Devil’s Creek by Todd Keisling (Goodreads Review)



My enjoyment rating: 1 of 5 stars


Starting now my GR reviews will be based on enjoyment alone, hopefully this would help me actually post them!

This is a book I absolutely didn’t jive with me, if I could DNF I would have done so for this one. Finally I picked it back up since I put it down in March because I needed to finish it before the end of the year and the audiobook came out. Was that wise? No, is the short answer.

If I could let go of everything I hated about this book, I can say Keisling narrative and plotting are consistently good. Structuraly this was a great book, but the choices of direction was atrociously against everything I love about reading. I do reccomend you check trigger warnings.

If you don’t mind crude language, explicit (and taboo) sexual content, cults and anti-feminist writing this book is for you.

I understand that when writing about cults, the author needs to go places that are uncomfortable for most and commit to that narrative. However, there was a choice about a particular character that was unnecessary and quite frankly shallow, insensitive and tone deaf.

Enjoyment 2 Character 7
Ambience 10 Fair Play N/A
Plot 8 Execution 6
Deduction 4
Total 2.9

The List by Carys Jones (2021) Review

What would you do if you found a list with your name on it?

Why I picked up the book:

Beth Belmont is on her daily run when she finds something different in a route she knows as the palm of her hand: the corner of a paper at the base of a tree. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she picks it up.

On that paper, there are five names, including her own. As the day follows, Beth can’t stop thinking about the names on the list and decides to look further into it. When she finds out the two words above hers belong to dead people, she wonders if she could be next. I mean, wouldn’t you?

The book through my criteria lens:

 I first read The List as an audiobook produced by Dreamscape Media and narrated by Charlotte Worthing. And I really enjoyed it. Worthing’s voice was enticing, and her pacing was spot on. Although I felt that she did excellent with projecting the characters’ voices, I wish there was a second narrator for the “mystery” POV. I realize this wasn’t on Charlotte’s talent but the book’s writing, making it hard for readers to get used to that narrative until almost the end of the book.

On that note, I will start the book review with my one gripe – We have three narrators, Beth in the present, Ruby in the past, and a mystery narrator we know is the list author, but don’t know their identity or gender. I have no problem following stories with “mystery narrators.” Still, in The List this narrative came right in the middle of other chapters without warning, making it difficult for me to follow or enjoy at first. It often broke the tension of either Beth’s or Ruby’s Story. I would have rated the book higher if somehow that PoV had its own chapters. It would have made the narrator’s storytelling more fluid as well. 

On the other hand, Jones did a fantastic job taking us on the emotional journey of characters and their thought process. It made it easy to understand their feelings and motivations off the bat and see the events through their eyes. One of my favourite things about reading is connecting with characters, and I did just that in The List. Beth is such a compelling, multidimensional character. Her whole journey was the perfect frame for this story.

My personal feelings:

Even with the awkward placement of the “mystery narrator,” I really enjoyed all the alternating PoVs. It reminded me of The ABC Murders in style (but utterly different in everything else, so I promise this isn’t a spoiler.)

I still catch myself thinking about Ruby and Beth, which is a great sign the author wrote a book worth reading. I will be checking her other books out and hope her characters are just as enjoyable!

Enjoyability     8

Characters       10

Ambience        8

Fairness          8

Plot                  10

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.33

I mention this book in this video: TBD

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Dreamscape Media, Carys Jones, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The List.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Children Literature: A Bear for Bimi by Jane Breskin Zalben (2021) Review

Kindness generates kindness

Bimi and his family immigrate to The United States as refugees and move into a neighbourhood where not everyone is welcoming. Evie and her parents live in the same neighbourhood and try to make the new residents feel included. Evie gifts Bimi her teddy bear as a symbol of friendship, and the bear has a pivotal role in the story.

I loved Zalben’s story. She did a wonderful job showing us how to welcome people into our lives and that kindness generates kindness. The story also has a powerful message that sometimes, by doing the right thing, we can inspire others to rethink their preconceived ideas. I loved how this story reflects the innocence of children and how they perceive the actions of adults. Zalben also brings an important message of empathy. The way Evie empathizes with Bimi is simply beautiful.

Nayberg’s illustration is absolutely stunning. I was mesmerized by the images.

I love the overall inclusivity, representation and message in this book and feel it will be a great addition to any children’s collection! We can learn a lot from the Saids and the Golds.

Thank you, Kar-Ben Publishing, NetGalley and Jane Breskin Zalben for providing me with an advanced copy of Blossom and Bud in exchange for an honest review.

#ABearforBimi #NetGalley

Representation 10

Story 10

Illustration 10

My total rating: 5

The Chateau by Catherine Cooper (2021) Snapshot

You can run but you can’t hide

Aura and Nick needed a fresh start. With their marriage on the rocks following a scandal, they moved to France to offer their children a better life and give their marriage a chance.

They thought they were moving to paradise, but sometimes your past follows you, and someone wants Aura and Nick to pay for what they have done.

The Chateau is absolutely an unputdownable book. I also loved the plot idea and ambiance. The book is set in England and France, and I felt the difference in the atmosphere each time it flipped locations. Not only that, the tension between Nick and Aura is palpable. I thoroughly loved the tension and suspense.  I also loved Aura in her own POV chapters. That being said, in the chapters narrated by Nick, she is unrecognizable. Even allowing that in those chapters, we see her through Nick’s eyes, some actions didn’t add up, and I had a hard time seeing both versions as the same character. Nick, on the other hand, remained consistent throughout the whole story. 

I had a few issues with some choices, including how the author handled a sensitive topic. I won’t mention it because it would be considered a spoiler, but check the trigger warnings before you pick this book out. These choices took away from my enjoyment. However, I was intrigued enough that I will check Cooper’s other books out.

**Minor/Major Spoilers below** (click on the arrow)
    If you’re reading this, you don’t mind being spoiled. A few minor things peeved me, but they were style preferences – so not worth mentioning as they didn’t break my reading experience. However, what I had the most issue with was the (in my opinion) romanticization of pedophilia. I understand this is a British book and that in the UK, the age of consent is 16, but in my opinion, that is still a child, and there is no way a teenager can consent to any relationship with someone 11 years older and a teacher at that! This is 100% abuse, and it shouldn’t have been brushed off as something people overreacted about and read as if that was the girl’s choice in any way, shape, or form.
    **
    I was 19 when I got in a relationship with someone in a power position and 11 years older. At the time, I thought I was in charge. Still, as the relationship progressed and it became mentally is sexually abusive, I continued to think I was in charge. It took the end of that relationship and therapy to understand that I was groomed and emotionally abused from the beginning. I wish Cooper had drawn the line and made it clear that what happened to that character was abuse and wrong and that the victim hadn’t paid for the abuser’s actions.

wonder if it will work

Enjoyability     7

Characters      6

Deduction   5

Ambience        8

Fairness          8

Plot                  10

Execution        7

My total rating: 3.42

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to HarperCollins UK, Catherine Cooper, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Chateau

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price (2021) Review

Lizzie is a breath of fresh air

Jane Austen Murder Mystery #1

Why I picked up the book:

Pride and Premeditation is a mystery YA debut novel. In it, we follow Lizzie Bennet, a 16-year-old law fanatic and feminist extraordinaire who doesn’t accept women only being allowed in court as witnesses and wants to pave the way by proving herself as a kick-ass litigator.

Opportunity knocks on her door when a shocking murder scandalizes London high society. Lizzie jumps on it, determined to prove the accused man’s innocence. The only kicker is that the suspect is already being represented by Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the heir in training to the prestigious firm Pemberley & Associates.

The case and Lizzie’s feeling for Darcy take some twisty turns, and soon Lizzie finds out that her dream job might lead to both happiness and getting her killed!

The book through my criteria lens:

 Pride and Premeditation is a solid debut novel, overall. I think that this series has the potential to keep getting better and better. The characters were delightful; the narrative was witty, managing to be old-fashioned and modern at the same time. Lizzie is a great heroine, driven, caring, funny, and independent. It’s not easy to have a cast of characters inspired by such iconic precedents and still manage to make them distinguishable, and Price did that. Albeit, there were so many characters that some felt overlooked.

The mystery was a good one, and the solution fair. The narrative was consistent, but it felt like the book was slightly too long, especially for a YA novel. But great fun!

My personal feelings:

Romance is a genre I don’t read anymore, even though I read quite a bit of it in my teens. So a YA book based on a classic romance might not seem like a choice I would make, right? Well, yes. However, Pride and Prejudice happens to be one of my favourite books of all time, I love Jane Austen, and when I read romance, enemies to lovers was my favourite trope. Plus, this is a mystery! Marketed as the first of a series to boot! Reading the synopsis it quickly became one of my most anticipated 2021 novels. And can we take a moment to appreciate the cover? (Part of me thinks I started reading YA because they look amazing on the shelf 😂)

 I am excited for the rest of the series; Pride and Premeditation was light and cheeky. I felt that Price did a good job capturing the essence of Pride and Prejudice and turning it into a YA Mystery.

I particularly loved that the romance was kept to a minimum and didn’t overshadow the mystery. Which, by the way, really impressed me. Price has a talent for plotting puzzles and delivering them seamlessly, with all the clues woven into the narrative. 

I cannot wait for Lizzie to continue to grow into her own and take on the world!

Enjoyability     8

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot                  8

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.16

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner (2021) Review

Sisterhood of the travelling jar

Why I picked up the book:

The Lost Apothecary follows three heroines in two timelines as their lives are woven together by a secret apothecary and what it represents – an underground network of women who use Nella’s potions to exact revenge on the men who wronged them. It’s a book about women empowering themselves and others!

The book through my criteria lens:

The Lost Apothecary was a strong debut with a terrific, fresh, and promising plot. The execution of the idea left me wanting more, though. Not to say Penner didn’t do a good job, I think I just went into it with the wrong expectations – I wanted more fantasy, more magic.

This book is told in a dual timeline – present days and the 1700’s. Unfortunately, the current narrative was not as tight as the past narrative. If this book had taken place only in the 1700’s it would have been a 5-star read. Nella and Eliza were terrific characters; the “past” plot was tight, the flow and pace were impeccable. It was gripping, compelling, and emotional. I was invested in those women and honestly felt conflicted about cheering for them to poison men, but I believed they believed they were doing the right thing. They were “neutral good.” Their choice was just and right according to their moral compass. Amazing! The present narrative just fell flat, and I didn’t particularly relate or like Caroline. 

My personal feelings:

 The one thing Penner did well was to send out the message that we have the power to break away from abusive relationships and can rely on others to do so. 

The overall female empowerment was fantastic. I just wish that Caroline’s story was as powerful as Nella and Eliza’s. If Gaynor had actually been a keeper of the lost apothecary and part of a hidden and secret society of women who have survived the centuries and had recruited Caroline. That would have made this book a masterpiece. 

Caroline’s husband was a joke, and a sorry excuse for a man, even all the men from the 1700s were more interesting and fleshed out. I will not give spoilers, but those were men who deserved punishment; what they did was atrocious. Do I condone poisoning? No. But if you consider poison an analogy for women taking their power back, those men got their dues!

On a more positive note, I absolutely adored Eliza. She is a fantastic character. Her relationship with Nella was so beautiful. It was tender and loving, and you could see how much Nella cared for her, like a daughter. And all of her actions reflected that. 

There are a lot of things to love about the Lost Apothecary. And I highly recommend it. I just wish both narratives had been consistent. 

Enjoyability     8

Characters       7

Ambience        5

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        6

My total rating: 3.83

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Later by Stephen King (2021) Snapshot

Ghosts don’t lie

We meet James, a single mother’s child who has the unnatural ability to see ghosts as they died and spirits don’t lie. His mother is aware of his power and urges him to keep it a secret. But when it can benefit her, she has no problems killing his innocence by using him to communicate with “mature” people. 

As the book progresses, James will find out the actual cost of his ability when he helps the police pursue a dead killer.

 I prefer shorter King novels, and I was pleasantly surprised at how short Later is. I appreciated the economy and the focus on a great plot! Some characters were stereotypical, and King could have played a bit more fairly, but overall, this was a superb novel let down by the end. All the issues I had with Later had to do with how King chose to finish the book. If you read it, you know what I mean. I was hoping this would be a 5 star read, but 4.58 is still great. 

I have a love and hate relationship with King. I love his ideas, but I wouldn’t say I like his execution. His narrative is too prolix, and I don’t need five pages to tell me the sky is blue! Another problem I have with his style is that he is very much a product of the ’70s and ’80s, and some of his characters are incredibly misogynistic, racist, ableist, sexist, well – all the “ists” – To the point of causing discomfort in me as I cannot honestly tell if this is an author who has those views and is using fiction as an outlet, or if he is using specific characters to point out the atrocities of hate speech in the hope to get people to check their privilege. The jury is still out for me because, in this day and age, he is still using questionable language, harmful stereotypes, and using taboo topics as plot devices…

**Minor/Major Spoilers below** (click on the arrow)
    Okay, was the incest really necessary?!?!? It added NOTHING to the plot and ruined a perfectly great novel! This man makes me so angry at times – I was so impressed up to that point at how he had managed to edit himself not only in word count but in plot devices used solely for shock. Why? End of rant

Will I get King on my radar again? Quite honestly, no. But I will be less hesitant to pick up a future novel if it interests me. Later had very little of King’s choices that I dislike. I love his plot ideas. I really do. It’s his style that usually doesn’t mesh with me. I’m pretty sure that Later is a novel that will please King fans and those of us who aren’t!

Enjoyability     9

Characters       9

Ambience        10

Fairness          9

Plot                  10

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.58

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Website: https://stephenking.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StephenKing

Instagram: Not found

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Children Literature: He’s My Mom! by Sarah Savage (2021) Review

Beautiful story about a boy and his mom, David!

Why I picked up the book:

He’s My Mom! Is a child’s book that introduces trans identities, transitioning, pronouns and misgendering concepts in an age-appropriate way.

The book through my criteria lens:

I felt that Sarah Savage did a wonderful job creating a book about trans identities in a way that was age appropriate, respectful and concise. Joules Garcia illustrations were clean, inclusive and complemented the book perfectly. I feel that both story and illustration were representative, diverse and inclusive. He’s My Mom! Will definitely find its spot in my bookshelves.

My personal feelings:

I remembered when my child was in first grade, a classmate of his changed their name to represent the gender they identified with. The school tried to be inclusive, and the adults did a very good job embracing and respecting this change, but they did fail in making children understand the change.

I loved the language in the book, it’s simple, accurate and child friendly. As an educator, I really appreciated the reading guide at the end. It has great conversation starters to further discuss the topics with children. My favourite part was the way it was mentioned that people can make gendering mistakes, but it’s important to learn to pay attention because being misgendered is hurtful.

I am looking forward to other books in the series (I hope they exist) especially about a child who identifies with a different gender than the one they were born as. If anything, I wish this book featured a couple. I do not feel that there’s anything wrong with being a single parent, but I will make sure children don’t think Bambi’s mom is single because he transitioned.

Representation 10

Story 9

Illustration 10

My total rating: 4.83

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Jessica Kingsley Publishers, NetGalley and Sarah Savage for providing me with a copy of He’s My Mom!

#FrostaWingsIt #FrostaHeat #SarahSavage #JessicaKingsleyPublishers #He’sMyMom #ChildrenLiterature #Inclusivity #NetGalley #advancedreadercopy #ARC #Kindle #Booksofinstagram #readersofinstagram #bookstagram  #bookworm #booklover #bookstagrammer #bookaholic #bookreview #bookreviewer

His & Hers by Alice Feeney (2020) Snapshot

There is always more than one side to the truth

Just like the adage says, there are always two sides to any story, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Alice Feeney tells the story through Jack’s and Anna’s POVs. Anna is a BBC news reporter who reluctantly covers the suspicious murder of a woman in her hometown. Jack is the DCI in charge of the case. And, at some point, both will become suspects. Someone is lying. Someone knows more than they are letting on. But who is it?

I couldn’t put this book down until I have finished it. It was fast-paced, enthralling, thrilling, tense, and satisfying. Alice Feeney is a master of creating multidimensional, exciting, and fleshed-out women. Anna was no different; even as an unreliable narrator, I was rooting for her! I also loved the third, genderless perspective; it added soooo much tension! I unsuccessfully looked for clues to try to guess who it could be, and Feeney kept me thinking and flip-flopping all the way through.

Having this third narrator was a gamble that paid off. Feeney’s plot was tight and executed to perfection. The way she tied everything in was one of the most satisfying ends I have read in a long time! His & Hers is a book to own and read many times over!

 I LOVED this book so much! It is my favourite Alice Feeney so far. We have two narrators who are potential suspects, one of them is covering the news of the case, the other is investigating it! Wait, there’s more – they used to be married!

I loved reading from the perspective of Anna – she is far from perfect and doesn’t hide it. It’s so empowering to see a woman who owns who she is. Believe it or not, I have also loved reading from Jack’s perspective. He was a complex and nuanced character. You know an author wrote a masterpiece when you care for both unreliable narrators and hope that somehow they both get a happy ending!

All the twists came at organic times, the flow of the narrative was seamless, and all three narrations were enticing and distinguishable! His & Hers is a masterpiece!

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 5

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing (2021) Review

There’s no excellence without sacrifice

Why I picked up the book:

Teddy Crutcher is Belmont Academy’s teacher of the year. His wife couldn’t be prouder, or so he says, as no one has seen or heard from her in a while. 

Focused and driven to keep the school’s reputation by pushing the students to achieve excellence, he is dismissive of the student who seems to take a particular interest in his personal life and couldn’t care less that the death of another student’s parent looks a lot like murder. 

Teddy wants nothing more than to be left alone to do his thing. No matter the cost.

The book through my criteria lens:

 “Entitlement has a particular stench. Pungent, bitter. Almost brutal.”

From that first sentence, my attention was grabbed; Teddy starts as a compelling character with whom you can’t help but agree. Even though the way he reacts might be different from yours. One thing is certain; his balls are huge! And his moral compass is one of the most devious, dubious, and quite frankly, a literary goldmine. Actually, all the adults were multidimensional, unique, fresh, and hilariously self-centered. Had I met ANY of them in real life, they would be people I avoid, but they are pure adamantium in a book.

Downing’s narrative is addictive; I couldn’t get enough of the subtle sarcasm, satire, and dark humour. Also, the mystery was masterfully plotted and crafted, the twists made sense, and the clues were all within the text – all things that I love in a thriller. I know that navigating the fine line between comedy and tension while still building an atmosphere of suspense is hard, but oh, boy, did Downing deliver the perfect balance?

My personal feelings:

Do you know that moment you clear your calendar for the next 24hs after reading a book’s first paragraph? That’s what I did when I started For Your Own Good. I don’t usually quote books, but that opener was so genius, intriguing, and promising! I swear to you that it set the tone for the whole narrative, and it never let down.

This is the first book in a long time that I read in a single sitting, not in a day, in a freaking sitting. The pages kept flipping, and I could not put it down; dinner wasn’t cooked that day, and I was out of commission for the whole afternoon and early evening. The short chapters and batshit crazy adults helped me be immersed in the book and enjoy my experience. Reading For Your Own Good was, to me, like eating a bag of chips – You open the bag and keep telling yourself “just one more,” and before you know it, you ate the whole thing and had zero regrets. Utterly satisfying. 

In my humble opinion, Keurig should market the “Teddy roast” and offer Downing a deal. The mention of coffee is so clever and subliminal that I kept craving coffee as I read it! Word of advice, though, do yourself a favour and have a cup ready before you start reading to avoid having to put the book down. You WILL crave a cuppa!

For Your Own Good is the first book I have read that mentions our world’s current pandemic. It made me wonder what the future generations will think when reading this book, and it was so interesting to see how different the restrictions were from where I live. That being said, Downing’s mention of Corona was used for context, but in no way did it take away from the narrative. I appreciated that choice as I enjoy books as an escape.

Now what made me really happy was to hear that For Your Own Good has been optioned for HBO Max by Greg Berlanti and Robert Downey Jr. If Robert plays Teddy, I will literally die! I hope they do make this book into a series, mini series or movie! It will be so good!

Overall, I am so impressed and happy with my reading experience, I will read Downing’s backlist really soon, and she has become an auto-buy author for me!

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 5

I mention this book in this video: https://youtu.be/a1RBS7Gvk94

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!