Review: Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes @sarahannjuckes

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The Proof of the Outside follows the story of Ele, who is held captive in a small room by a man known as ‘Him’. Ele is determined to prove there is a world Outside. And when she finds a hole in the wall, the proof starts leaking in. In this dark and compelling debut novel, Ele’s strong and heartbreakingly optimistic voice shines through, revealing an important lesson about the power of stories to save lives.

My review:

To be honest, I didn’t even remember requesting OUTSIDE on Netgalley. When I saw it had been released a month ago, I wasn’t really excited because I hadn’t seen many reviews around the blogosphere. And that was a big mistake on my part. This book should be getting way more attention.

Let me tell you guys: OUTSIDE completely amazing and of the best books I’ve read lately. I think one of my favorite feelings is when I don’t expect anything from a book and the novel ends up becoming a huge success for me. And this is exactly what happened here. I devoured this short, compelling gem in a sitting, and I was completely captivated all the way through. I can’t recommend it enough.

The book reminded me a bit of another recent favorite (Resin), although they are quite different in many aspects. For example, in OUTSIDE, our main character, Ele, doesn’t really have a family that cares for her. We meet her when she’s been locked up for ages and she’s never seen the outside world. She has a few friends with her, but they are not really like her. I won’t say much about the plot, because I believe it’s best if you discover what happens as you read it, but it was nothing like I expected.

There was a small reveal that I didn’t think was at all surprising, maybe because I thought we were supposed to have known that from the beginning. However, there was another detail at the end that made me super emotional and I loved the conclusion to this dark, sad, and ultimately uplifting story.

My favorite aspect of OUTSIDE was Ele’s voice. It was so completely captivating, just like in RESIN. You know how much I love child narrators, and even if Ele was actually a teenager, her vocabulary and behavior weren’t exactly what you would consider “normal” for her age. I loved reading about her learning process and she became an instant favorite character. The same goes for the other two characters that appear in the story later on.

I would highly recommend OUTSIDE to everyone who loved RESIN, and for those who are looking for a short and stunning book. Let me clarify that I haven’t read THE ROOM, so I don’t really know if they are similar or not. But I’m sure this will be a great choice anyway.

Have you heard of OUTSIDE? Are you excited to read it? 💙

Review: The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh @sternbergh

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Imagine a place populated by criminals – people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. All they do know is that they opted into the programme and that if they try to leave, they will end up dead. For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace – but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her – and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway, it’s simmering with violence and deception, heartbreak and betrayal, and it’s fit to burst.

My review:

I bought THE BLINDS months ago and I never seemed to find the time to read it, even though it looked amazing. So when I decided to buddy read a book with a friend, this was the first book I suggested. And it was a winner!

THE BLINDS has quite an interesting premise: a place in Texas whose residents do not remember parts of who they are. They are all criminals or witnesses, and this experiment is kind of a weird Witness Protection Program that erases the bad memories of the subjects. But what happens when the subjects begin to get killed?

What I loved the most about THE BLINDS was that all the information was revealed slowly, and there were new details about the experiment in every chapter. This is what I consider good writing: when an author manages to keep your interest and craft a special world without the need to dump all the details in the first page.

What’s more, this is a book full of twists. From the very first shock in the first part (MONDAY), there’s a new twist every few pages, one that makes you reflect on everything you think you know. I know I had no idea of what was exactly going on until THURSDAY came. Because THURSDAY was an explosive day, that’s for sure.

Overall, this is a smart and provocative story about memory, redemption, forgiveness and what makes us good and evil. It held my interest all the way through and I was quite satisfied when it ended. It might not have become a favorite, but it’s a great story and I will surely watch its adaptation when it comes out.

Have you read The Blinds? Don’t you think that it would be a great tv series? 💙

Mini Reviews: November Road & Two Can Keep A Secret

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It’s been ages since I’ve published a mini reviews post, so I guess it’s high time. I finally decided on reviewing two novels that have literally nothing in common, but I don’t think you will mind… (?) The two books featured on this post are a YA mystery and a historical fiction “romance”. But not quite. One I found entertaining yet predictable, the other was a quiet and delightful story.

Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

38225791.jpgI decided to read this book because it was the first book in the ScaredSuspenseBookClub and I kinda wanted to read something light yet  suspenseful. I thought this would perfect for that and I wasn’t wrong. Reading this book was like watching an episode of Pretty Little Liars or Riverdale and while I’m not always in the mood for those kind of shows, YA mysteries are consistently entertaining. However, from what I’ve seen, they’re not really shocking or surprising or maybe I’m just not reading the right ones. I admit I haven’t still read ONE OF US IS LYING, but I might in the future. TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET was super entertaining and I devoured it in practically a day, but it was nothing more than a fun and entertaining mystery that doesn’t really stand out among other similar books. While the twists were predictable if you’ve read other thrillers, I loved Ellery and Malcolm and the double point of view. I wish Ezra hadn’t been such a secondary character, though. I liked him. PS: I hate this cover.

November Road by Lou Berney

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I read THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE about five years ago and I really liked it. Two of my favorite bloggers (Renee & Steph) raved about his new novel, so of course I decided to read NOVEMBER ROAD, a book about the improbable relationship between a mobster and a bored housewife. First of all, I want to say that the cover is strikingly beautiful and I wish I had bought the physical edition instead. This is a weird book, in the sense that I don’t really know how to define it. It’s historical fiction, yes, because it’s set in the 60s, and I guess it’s also a romance, but not the cheesy and melodramatic kind. I guess NOVEMBER ROAD falls also in the literary fiction category, which is one that I admit I don’t usually read. Nevertheless, this was a quiet and beautiful novel whose characters were complex and interesting to read about. In addition, I found this book even more enjoyable because this next April I’m planning a road trip across the south and Frank and Charlotte visit some of the places that I’m dying to see. So much fun!

Have you read any of these books? What do you think of them? 💙

 

 

 

Review: Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine @rachelcaine

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Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom. With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace. But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

My review:

I had wanted to read this book for months now, so when I finally started it, it was no surprise that I devoured STILLHOUSE LAKE in less than two days. As some of my blogger friends said (check out Diana’s & Amy’s reviews), this was a thrilling book with elements from a variety of genres: psychological suspense, crime procedural and thriller.

This is the story of Gwen Proctor (previously Gina Royal), whose life completely changed when her husband was convicted and revealed to be a dangerous serial killer. I found this premise quite intriguing and while I don’t think this could’ve happened in real life, I found Gwen’s explanations quite convincing at first (not when she refused to leave Stillhouse Lake). She was a shy housewife whose life revolved around her marriage and kids and she never even considered that possibility. A few years later, Gwen has moved on and she and her kids have different names and are running from the stalkers and people who want to hurt her and the children.

I have to admit I always enjoy a good “start over” story where a woman is trying to find refuge in an apparently quiet and remote town after a traumatic incident. STILLHOUSE LAKE was no different. And sure, the book delivered what it promised: it was a quick read with a badass main character, completely addictive and filled with non-stop action during the last act. At the same time, it was a bit predictable in some parts (then again, I always suspect everyone, even the pet), but I was nevertheless entertained during the whole adventure.

I liked that the book ended the way it did and I will surely pick up the sequel when I’m the mood for a cat-and-mouse action thriller. I know from reading your reviews that it’s a very different kind of book, and to be honest, I find the change of genres refreshing.

Have you read this series? Would you have left Stillhouse Lake when things started to get dangerous? I sure would’ve… Let me know! 💙

5 Books I Liked With “Low” Goodreads Ratings

Most of the time, I tend to read books that have high Goodreads ratings. They’re the ones that people are raving the most about and surely, it’s more likely that I enjoy them if other people have, right? At least, that’s what usually happens.

The other day, I was sorting the books I had read based on their average rating and I was surprised to see some books that I had enjoyed having quite low ratings. Okay, it’s not like they have 1s or 2s, but in the Goodreads world (where everyone is quite benevolent), I consider anything below 3.5 to be low.

Good As Gone by Amy Gentry – Rating: 3.5

Good As Gone was one of the first books I reviewed when I joined WordPress and I still remember it because of its amazing structure. Come on, have you ever read a book that used the point of view technique as uniquely as this one? The mystery was quite intriguing and I still remember practically everything that happened, so I guess it was a winner for me.

The Night She Won Miss America by Michael Callahan – Rating: 3.45

This was a quiet book that was inspired by a true story about a miss America who ran away after the contest. It was not super thrilling but quite enjoyable and I remember feeling sorry for her and her boyfriend. It was quite a tragic story and I have a soft spot for historical fiction.

Home Field by Hannah Gersen – Rating: 3.42

This was another of those quiet books and one of my first reviews here. I remember that it was a beautiful and sad story about a family and I really enjoyed learning about every family member after the mother commits suicide. It had a Friday Night Lights vibe and I don’t get all the low ratings.

Little Deaths by Emma Flint – Rating: 3.36

This was a highly anticipated book and I remember everyone talking about it when it first came out. But soon, the reviews became pretty negative. To be honest, I found this a realistic and poignant novel about how we quickly judge women just because they’re not who we believe they’re “supposed” to be. And the ending was totally unexpected and tragic.

Perennials by Mandy Brennan – Rating: 3.08

I get that this book isn’t for everyone. It’s not a book filled with action where there’s a lot going on. Sometimes, it all depends on the connection. And this book got me. Maybe I read it at the right time, but I remember that it followed many characters during various summers and that it was quite an emotional ride.

What about you? What are some of your favorites with low Goodreads ratings?