Marriage of a Thousand Lies — S.J. Sindu

22 Aug

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: June 13th, 2017
Genre: Literary, LGBTQ
Source: Finished copy from publisher

 

 

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.

As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

From Goodreads

 

This book captivated me from the first line. There’s no preamble, no explaining. We are just thrown right into Lucky’s life. And what a life it is. Reading about her and the double life she leads was fascinating.

The writing is just so raw and beautiful. It put me right there, in the thick of things. The descriptions of what’s going on and what Lucky is feeling are gorgeously written without being too flowery. With just a simple line Sindu can paint a whole picture of emotions.

The story is an interesting mix of heartbreaking and hopeful. Lucky doesn’t fully fit in anywhere but she keeps trying to find her place in the world.  As a caucasian Canadian the struggle between honoring her family and tradition and being true to herself is something I’ve never had to deal with but thanks to Sindu’s writing I understand it more.

If you like character-driven books where things aren’t all tied up nicely at the end (read=realistic) then Marriage of a Thousand Lies is the perfect read for you.

Optimists Die First — Susin Nielsen

9 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: Feb 21st, 2017
Genre: Young adult contemp
Source: Arc from publisher

 

 

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

From Goodreads

It’s no secret that I worship the ground Susin Nielsen writes on. She is one of my top five favourite authors and her books never disappoint. Optimists Die First continues that trend. This is a heartfelt and honestly written book.

I read this book at the perfect time. I was having a hard time dealing with my depression and anxiety. So despite the fact that I am way older that Petula, I could really identify with her. And I think a lot of readers will. For me Nielsen is the queen of writing about important topics without hitting readers over the head with it. She really gets into the psyche of her characters and shows rather than tells the readers what’s going on.

I’m a sucker for stories about people who don’t 100% fit in. Those who are on the edge of society, either doing their own thing or trying to fit in. Petula and Jacob are perfect examples of this.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. Or any of her other books.

Are You Sleeping? — Kathleen Barber

7 Aug

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: Aug 1st, 2017
Genre: Mystery, suspense
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay. The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

From Goodreads

 

My husband and I binge watched How to Make a Murderer over three nights. We were OBSESSED. Looked things up online, talked about the show, the people involved, who was guilty and who was innocent. But never once did I consider the impact the show had on those involved. That people who live in the area or close by would rubberneck and check out the area and the people who were impacted by the murder. And that’s the key thing I took away from Are You Sleeping?.  While it is a mystery/suspense novel, it also deals with how invasive our society can be, how everyone is looking for their fifteen minutes of fame and how commenting online on something that is really happening can be harsh.

It also deals with families and relationships with relatives. The character description and building was spot on. How Josie interacted with people in her hometown was just as captivating as the mystery in the book.

This is the perfect psychological thriller. It’s very twisty and turny and there is more than one thing that needed to be puzzled out and I love that. The plot is very dynamic but there isn’t so much going on that the pacing got bogged down.

I really enjoy books that make me think, regardless of the genre. Are You Sleeping? is the perfect example of this. This is a book with a delicious mystery and other plot aspects that will really make you think.

Our Little Secret — Roz Nay

4 Aug

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: June 6th, 2016
Genre: Mystery, thriller
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

For fans of In a Dark, Dark Wood and All the Missing Girls comes Our Little Secret, a compulsive and thrilling debut about a missing woman, a tangled love triangle, the secrets we keep and the secrets we share.

The detective wants to know what happened to Saskia, as if I could just skip to the ending and all would be well. But stories begin at the beginning and some secrets have to be earned.

Angela is being held in a police interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Novak is sure Angela knows something, despite her claim that she’s not involved.

At Novak’s prodding, Angela tells a story going back ten years, explaining how she met and fell in love with her high school friend HP. But as her past unfolds, she reveals a disconcerting love triangle and a dark, tangled web of betrayals. Is Angela a scorned ex-lover with criminal intent? Or a pawn in someone else’s revenge scheme? Who is she protecting? And why?

Twisty and suspenseful, Our Little Secret is an intense cat-and-mouse game and a riveting thriller about the lies we tell others—and ourselves.

 

From Goodreads

 

If I had to describe Our Little Secret in one word, that word would be delicious. The voice of Angela, the narrator, is one of my favorite this year. It’s so hard to know if she’s telling the truth or batshit crazy and I LOVED it. Not only did I not know whether to believe her or not, I got the sense that she herself wasn’t sure whether or not to believe what she was saying.

I also love how the story is laid out. In a way it reminded me of The Usual Suspects in that there was a back and forth between the actual interrogation and the past.

I felt off kilter during the whole book. It was like I had no problem following the story but I really wasn’t sure what was going on. As I have discovered this year, this is my fave type of mystery.

And I just have to take a moment to talk about the name Saskia. LOVE IT.

I’ve read In a Dark Dark Wood and yes, if you like that then you’ll absolutely love Our Little Secret.

Goodbye Days — Jeff Zentner

2 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: March 7th, 2016
Genre: Ya contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison.

From Goodreads

As an editor, I know that one of the hardest things for authors to nail is dialogue, especially in YA. The flow of the dialogue, having it bounce around without being confusing, keeping it real and genuine. Jeff Zentner is one of the best YA writers for honest dialogue. The exchanges between the teens was perfection. The tone, the words chosen, the flow. Just amazing.

Actually the whole flow and tone of the book was bang on. Goodbye Days is one of those YA contemp that had me laughing and crying. It pretty much tugged on my heartstrings in every way possible.

As with Zentner’s previous book, The Serpent King, this isn’t an easy read, emotionally. He deals with death and survivor’s guilt and trying to get on with life. But never once does he get preachy or over dramatic. Everything about this book was realistic and never cliche.

I can’t recommend Goodbye Days enough. If you like honest and emotional tales, then this is definitely for you.

 

Gizelle’s Bucket List — Lauren Fern Watt

26 Jul

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: March 7th, 2017
Genre: Memoir
Source: ARC from publisher

 

The playful, epic adventure of a 160-pound English Mastiff and the twentysomething girl who grew up alongside her—Marley & Me for a whole new generation.

Lauren Watt took her 160-pound English Mastiff to college—so of course after graduation, Gizelle followed Lauren to her first, tiny apartment in New York. Because Gizelle wasn’t just a dog; she was a roommate, sister, confidante, dining companion, and everything in between.

Together, Gizelle and Lauren went through boyfriends, first jobs, a mother’s struggle with addiction, and the ups and downs of becoming an adult in the big city. But when Gizelle got sick and Lauren realized her best friend might not be such a constant after all, she designed an epic bucket list to make the absolute most of the time they had left.

Bursting with charm, this unique, coming-of-age story of a girl making her way through life is a testament to the special way pets inspire us to live better, love better, and appreciate the simple pleasures. Gizelle’s Bucket List is the humorous, poignant lesson our pets teach us: to embrace adventure, love unconditionally, and grow into the people we want to be.

From Goodreads

 

I do animal rescue and rehab. My husband and I take in sick and needy cats and in the spring we take in injured or orphaned animals and birds and raise them until they can be released. I currently have two senior rescued dogs that are near the end of their lives. I love a lot of sick and dying animals. Give them the best life they can have.  So I jumped at the change to read this book.

I really, really enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. I think it’s the kind of book that any animal love will like but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was expecting more of the book to deal with Gizelle’s bucket list.

The writing and storytelling was solid, but for me there was something missing. I think I would have liked more depth to the story. (FYI I always feel SUPER WEIRD reviewing memoirs.) What I mean is I think I would have liked a bit less about before Gizelle got sick. It was those chapters dealing with the bucket list that really drew me in and kept me glued to the book.

With that being said, I still recommend this for anyone who loves animals or has had to say good-bye to a beloved pet.

The Happiness Equation — Neil Pasricha

24 Jul

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: March 8th, 2016
Genre: Self-help, nonfiction
Source: Book from publisher

 

What’s the formula for a happy life?  

Neil Pasricha is a Harvard MBA, a Walmart executive, a New York Times–bestselling author, and a husband and dad. After selling more than a million copies of his Book of Awesome series, he now shifts his focus from observation to application.

In The Happiness Equation, Pasricha illustrates how to want nothing, do anything, and have everything. If that sounds like a contradiction, you simply haven’t unlocked the 9 Secrets to Happiness.

Each secret takes a common ideal, flips it on its head, and casts it in a completely new light. Pasricha then goes a step further by providing step-by-step guidelines and hand-drawn scribbles that illustrate exactly how to apply each secret to live a happier life today.

Controversial? Maybe. Counterintuitive? Definitely.

The Happiness Equation will teach you such principles as:
· Why success doesn’t lead to happiness 
· How to make more money than a Harvard MBA 
· Why multitasking is a myth 
· How eliminating options leads to more choice

The Happiness Equation is a book that will change how you think about everything—your time, your career, your relationships, your family, and, ultimately, of course, your happiness. 

From Goodreads

 

I kinda love this book. HARD. I’ve read it twice, have things highlighted, took notes and quite often will just grab it off my shelve and flip open to a page and read. It’s that kind of self-help book. Now, don’t go rolling your eyes at the term “self-help”. And really, I guess that’s not the right term. Self-improvement would be better. This book approaches happiness in a concrete way with doable things rather than “just think happy thoughts”.

I really like the way that Pasrischa broke things down in digestible bits. It made it easier to absorb the information and just pick the book up and start reading from anywhere.

Some of the ideas in the book are pretty simple but life-changing and have really helped me. (The internal vs external motivation idea is something I come back to for everything.)

The writing style is very engaging and not once did I feel myself skimming or skipping over any parts. I also found myself smiling and nodding a lot while reading and even reading some parts out loud to my husband.

Anyone searching for ways to me happier with life (and really, who isn’t?) should definitely give this book a read.