The Night Shift by Alex Finlay (ARC Review)

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

To be frank, I am disappointed.

The Night Shift reads a lot like a knockoff of Riley Sager’s Final Girls, only with three points of view and a focus on the legal side of things. I had high hopes; it’s undoubtedly a good premise, and when I began, I felt a glimmer of hope. But it was quickly extinguished by the mediocre manner of storytelling and somewhat boring cast of characters.

I typically like stories told from multiple points of view, which is why I was, yet again, so surprised by this book. Two of the main characters narrating the story are varying levels of unlikable, and the other is enjoyable but a bit boring. I truly did not care what happened to any of the three of them. The only character I truly felt anything for was a side character who was discarded in the most boring way possible by the end.

On top of that, (and I’m not usually one to complain about this), but the writing of women was just offputting. The female FBI agent was the only tolerable woman of importance in the story, and she referred to an abortion as “taking care of the baby.” Yuck. Just use the word “aborting,” please.

The plot, on the other hand, starts off a little hard to follow because of the jumping from one character to another. Or maybe it was just because I was bored. But it eventually resolved itself to a pace I could enjoy a little more, with plot points that I was able to follow and even be intrigued by. The conclusion was pleasant, though it didn’t address a number of important issues displayed earlier in the book.

That said, there is more good than bad to The Night Shift. I did eventually find myself wondering what would happen. But it’s not one I would recommend to people with my similar taste in thrillers and mysteries. (If you’re more interested in the legal side of things and you don’t mind some odd writing of female characters, this might actually be the perfect book for you.) The best explanation I can give for The Night Shift is how I started this review: a slightly disappointing retelling of Final Girls with a less-than-sympathetic cast.

Elektra by Jennifer Saint (An ARC Review)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

For many, it was Percy Jackson. For me, it was Elektra that made me fall in love with Greek mythology. I’m a little late to the obsessing-over-Greek-myths club, but better late than never!

Following the story of three different but interconnected women, Elektra takes an insightful look at the complex, rich, albeit sometimes tragic relationships between mother and daughter, as well as the devastation of war on both sides of the battle. While I didn’t know much of the stories of Elektra, Clytemnestra, and Cassandra before reading, I was able to catch on easily to their roles.

Each character was written with the utmost care, particularly the three main woman, in such a way that I was able to discern one’s emotions and actions from one another early on in the story. This is something I find particularly important in books including multiple viewpoints; I could tell one woman from another, and I wanted to hear every perspective in turn. None of the women’s stories were a disappointment, and therefore, none of the chapters became boring. Admittedly, I didn’t particularly like Elektra, as a person, but her story was just as interesting to me as the others’.

Next comes the writing: beautiful and poetic, yet not forced. The creative language used in Elektra only made the story richer, and didn’t feel like a tool to fluff up an otherwise disappointing author’s writing.

I was also impressed that Saint was able to include such a long span of time in just one book, and then make it flow naturally. But that’s just what she did.

I don’t say it often, but this is an easy five-star book for me. Jennifer Saint is truly a talented writer, and I will definitely be picking up more of her stories in the future.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed with this book after how much I enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses. In an effort to make this as clear as possible (and not focus solely on the good or bad), let me give you an idea of the great…and the questionable, as I see it.

What I liked:

  • Azriel, Cassian, and Mor. All three are a great addition to the current cast. It was easy for me to develop feelings for Cassian and Mor right off the bat. Azriel took a bit longer, but only because he talked so little. It was hard to get a read on them. The friendship between the three of them is superbly written as well.
  • The use of Elain and Nesta in this book. They weren’t left out completely or thrown in too often. They had just the right about of time to showcase their personalities and make them truly enjoyable and worth caring about.
  • The clear direction of the story. You have no idea how much I like a book that tells me what the goal is early on. Sometimes I like to know where we’re headed, rather than wander aimlessly from magical land to magical land. In that way, this book was super satisfying.
  • The relationship between Mor and Feyre. I love to read a female friendship that does not consist solely of disagreements and distrust. Mor and Feyre legitimately love and trust each other, and they did right from the start.
  • Lucien. I consider myself lucky to get even a speck of Lucien content. What a thoroughly well-written, compelling character. I want a book focused totally on him, please.
  • The end. Oh my goodness, did that surprise me. I am truly impressed by the note Sarah left us on. Despite the meh-ness of certain parts of this book, the final scenes actually make me consider continuing the series.

What I disliked:

  • Feyre’s disagreeableness. I understand her getting overwhelmed and upset at times, but her near constant sniping at Rhys got old, fast. You can only say something nasty or storm off (and then regret it five minutes later) so many times before I lose interest. I wanted to love her again, as I did in the first book, but I found myself more annoyed than understanding of her.
  • The sex. Good lord, some of it was just not necessary. Sorry, but ACOTAR did it better.
  • Making [a previously likeable character who I won’t mention here] such a bad guy. It’s entirely possible that I’m mistaken and the twist was planned before the first book, but the way it was written felt like such a forced way to push Feyre in a certain direction romantically.
  • The word “mate.” I might vomit if I ever have to hear that word again.

There’s a little taste of my thoughts on the book. It was more good than bad for me, but I definitely had a number of points that had me going “ick.” Will I read the next? I’ll have to think about it. It took me months to finish this one, so with any luck I’ll have the next book read in no longer than five years’ time 🙂

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My entire synopsis in three words? Another great thriller.

And for any of you who know me and my reviews well, you know I love a great thriller. Even better, a great thriller including characters with whom I empathize; and a step up from that, a twisty ending. Final Girls included all of the above. Now, I’m not going to call this my perfect book, hence the four and a half stars instead of five, but it’s a short step away from being everything I wanted. Riley Sager just did so much right.

The main character, Quinn, is truly a well written individual. I understood her. I felt for her. And above all, I wanted to read her story. And without that itty bitty final element, a book tends to lose me really quickly. Sager was able to write Quinn as a potentially unreliable narrator while not irritating me with the fact that she might not be totally trustworthy at all times, and that is truly a talent.

As far as the side characters went, they were all over the place: big hit or big miss or completely blah. For me, the hit was the officer, Coop. I thought he was just offputting-yet-trustworthy enough to be of interest. I understood why Quinn felt the way she did about him; it would be hard to help after the situation she’d been in.

The miss was the friend whose name I won’t mention for spoiler purposes, though I ended up gaining a bit more appreciation for the character as the story went on. Finally, the blah was the boyfriend, Jeff. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great. Just there, which somehow worked for me.

Now, there is something about this story that I deeply appreciate but I don’t see often enough in the books I read. I think it’s only right to acknowledge it fully here. Two of the important side characters have very different but very controversial jobs: a police officer and a defense attorney. I love how the topics of their jobs are handled. There are moments where their controversial jobs are brought into question, and here’s what is so genius about the writing:

Sager is so completely true to the story and the character, I saw no flicker of the author’s out-of-the-blue opinions in those moments, just the characters’. In the brief times one was made out to be the bad guy, it was entirely due to believable reasons from the character’s standpoint and the story’s plot. For that, I commend you, Mr. Sager.

There is something so special about reading a story and never thinking “oh, there’s the author’s opinion awkwardly shoved in where it feels strange and wrong!” You know what I mean?

All in all, I can say I will likely pick up another of his books in the future. I am impressed by all aspects of this book and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a thriller to keep them guessing.

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I contemplated back and forth for the past few days if I want to write a review for this for the simple reason that it is a controversial book, and this blog is for fun, not for debates and tension. But in the spirit of Brené Brown and the book itself, I am choosing to write a review. Let’s be honest: people get touchy over any and every book. It doesn’t matter if it’s actually controversial. Somebody will make it that way. (Take the Grisha series, for example… Yikes.) So let’s get into it!

I rarely read book recommendations unless they’re from my sister, but I was told about this book while having a discussion with a friend who has a totally different political ideology than me. That’s the first thing that makes Braving the Wilderness such a standout book. While it is certainly politically pertinent, it holds the kind of pertinence that can be agreed upon by two people across the aisle. Notice I didn’t say, all people on either side of the aisle. But two of us in the world definitely feel this way.

Also, as a quick note before we continue, I’m not particularly far one way or another on the political spectrum, but I am strong in my beliefs.

The overarching idea behind this book is that we have to find the strength, peace, confidence, and care in and for ourselves that we are able to be honest about our beliefs. It’s a beautiful sentiment, to be honest. If you would have said this to me five years ago, I probably would have laughed. But I’ve grown from the person I was at 13, at 15, at 17, (heck, even last year at 21) and I think a big part of growth for me has been working to understand why other people think the way they do. It doesn’t mean I think they’re smart or right. It means I am being my best respectful, empathetic self, and that feels good to me. (Brené mentions at one point in the text that there are boundaries though, so don’t take this as “treat people however, because they have to take it.” I, along with a whole lot of the world, will not in fact take it.)

The short one-or-two-page-long stories she included within many of the chapters really stood out to me. A person can preach to me as much as they want, but nothing speaks as loud as the retelling of an experience they’ve had. In the chapter discussing the importance of experiencing collective joy and pain, I remember her speaking about a Harry Potter opening night showing she attended. And yes, this is the point where this nonfiction book review turns into a Harry Potter experience.

During the showing, when (gigantic spoiler alert if the series has somehow evaded your grasp thus far) Dumbledore dies, the teachers and students at Hogwarts raise their wands to the sky. The viewers then proceeded to raise their hands (and some of them, wands) to the theater ceiling. Brené points out that this is not because the audience actually believes in Harry Potter. What they do believe in is the light. She then suggests we consider turning the film viewing into some sort of political arena. Those people would likely have turned on each other, split themselves up, and chosen sides. Instead, they felt together in that moment, in the collective experience of it all, in the fact that we are all bound together as humans.

She points out that collective events, experienced in person, are incredibly important to remind us we are together; we are one; and we are more connected than we like to think when we read through the angry drivel fed to us by social media.

All in all, I liked the book, and I liked most of the ideas in it. Of course, I’m not going to think it’s all good and dandy. That’s the thing about opinions; we’re not always going to have the same ones. In fact, we often are not, but that doesn’t mean we are doomed, and that doesn’t mean we have to become monsters to one another. This is basically a How To Stay Nice When We Wonder If It’s Possible Anymore guide. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Podcast Update #1

Good afternoon! I finished my fall semester today, meaning I am officially on break until spring semester starts in January. This means that I am getting a little time to catch up on everything, and when I say everything, I mean: writing, reading, podcasting, everything books!

I am currently at the 42,000 word mark for my new WIP, a young adult thriller novel. I’m staying in the same genre as The Half Theft and Better Luck This Time, but this story is taking a brand new, low fantasy/science fiction turn. I can’t wait to share more details with you as I finish up my first draft and move onto the first edit. I am super excited about this story. I feel my writing has grown over time, and I am even prouder of what I am producing today than what I was a year ago, though I’m obviously ecstatic about all my own stories or I suppose I wouldn’t write them at all (haha)!

On the topic of podcasts, I just put out a new one today for the book You by Caroline Kepnes. It is a little deeper of a dig into my thoughts on the book (and show)! You can listen to it here on Spotify, and here on Anchor. I have a lot of fun rambling about the books I read, and I deeply appreciate those of you who give it a listen and support me. Truly, thank you. More will come very soon.

And you can choose from any of my past episodes (with the book covers to check out for the aesthetic) by clicking here!

You Are Not Alone by Hendricks & Pekkanen

I listened to the You Are Not Alone audiobook, and wow, am I impressed. A couple months back, I happened to pick up a copy of The Wife Between Us, penned by the same two women, and absolutely adored it. Truthfully, this one is even better.

I am generally a big fan of the gigantic sector of thrillers surrounding thirty-something-year-old women getting caught up in creepy situations they have to dig their way out of. I used to read them a lot, but I took a break and now I’m back. Though it’s a huge segment of the genre, I tend to shy away from the books that follow the story of an eternally drunk MC. Barf. That might be one of the reasons why I like this story so much. Shay, our rather delightful MC, goes through this entirely crazy storyline without being bombed at all times.

Which leads me into something else I adored about our MC. She actually made me like her, right off the bat. I genuinely cared for Shay and her well being, and as you may know if you have read my reviews in the past, developing feelings for at least some of the characters in the story is vital to my enjoyment of a book. But nothing compares to having a well-written main character. That is almost an instant good rating from me, and this story is no exception.

I sympathized with Shay on so many levels: her quest to fill her life with trustworthy people; her happiness after meeting her new friends, the Moore sisters; her digging just a tiny bit too deep into a person’s story that interests her. But let’s be honest… We’ve all engaged in a bit of social media stalking at one point or another. Hopefully not to the level the You Are Not Alone characters did. Not scary level. Just a bit.

Then, there is the lack of romance in the plot, a massive win for me. Couples are cute and all, but every once in a while what I can really use is a convoluted stalker-murder mystery. Which brings me to my next point: everybody’s least favorite book boyfriend. Joe Goldberg.

Deep down, You Are Not Alone certainly has a bit of You vibe, what with all the over-the-top following, stalking, and intermittent deaths. If you want to see those aspects of You played out with a female-filled cast, then definitely go for this book. But please be advised, you’re not going to get any romantic side of the story like with You.

It’s every bit as creepy though, just in a different way. I had chills until the very end and then some. The resolution is truly something to behold. I never would have guessed it, yet it’s not an absolutely crazy leap in logic. It makes perfect sense, and it blew my mind. Happy Tuesday and happy reading!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What. A. Book.

I am legitimately impressed, and I do not say this lightly. The Great Gatsby is the type of book that makes me want to tackle everyone I meet to ensure they have read it, and if not, acquire a copy to shove into their hands. It really is that good.

The strange thing is, I’m not even sure what it is about the story that draws me to it so much. Symbolism and meaningful prose typically have little to no effect on me. I prefer a straightforward story with little to no extra fluff. But this book. Dang.

While I was in high school, and now in college, I have never been assigned The Great Gatsby, which I think takes most everyone I meet by surprise, especially considering I am such a big reader. To be truthful, when I began reading the book myself the other week, I was a bit disappointed that I had never gotten to it before I reached 22 years old. However, now that I’ve finished it and gotten a chance to truly appreciate the writing, the story, the meaning behind it all, I think I’m grateful to have only just now read it by choice.

There is something about deciding to read a classic on your own that makes it exponentially more special than being forced to rush through it for a class. It’s a more meaningful, enriching experience, if only for the fact that I didn’t have to complete some Godforsaken busy work alongside it.

I got to read The Great Gatsby as it should be read. Or perhaps a better word for it: experienced.

My very first reaction to the book? I love Daisy. Did anybody else just fall in love with her instantly? She’s so strange and oddly alluring.

Something I found really interesting about The Great Gatsby was the connection I felt with the characters. With many books, particularly more dated ones and those considered “classics,” I truly couldn’t care about the individual stories of each character within the book. But I had a really different feeling here.

There was so much more to this book than just a story with bland, one-dimensional characters. I found myself instantly caring about the well being of Nick, Gatsby, and Daisy, and as I learned more about each of them throughout the book, I only found myself more and more connected to them.

This is especially surprising to me, since The Great Gatsby is a relatively short book. (I was able to finish it in just a couple nights. Crazy, right? For as much of a reader as I am, I never do that!) But the bottom line being, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew what he was doing, and was far ahead of his time even, when it came to character writing and development.

In short:

So, is this review essentially just me pushing a book on you that you’ve probably already read? Absolutely.

And if you have read it, I encourage you to revisit it, perhaps look at it in a new light now that you’re older and you don’t have to read it for school (since that seems to be when most people I know read it). Who knows? You might find something you didn’t think of before. You might see it in a new light.

Or maybe it’ll just remind you how incredible a writer Fitzgerald was. Either way, that’s a win in my book.

Thanks for stopping by my blog and giving my review a read! Have a fantastic rest of your week (for real, please do so).

You by Caroline Kepnes

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In all seriousness, this book is probably going to put me back several years in the world of dating. I mean, seriously, I can’t remember the last time a piece of fiction has had me this paranoid, and had me going this many times over every interaction I’ve ever had with a man.

And that is the magic of Caroline Kepnes’ You.

I really, truly enjoyed large parts of this book. It was insane, totally unlike anything I’ve read before, and a definite page turner. Joe’s character was particularly interesting to me (obviously) because I loved getting to see his jumping between relatively sane thoughts and total lunatic behavior. He contradicted himself, in his words, his reasoning, his actions, his thoughts.

I paid particular attention to the way he described Beck. When comparing her to Karen, he said that Beck would never repeat something she said like Karen did. Yet Beck does repeat herself, a lot, particularly when we get to the full-psycho-Joe end scene. I noticed him do this a lot surrounding Beck’s actions and character traits; he was completely wrong about her multiple times, but he either insisted on thinking of her a certain way, or he changed his mindset and said whatever she did was okay with him.

Now, none of his misconceptions would have been a problem had he not been positively frightening. But I think we’re all in agreement on that much.

Except maybe for the people who claim they are attracted to Joe after watching the Netflix series. (But maybe the show is really different from the books and portrays him in a new light? I wouldn’t know.) Regardless, whoever wants him can have him. Believe me, I’m not trying to steal him for myself. Please, take Joe and stay far, far away from me.

Another aspect of You that I only now realized, as I’m writing this post, might be the scariest of all. At the end (not the full-psycho-Joe scene, but the end-end), Joe sees Amy again and decides she will be his next girlfriend. That’s creepy in general, of course, because Joe’s a pretty scary dude. But beyond that, I spent the whole book thinking there was something wildly unique about Beck that drew Joe to her. The ending proves this wasn’t the case. There isn’t something super special about Beck or Candace. Joe would stalk and steal from and murder any girl who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which means any of us could meet a Joe Goldberg. Goodbye to my next few nights of sleep and my next few years of dating.

All of this, I devoured. What an enthralling story and a wild ride.

The only little, tiny thing I didn’t like about the book (tiny, really) was the fact that I can’t remember one page that didn’t make a sexual reference. Like, a descriptive, completely-overdoing-it reference. In moderation, it’s okay. But every single page? Woah. It was honestly a lot, and by the second half of the book, I’ll be honest, I was lagging a bit. I started to get bored. I understand that the characters are hypersexualized–partially on their own, and partially through Joe’s eyes. But seriously, it just got a little boring to me after a while. And I can only be bored for so long before docking some stars. (I’m sorry, I didn’t want to.)

For this reason, I’m going with a 3.5/5 on a pure vibes basis only. That’s the only way to rate books if you ask me. If I feel it, I feel it. If I don’t, I don’t. And if, like You, I feel it but I also don’t, it lands here, in the 3.5 star category. I’m satisfied, but I could certainly be more satisfied, you know?

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

This is the most fun I’ve had reading a fantasy book in a while. Heck, it might be the most fun I’ve had reading any book in a hot minute. The characters, the writing, the story, the everything is so utterly unique compared to books I’ve read in the past.

While ACOTAR is not without flaws, it puts its best foot forward in almost every aspect of compelling storywriting. One place I really found it to shine is in its character structure and development—particularly with my favorites, Lucien, Rhys, and Feyre.

Character arcs are oftentimes my favorite part of a story, though a really good one can be difficult to find. Maas was able to take each of her characters, including those that are going unlisted, and form them into something special and completely their own. She even made me love the main character, a feat completed successfully by very few writers, sometimes not even by myself.

Also—does anybody else get a strong Loki vibe from Rhys, or is that just me?

I decided to make a short podcast review to go along with the written version, where I go more in-depth with my thoughts on the characters, story, and writing of one of the most popular young adult books today. Tune in and let me know your thoughts on the ACOTAR book/series!