super creepy. The whole situation is just a bit odd and I personally would never live in a house like that. Not only am I someone who finds comfort in clutter, but just knowing that someone else was dictating how I live would bother me. Anyway, the mystery is interesting as I read this book in a day because I wanted to know what happened/if I was right. While it didn’t surprise me completely, there were aspects of it that threw me and that I didn’t expect. I guess I would say, it was a decent mystery and an interesting story.

I really enjoyed this book and it is definitely a story that I haven’t read before. The mystery isn’t completely shocking, but the psychological thriller side of it was fascinating. There were a lot of pieces to this book that I greatly enjoyed, but the ending disappointed me a little bit. I would say if you like psychological thrillers that you should check this book out! It has already been signed for a movie deal and I will definitely go see it! I wouldn’t re-read it because I think the not knowing with these types of books is what makes them fun to read.

 

26 Kisses

01/13/2017

1 Comment

 
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By: Anna Michels
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 304

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Kasie West meets Morgan Matson in this hilarious and heartwarming debut about a girl’s summer mission to get over her ex-boyfriend by kissing her way through the alphabet.

Getting dumped by her boyfriend is not how Veda planned on starting her summer. When Mark makes it clear that it’s over between them, Veda is heartbroken and humiliated—but, more importantly, she’s inspired. So she sets out on the love quest of a lifetime: use the summer to forget about Mark, to move on, and move up. All she has to do is kiss twenty-six boys with twenty-six different names—one for each letter of the alphabet.

From the top of the Ferris wheel at her hometown carnival to the sandy dunes of Lake Michigan, Veda takes every opportunity she can to add kisses (and boys) to her list, and soon the break-up doesn’t sting quite as much. But just when Veda thinks she has the whole kissing thing figured out, she meets someone who turns her world upside down.
               
                                                First impressions


I first saw the cover for this in a Debut Author’s Challenge feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Obviously, the cover caught my eye and the summary did too. It seemed like a really cute story, exactly the kind of book I would pick up. It also reminded me a bit of The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart that I read in high school. It definitely felt like it was going to have that kind of vibe which appealed to me.

                                                                    What I thought

What a cute book! I wish I could have read this in the summer as it is exactly the kind of summer read I enjoy, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

Veda is in the summer before her senior year. Her boyfriend of 3 years just graduated from high school and broke up with her because he didn’t want to have a high school girlfriend in college. Veda has only ever been with Mark and is having a difficult time moving on. Her friend Mel comes up with what she thinks is the perfect idea to help Veda move on. She challenges Veda to kiss 26 guys in alphabetical order by the end of summer. She tells Veda this is because she shouldn’t be jumping from one relationship into another, but about having fun and moving on.

I liked the idea of the 26 kisses challenge. She doesn’t have to kiss everyone on the lips, and family members and male dogs do count! I didn’t initially expect for it to have to be in alphabetical order but it definitely made it fun. Maybe because I’m a YA reader I didn’t think of it as being slutty, but that judgement did come up. It’s funny because I really didn’t think that kissing multiple boys in a summer would label someone a slut. If she had been sleeping with them yet, but just making out? It could also be because I’m older, so I know people who would make out with multiple people in a single weekend in college.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Veda’s friends at all. Her best friends are Seth, who lives across the street with her and has been in love with her since he was 10 and Mel, who moved to Michigan from New York in middle school and immediately became her friend. I found Seth to be overly moody and not really there in any way shape or form as a friend and I found Mel to be extremely selfish. The entire time I felt like Mel was having Veda complete this challenge more for herself than for Veda. She was very pushy and never seemed to be listening to what Veda wanted.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the setting! I immediately connected to it because it is set in Northern Michigan, in what I imagine what is supposed to be Traverse City. I used to vacation up in that area and then I lived in Michigan during college, so I related to this setting perfectly. Michigan summers are magical and Michaels expressed that perfectly in this book.

I also want to comment on the fact that typically I review books like these by saying they were predictable but in a good way but that is not the case with this one. It took me by surprise! I thought it was going to go one direction but ended up going in a bit of a different direction. And I loved it! I liked that what could have been a predictable YA formula was turned a bit on its head. It didn’t immediately fall into the typical tropes and it was so refreshing. I definitely look forward to more books by Michaels!

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This is the perfect summer read. I think it is a YA that if you are younger you will appreciate it a little bit more, but that’s not to say you won’t enjoy it as an adult. If you like fun summer romances and books that have a challenge or goal, I recommend this book. It also is not your typical summer YA formula which is refreshing. I wouldn’t re-read or purchase this one, but Michels is definitely a strong debut author and I look forward to what she writes in the future!

That Artsy Reader Girl
 
 
This month’s book club book was picked by Stephanie and was London Belongs to Me. I think our book club could call ourselves a group of Anglophiles as we all love England, their royal family, and their history. I was excited when Stephanie picked this book because I had been wanting to read it for a while!

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By: Jacquelyn Middleton
Published Year: 2016
Publisher: Kirkwall Books
Pages: 394

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads):
Your flight is now boarding! Join Alex Sinclair for a life-changing, trans-Atlantic journey. London Belongs to Me is a coming-of-age story about friendship, following your dreams, and learning when to let go … and when to hang on.

Meet Alex, a recent college graduate from Tallahassee, Florida in love with London, pop culture, and comic cons. It’s not easy being twenty-one-years-old, and Alex has never been the most popular girl. She’s an outsider, a geeky fangirl … with dreams of becoming a playwright in a city she’s loved from afar, but never visited. Fleeing America after a devastating betrayal, she believes London is where she’ll be understood, where she belongs. But Alex’s past of panic attacks and broken relationships is hard to escape. When her demons team up with a jealous rival determined to destroy her new British life, Alex begins to question everything: her life-long dream, her new friends, and whether London is where she truly belongs.

                                                                    What I thought

After heartbreak and college graduation, Alex decides to move to London to try to be a playwright. She was actually born in England and her father currently lives in Manchester. When she first moves to London, she moves into her friend Henry’s flat for cheap rent. However, the flat is also occupied by his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s brother. This story follows Alex as she tries to find herself and find success in a new country.

I definitely wanted to like this book so much more than I did and I worry that this review might come off more negative than I mean for it to. So I will start by saying, I enjoyed this book and read it quickly. At no point did I feel like I wanted to put it down but was only finishing it because of book club. Now that I’ve made that clear, I did have issues with this book.

Alex is not a likeable main character. She is immature and whiney and frankly annoyed me. Now, I am in my late 20s and Alex is only 21, so maybe I’ve just already lost touch with what it’s like to be a young 20-something and insecure? Either way, I never found that I could really root for Alex because she didn’t know how to root for herself. She had so much that was given to her and she never did anything with it. She is such a weak person and I definitely could not have stood to be friends with her.

In addition to not enjoying Alex, I found the writing to be average and predictable. There were some writing choices that grated on me as I read them and they took me out of the story. For example, Alex is blonde and Henry’s girlfriend is brunette. These are things that only need to be stated once. However, when doing something or saying something, they are often introduced as “the blonde” or “the brunette.” And in totally random places! I don’t need my main character to be referred to in such an abstract way. As for the predictability, it is glaringly obvious that Henry’s girlfriend is going to cause a problem for Alex and find a way to kick her out of the apartment. It is frustrating because it is such a petty character that feels so 90’s rom-com to me. There are also other aspects of Alex’s story, such as past and present romances and the trajectory of her playwriting career, that I figured out within the first few chapters of the book.

Now, I will say that I greatly enjoyed Alex’s friends and that the writing about the setting and the sitting of London was done well. I always enjoyed seeing Alex with her friends because they brought some life, maturity, and dimension to the story (not including Henry who is such an undeveloped character that even though he is her lifeline when she moves to London he is barely mentioned). I also thought that the writing about the actual city of London was done beautifully. It is obvious that this city holds a special place in Middleton’s heart.

                                                                         What Book Club Thought
Book club pretty much had the same issues I listed above. One of the things we agreed on is that it seemed like there were a lot of things going on and just not enough time to dedicate to everything. If Middleton had eliminated a few of the story lines and really focused on a smaller amount, it could've been a lot stronger. We also discussed that a lot of the solutions to the problems seemed to perfect and fell into her lap or came out of nowhere. For example, when looking for an idea for a new play, all of a sudden she has a grandmother who used to be an actress but gave up acting to have her son/Alex's dad. This is a piece of information that Alex has never heard before this exact moment when she needs it. We agreed that while yes, things like this happen in real life, it's rare. For Alex, it's pretty much every solution to every problem.

This was a fun book to read for book club because it wasn't perfect. The story was fun and enjoyable, but there were a lot of core issues. If you need a book club book, I would recommend this book.