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? 💙

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? 💙

 

 

 

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

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Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act . . . different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

I’d had this book on my TBR for more than a year, so when I got it as a present last month, I didn’t want to wait further. The edition was fantastic! Honestly, I’ve never seen an adult book featuring that much “extra” material. The novel looked like a proper yearbook! It’s one of those I know I’ll never give away…

In spite of the title, I wouldn’t say this is a horror novel. I’m almost never scared by books (or movies), but, for example, A Head Full Of Ghosts was way creepier than this one. I loved them both, though. They’re very different books despite focusing on exorcisms. And I don’t know why I love this topic so much, as I was obsessed with The Exorcist on FOX this past year, too!

Although the exorcism theme wasn’t exactly a “fun” topic, the book definitely had its hilarious moments and the beginning of the novel made me laugh several times, especially when Abby described her love for E.T and the way she was afraid her best friend Gretchen wouldn’t love the film as much as she did. It’s not a book that should be taken seriously. It’s a book that you should read if you want to have fun and disconnect from reality for a while.

I had an amazing time reading My Best Friend’s Exorcism. I felt like I was watching a teen flick from the 80s (and I’m an absolute fan of that era) and I really wanted to be a part of the story -minus the possession, thank you very much-. There were tons of references and pop culture mentions and I couldn’t help but think this would make a great cult classic. Like Cabin in the woods (2012) and The Final Girls (2015). And maybe Detention (2010).

The only detail that prevents me from adding this book to the list of “favorite books ever” is that I didn’t exactly love the main characters. Everything else was perfect, but I didn’t love Abby and Gretchen as much as I should’ve, I guess. I thought I would because of the first chapters, but their teenage version wasn’t as fun as their childhood one, in my opinion.

Anyway, the good stuff. What I loved the most about this novel was the fact that it focused on the importance of friendship. Everything seems to revolve around romantic love these days, so it felt fresh and unique. Basically, the moral of the story is that the power of friendship -and 80s references- can save you from literally anything, even a demonic possession. It was ridiculous and endearing, and I adored every page. I even shed a few years while reading the last chapter.

I got emotional reading a book called My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Yep, that’s me.

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Quirk Books, 2016

The Deviants (CJ Skuse)

518q1tsobdlGrowing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her. Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level. When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

Before The Deviants, I hadn’t read a YA book in a very looooong time. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure about diving into this, especially since I didn’t like my last at all. However, The Deviants looked awesome and the cover was so stunning that I requested it on a whim, hoping it wouldn’t disappoint. Fortunately, it didn’t: it was pretty amazing.

This is the story of the famous five: Ella, Max, Fallon, Corey and Zane. They used to be inseparable, but something happened and they pretty much lost all contact with each other. Except for Ella and Max, who have been dating for many years, although their relationship isn’t as good as it seems. But why? And then Corey’s cat suddenly disappears and Ella and Max decide to help him, reuniting with Fallon again. And the summer of revenge begins…

This is one of those novels where the less you know about it, the better, and that’s why I won’t give more details about the plot. I wasn’t sure at first (okay, so what this is even about?) but The Deviants simply got better and better with every page. I especially love when that happens, because the final feeling is always much more gratifying than when a book starts off really well but quickly goes downhill.

After a slow and fairly weird start, the middle of the book was incredibly thrilling and engaging and the final part simply had me on the verge of tears. I loved how even though the theme was dark and dramatic, the novel still managed to present a beautiful ending. One of the most powerful ones I’ve read in quite some time.

Chapters were short but poignant and I particularly liked how the author finished them with a question. I was confused at first, but it all got answered at the end. I found this an extremely satisfying read, a book where all genres were perfectly mixed: mystery, revenge coming of age, romance, friendship…

The Deviants somehow reminded me of We Were Liars, but in my humble opinion, this one is far better. I saw the twist coming in that one and found the writing a bit too flowery for my taste. On the other hand, The Deviants was the perfect YA book, deep and meaningful, entertaining and emotional at the same time. I still prefer reading adult fiction, but I certainly hope my next YA is as good as this one.

Mira Ink,2016

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I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.