Kat's Books

Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England. I'm usually busy taking cat photos at a cat rescue or reading books...

I put my reviews up on Goodreads, Amazon, and the Penguin First to Read program. I have MS so I'm tired a lot but it's a good excuse to have a lie-down and read! My Litsy handle is kamoorephoto


Currently reading

Jay Kristoff
Progress: 150/402 pages
Between Shades of Gray
Ruta Sepetys
Progress: 150/344 pages
Space Opera
Catherynne M. Valente
Progress: 100/304 pages
Professional Reader

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Katherine has read 36 books toward her goal of 100 books.

Psychological thriller that puts sexual assault and harassment at the center, and keeps you gripped all the way through; an unassuming title but a great twist

The Girl I Used to Be - Mary Torjussen

This is a psychological thriller that is hard to put to down, and despite the unassuming title, this novel goes from being a story about a seemingly innocuous meeting with a prospective client for estate agent Gemma to a full-blown harassment and sexual assault case. Gemma is the breadwinner of her family, with her husband being at home with their three-year old son, and while she is trying hard to deal with the mounting stress of running a company, she’s constantly dealing with the anxiety of an incident in her past. Suddenly she is very much alone in a world where she is being harassed by private messages and letters, and she is finding herself lying and wondering who she is becoming.
It’s so hard to review this without revealing a major amount about the plot but this had me quickly turning the pages because author Mary Torjussen has crafted the perfect thriller whereby she has weaved a story from the character’s past into one in the present day, and while I was reading I felt Gemma’s anxiety - and fear - all the way through. It really was compulsive reading.
I will also personally disclose that the initiating incident that Gemma experiences, the one that she feels she must run from, and the one that is the cause of so much tragedy (revealed in part 2), is something that I personally went through myself. I only wish this sort of thing didn’t actually have to be something that becomes the basis of both adult and YA fiction, but (yes, this is my trigger warning), sexual assault happens, and will continue to be a part of fictional and non-fictional works. As women start to fight back by talking about it, as now it is very much a topic of our time (there’s a line in the book acknowledging that once upon a time, it wasn’t talked about so easily), it has become different when we read about it too.
This is actually the second book released this year that I have read with this similar sexual assault issue.
The book is thoroughly engaging to read and I liked the ‘two parts’ that it was separated into, with the massive twist. I don’t know what I’d change it to, but for some reason I have an issue with the title, although I understand the concept of how we look back at what we ‘used to be’, feeling like we have changed so much, or looking at what we were back then, but I want something else to grab people by. This book is so good and too clever for people to miss.

Debut author surprises with a clever YA thriller, one that I hope doesn’t fly under the radar

Lies You Never Told Me - Jennifer Donaldson

Well, this was a surprise. The whole book was a surprise just like the secrets and lies held within, all the way until the end. 

I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway some time ago and didn’t have the chance to get to it until just now, and I feel like it’s one of those books that’s going to fly under the radar and it shouldn’t.
Debut author Jennifer Donaldson has written a very cleverly crafted young adult mystery/thriller that for a good portion of it, reads like a contemporary novel, and is told through with the voices of two main characters, Gabe and Elyse, who seem to live very separate lives. There are also two other main characters central to the story, Catherine and Sasha. Gabe is a young Hispanic skater boy who tries to break up with a very possessive, but popular, high school girl called Sasha, and she is making it be known that she is not happy about this. He has a six year old sister Vivi, with special needs, who he cares very much for, and is close with his family. Elyse, on the other hand, lives a very different sort of life. She has basically fended for herself for years, even paying the household bills with jobs while she has been in high school; her mother is addicted to opiates and spends most of the time out of it lying on the couch. She has come to rely on nobody but herself, and doesn’t expect anything good of the world. Which is why, when she gets chosen for the lead in Romeo and Juliet, she can’t believe she has got the part over her best friend Brynn, but soon is swept off her feet by the school drama teacher, Mr. Hunter.
I generally try not to guess endings of stories, and I’m not one to skip ahead, so, at least for me, this novel cleverly gives you one wallop over the head when you realize what the big twist is at the end. I can not say one thing more, lest I give anything away, but this is one clever book and had me engaged entirely. There are some big topics involved here too - scary exes with major infatuation problems, and teacher-student relationships, not to mention addiction issues - but the two running storylines are excellently written and don’t rap you over the head with the morality stick (you get to think about those afterwards). I hope this gets picked up by a good lot of people who enjoy thrillers with a side of romance (there’s a lot of ‘sweet’ to go with the ‘salty’), and it’s super smart.
I’d be on the lookout for what Jennifer Donaldson writes next because I believe there are a lot more phenomenal books in her yet.
*Thank you Goodreads and Razorbill for the early copy of this book!

A ghost story set in the Arctic landscape of fictional Gruhuken; the darkness and frigid cold alone are nightmarish enough!

Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

I’m now (finally) done with Dark Matter, my latest read for my #ScreamsByMail #HorrorPostalBookClub on Litsy. When I was actually reading it, it sped by, but I took a MASSIVE break in the middle of it because of animal death (yes, I know it’s par for the course in the Arctic circle but I couldn’t deal with it at the time). It reads as a journal, so it’s fast reading, but honestly being stuck on a polar ice cap in the dark sounds like a horror story to me anyway! I can’t think of anything more lonely or terrifying...
I was distracted for a good part of the book by the dogs’ well-being (the main character Jack luckily had huskies for company), as well as how animals are spoken about. This sort of thing trips me up in novels quite a bit (see above). It pulled me out of the actual story, and away from the ‘ghost story’.
Since we are writing in a journal (funnily enough) for the postal book club, and mailing that around too, I won’t write too much here. I will say though, that the writing by Michelle Paver is remarkable and fits very well with the time period and the character she writes for. I was very struck by this. She also obviously did extensive research into the area she writes about (although Gruhuken is fictional), and this is key to the effectiveness of the atmosphere of the novel. It will also ensure that you never, ever find me going near these parts. And it reminded me how much I hate the snow!

BLOG TOUR REVIEW: 'In Her Skin' by Kim Savage

In Her Skin - Kim Savage


I'm host on a blog tour for another great new book, and this time it's for one you may recognize the title for, but not the cover; it had a bold cover change recently, and it's just in time for release day. I love suspenseful novels like this one so I was all in. Make sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of the book after you have read my review!


Thanks again to my bookish pals at The Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me on the tour!




KIM SAVAGE is the author of three critically acclaimed young adult novels, After the Woods, Beautiful Broken Girls (named by Kirkus as one of the 10 Best YA of 2017), and now In Her Skin (releasing April 17, 2018), all with Farrar, Straus, Giroux/Macmillan. Her novels have been published in Spain, Brazil, and Turkey, and have been optioned for TV. Kim presents at conferences and book festivals nationwide; has been featured on NPR, Herald Radio, and on local cable stations; and she reads from her novels at bookstores across the country. A former reporter with a Master degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, Kim's stories are based in and around Boston. She lives with her family near Boston, not far from the real Middlesex Fells Reservation of After the Woods. Kim and her husband have three children, each of whom beg to appear in her books. They shouldn't.  





In Her Skin

by Kim Savage

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Release Date: April 17, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery


Book Synopsis:

A dark, suspenseful young adult novel about crime, identity, and two girls with everything to lose.


Fifteen-year-old con artist Jo Chastain takes on her biggest heist yet—impersonating a missing girl. Life on the streets of Boston these past few years hasnt been easy, and she hopes to cash in on a little safety, some security. She finds her opportunity with the Lovecrafts, a wealthy family tied to the unsolved disappearance of Vivienne Weir, who vanished when she was nine.


When Jo takes on Vivis identity and stages the girls miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household—and some secrets refuse to stay buried. When hidden crimes come to the surface and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold on to an illusion of safety or escape the danger around her before its too late. In Her Skin is Kim Savage at her most suspenseful yet.



Wow. That will be the first word that comes out of my mouth (and therefore, my fingers)  in response to how this book made me feel.

In the same way that this book left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me a few times, it also left me feeling so desperately sad. I'll get back to that..


Jo Chastain, a young homeless teen, who basically wants a family of her own, assumes the identity of a missing girl (who would now be a teenager), in order to live in a wealthy household. Ignoring how hard I think it would be to actually assume the identity of a missing person and start living a new life, it takes a lot of tenacity and desire to want to rid yourself of your past and get yourself into a new situation, and risk being found out.

The home that Jo comes to live in is one where she now not only has the 'parents' she never had, along with the wealth, she also has the daughter of the Lovecrafts, Temple, who becomes like a sister and best friend to her.


As Jo (now Vivi) becomes lost inside this new identity of hers, and becomes attached to Temple, she has to remind herself of her truth because she starts to realize things are not quite as 'peachy' in the Lovecraft household as she once thought, and there's definitely an ominous tone. It takes a long while for the suspense to build and it's a slow burn that creeps up on you; the book is broken up into three different parts (of which, the first is the bulk of the book), and at the end of the first part the biggest twist comes.

Suspense in a book like this spells danger for a character like Jo, and the book is turned on its heels and at the same time it made me gasp (it's blatantly obvious I can't give you spoilers), this was very cleverly written.


What I felt is so sad about all this, is that we have one young girl wanting a family so badly she is willing to go to these lengths, and within the inner workings of this novel, there's another very sad tale going on for Temple too. This intimate friendship of these two girls starts to look very dysfunctional and you can't help but feel something's not going to end well unless...well, something.


Ultimately though, Kim Savage has written a very engrossing novel about a case of stolen identity, yet it's so much more than that; I read this book from beginning to end with hardly putting it down, and I now know I need more of her writing! 





Get your chance to win ONE COPY of 'IN HER SKIN' by entering through the link below! (US Only)

Starts: 4/10 Ends: 4/24

CLICK HERE for a Rafflecopter giveaway




You can find the full blog tour schedule at this link: IN HER SKIN BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE



And after you have added the book to your Booklikes shelf, and your Goodreads TBR, this is where you can order and BUY YOUR BOOK!! 







Good luck with the giveaway, and happy reading (as always)!!! ~ K






Horrifying and magical somehow, 'Unbury' Carol blends genres, brings us one of our worst nightmares, and shows us another side of Josh Malerman

Unbury Carol: A Novel - Josh Malerman

You know that nightmare where you're buried alive, in a coffin, the dirt just being piled on top, and you try and claw your way out, the air just gradually disappearing? Or how about the one where you're stuck in a coma, but you're still aware of everything around you, and everyone around you just carries on as if you're already dead, although you're screaming inside that you're still alive but you can't move and do a thing? This is that book. 


Carol Evers has an illness where she falls into death-like comas, something she has kept secret, save for just a special few, and her malicious husband, Dwight Evers has had enough of her having the limelight (because she’s a wonderful person) and passes her off for really being dead this final time. And so begins a gruesome tale set in the Old West that is ripe with myth, and is basically a story of long-lost love, crossed with a tale of planned murder. In 'Unbury Carol', Josh Malerman craftily brings nightmares of being trapped in a waking coma, and being possibly buried alive, onto the page, because Carol Evers lives that horror at just one heartbeat a minute.


But a couple of outlaws ride along the Trail to try and make it back to Harrows to face off against each other and they are the infamous James Moxie, who left Carol once before, and a horrific character called Smoke, who thinks nothing of pouring oil down people's throats and lighting a match. This is the man who Dwight has sent for, to stop Moxie from waking and saving our Western Sleeping Beauty. Moxie, however, is known along the Trail for the 'Trick' and has his own magic, but is haunted by haven't left Carol all those years ago, and has lived with years of regret.

All this time Carol waits on a stone slab in the cellar, she isn't asleep or even dead inside; she knows and sees what her cruel husband is doing and while Moxie rides the trail, she's desperately trying to move even an eyelid, just an inch. She's not done.


This tale takes a while to get into; the language seems otherworldly, and will immediately strike you as a book that you can't just skim though. The writing won't allow you to, as the prose is too filled with poetic language, the sort that would have been been heard well over a century ago. But it’s not just that; Malerman has written with a pace that builds tension and makes you wonder if Moxie will get to Carol in time, and suits the time period wherein everything was slower. I enjoyed how the chapters are descriptive of what’s happening within them, and not numbered, as though they had their own little story to tell within the whole. The characters are all so brilliantly crafted and written as well; especially Smoke, the villain, such a gruesome and horrific figure to imagine. 

By just tapping into a common nightmare and fear of being buried alive, and being ‘awake’ in a coma with no way to communicate or move, Malerman has tapped into something so primal and frightening, and to put it into a landscape that is so unique is genius. Along with a tale of spousal murder (well, planned), and long-lost love in the Old Wild West, this is a something to behold in terms of horror literary fiction.


And a MASSIVE thank you to the MAN himself, Josh Malerman, for signing my ARC of ‘Unbury Carol’ and my copy of ‘Bird Box’ at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle in March, and having a chat with me. You made my day! I DID enjoy my time on the Trail!


*I received free books from Penguin Random House in exchange for this review. Thank you!




BLOG TOUR REVIEW: 'Isle of Blood and Stone' by Makiia Lucier

Isle of Blood and Stone - Makiia Lucier

Again, I'm super stoked for another chance to tell you about a brilliant book right before its release.... Many thanks again to the The Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me on the blog tour! This novel is a YA fantasy with undertones of mystery, a ‘treasure hunt’ of sorts, and holds themes of friendship, family, and the quest for truth. It’s set against a backdrop of an island community where sea serpents swim in the waters, but seafare is a staple on the plate, and a royal family lost family members to a tragedy many years ago with no answers...until perhaps today.



MAKIIA LUCIER, Author of Isle of Blood & Stone

Makiia is the author of historical fiction and historical fantasy for young adults. She grew up on the Pacific Island of Guam (not too far from the equator), and has degrees in journalism and library science from the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Her debut novel, A Death-Struck Year, was called a "powerful and disturbing reading experience" by Publishers Weekly. It was a finalist for Germany's top book prize for children, the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, as well as Japan's Sakura Medal, and was named an ABC Best Books for Children Selection by the American Booksellers Association.

Her second novel, Isle of Blood and Stone, has a release date of 4/10/18.


You can find her and all her links at makiialucier.com




Isle of Blood and Stone

by Makiia Lucier
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Book Synopsis:
Ulises asked, "How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers."

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. "It's bound to be a goose chase. You know that?"

"Or a treasure hunt," Ulises countered, "and you've always been good at those."

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar's oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way...until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias's father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king's beautiful cousin by his side-whether he wants her there or not-Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried...and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.
When I read ‘Blood & Stone’ I felt like I was drawn onto an Mediterranean island and suddenly in the era of the great Leonardo da Vinci, when maps and exploration were paramount, and here, sea-dwelling creatures such as serpents are both feared as well as revered. There is such great imagery that is colorful and vivid; old-fashioned customs are used, such as leeches to suck out toxins from the blood (I love stuff like that), and tonics from plants are used to cure ills, and plant dyes are described in great detail, for that is how color is gained for pigment used for the paint on maps.
And maps, and the study of cartography, are central to this novel, and may be foreign to so many in this day and age, when so many people may not even have ever handled an actual paper map. Lord Elias is the royal mapmaker and longtime friend of the newly crowned King Ulises, and he is a a natural explorer, adventurer, and he wants to solve the long-time mystery and disappearance of of Ulise's two brothers. Two maps hold the clues and together with Ulises and Mercedes (Ulise's beautiful cousin, and his eventual love interest; what would the story be without that?); the three of them embark on a precarious adventure to uncover secrets about what happened many years ago with the boys' disappearance.
Although the story seemed a little slow to unfold, the characters gradually grew on me; after reading many main female characters in books recently, I really enjoyed reading a young male character; it's also a book with little violence, no use of bad language (suitable for younger readers), focus on story, with no obvious plot holes, and a new setting for a 'royal family' fantasy. I also very much enjoyed the look at the drawing up of maps and cartography, and the use of compasses; author Makiia Luciier evidently researched this extensively, and I have seen on her Twitter feed a great many interesting old maps! 
I'd love to have seen more about the connection to the sea and more of the sea serpents; the community on the sea derives its character from the creatures and nature of the sea, so we see that in the designs, food, and colors around the people.
Overall, this is a lovely read, with a mystery that pulls you in, with main characters that are all likeable, in a beautiful setting at least I can see myself visiting (reminded me a bit of Cyprus?). If you prefer your YA fantasy without the blood and gore as in many books of late, this is the one for you. Luciier is natural storyteller and has conjured a beautiful novel on a magical Isle that you will want to visit.
PS. Another beautiful book cover.

Get your chance to win ONE COPY of 'ISLE OF BLOOD & STONE' by entering through the link below! (US Only)

Starts: 4/4 Ends: 4/19


CLICK HERE for a Rafflecopter giveaway




You can find the full blog tour schedule at this link: FULL 'ISLE OF BLOOD & STONE' BLOG TOUR



And after you have added the book to your Booklikes shelf, and your Goodreads TBR, this is where you can order and BUY YOUR BOOK!! 


Goodreads: Add to GOODREADS




So did you enter the GIVEAWAY? Enter RIGHT BELOW by clicking on the Rafflecopter link! And HAPPY READING!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Intense, detailed, and often violent imagery in this highly-anticipated book; move over, Vegas, Ace of Shades brings you the real City of Sin

Ace of Shades - Amanda Foody

This is one of the most talked about and most anticipated YA novels of the year (and it is only April); maybe it’s the hot red cover, or the invitation to "Take a card and stake your soul."

Even if you usually shy away from books because of the hype around them, don't miss this one. 

The book begins with

"To be frank, reader, you'd be better off not visiting the city at all,"

in reference to the city of New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin (move over, Las Vegas), the city that ‘Ace’ is set in, and naturally, like most things we are warned against doing, we are more drawn in. Allow yourself into the world that author Amanda Foody has created,  one where our lead character, Enne Salta has gone on a desparate mission to find her mother Lourdes, who she hasn't seen or heard from in months. Her one lead is a street lord, Levi Glaisyer, who is indebted to a con man, and lives under the clutches of a ruthless and frightening Mafia Donna called Vianca.

Enne quickly finds herself shedding her finishing school veneer, and becomes entrenched in the ways of New Reynes, which is filled with illicit casinos, three rival gangs, and more shady characters than a Godfather movie (almost).  

Now onto the guts of my review (and there really were a lot of guts spilled in this book; it’s  pretty violent, though no sexual violence, in case you're wondering about triggers).

I’d say Enne is an unlikely heroine for this book, and at the beginning I had some serious reservations as to whether I would find her believable and whether she would come into her own. She ends up very determined, and she grew on me. With so many books being written about strong female characters these days, I think it IS hard to make them stand out and to make their idiosyncrasies believable. Enne here though has a past that she basically finds out gradually was a lie, and she slowly sheds pieces of herself and gets stronger because she not only has to, but because she discovers a new self and it’s liberating. I loved this part of her story.

The other main character is Levi, who basically gets roped into Enne’s search for her mother, with the promise of enough ‘volts’ to make a payment in a bad investment scheme with a rival, should he help her. I really enjoyed Levi’s bad boy character, perpetually doing the wrong thing, confused over his motives, falling for the girl (and guys), and trying to maintain a street lord persona, even though he seemed to be incredibly young to be thrown into that role (mind you, in ALL of these books, these teens seem to take on these TITAN roles, seemingly beyond their years).

There were countless minor characters, and should this be a movie, colorful supporting roles, that fleshed out this vivid imaginary world. Also, if it were a movie, it would be a set decorator and costume designer’s dream!

Foody writes so much detail and imagery into this book, that at times, it’s a little hard to keep up, but I was engaged and thoroughly enjoyed this all the way through. I would definitely say this is for the upper range of teen years and upwards, as far as teen readers; it’s not light fare. I can’t compare to the previous book but I read at the back of this one, that THIS is the one that Foody threw all her dreams into to write, and I believe it. I’m absolutely looking forward to the follow-up. I know there’s even more of this great story coming. 

A perfectly written mystery by queer author Caleb Roehrig; brings gay characters to the the main stage, and shows off natural talent for creating suspense and compelling story

White Rabbit - Caleb Roehrig

I tried to get an early copy of ‘White Rabbit’ months ago, and if I’d been able to I would have been able to tell everyone to go and preorder this book! I thoroughly enjoyed this twisty mystery from Caleb Roehrig, and read the whole thing this last weekend, devouring his sophomore novel about Rufus Holt, and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night, and a cast of colorful teenage characters.

Seventeen year old, gay Rufus is the main character and he's just now coming to terms with the breakup of his relationship with Sebastian, when they end up having to spend the night as super sleuths; Rufus receives a call from his sister April asking for help, which starts the ball rolling. They drive out to a cottage in the middle of nowhere where she’s been at a now-abandoned party, to find her covered in blood and next to her dead boyfriend Fox Whitney. Rufus doesn't believe April could have committed any crime (nor does his stepmom Isabel, who pays him to find out who did), and he and Sebastian spend the night uncovering clues, and discovering their peers’ unsavory behavior (isn't it always that way?).

We find out about the relationship between Rufus and Sebastian, and their shared past, through memories, and the romantic storyline between the two of them is very subtle and so well-written; Roehrig’s language and written dialogue is so natural, this arc fits within the mystery so perfectly. And when it comes to the actual mystery itself, it’s without holes. Follow along with the details and clues because you want to understand the boys’ thinking, and then when it all blows open at the end, hopefully other readers will be as surprised as I was.

I’m honestly looking forward to seeing what comes next for Caleb, because this was so cleverly written, and is such compulsive reading, and I can see him writing both for teens and adults. There’s also wit and smarts about him that I feel can shine through even further (check out his Twitter feed), and I bet there’s an even more complex or even funny read coming next.

PS. And next time, I REALLY would love that early copy so I can review it and can tell everyone to go order their book!



BLOG TOUR REVIEW: 'The Window' by Amelia Brunskill

The Window - Amelia Brunskill


First of all, I'm thrilled to be part of this blog tour for 'The Window' - my first book blog tour! So thank you to The Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me. This book, the debut novel for Amelia Brunskill, had been on my TBR list for a while so when I saw the sign-up for the tour, I jumped at the chance. I'm big on mysteries, and well, I immediately had cover-love. I can't deny it. Just look at that stark black cover with the simple window design. Amazing. So is the book...

Before my own review, a bit about the author, Amelia, as well as the book synopsis.




Amelia Brunskill was born in Melbourne, Australia, but she grew up mostly in Washington state (yay!) where she picked a lot of blackberries, read a lot of books, and failed to properly appreciate the epic beauty of the mountains and the Pacific ocean. 

She earned her bachelors degrees in psychology and art from the University of Washington and her master in information studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She now lives in Chicago, where she eats as much Thai food as possible and works as a librarian. The Window is her debut novel. 


Her website (and links) can be found HERE. And now onto the book!


'The Window' by Amelia Brunskill

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller


Book synopsis

Anna is everything her identical twin is not. Outgoing and athletic, she is the opposite of quiet introvert Jess. The same on the outside, yet so completely different inside–it’s hard to believe the girls are sisters, let alone twins. But they are. And they tell each other everything.


Or so Jess thought.

After Anna falls to her death while sneaking out her bedroom window, Jess’s life begins to unravel. Everyone says it was an accident, but to Jess, that doesn’t add up. Where was Anna going? Who was she meeting? And how long had Anna been lying to her?

Jess is compelled to learn everything she can about the sister she thought she knew. At first it’s a way to stay busy and find closure . . . but Jess soon discovers that her twin kept a lot of secrets. And as she digs deeper, she learns that the answers she’s looking for may be truths that no one wants her to uncover.

Because Anna wasn’t the only one with secrets.



It doesn't take long for Jess, and for the reader, to find out that Anna has fallen to her death, upon starting the book. There's no big lead-in and there's no 'big moment' when Jess feels that her twin has passed away, and that's what bothers her so much. I do like when a book gets right into the story right away... Then it really starts to dawn on Jess just how distant she has been from her twin, and how little she has known about her for so long. There is so little about her death, falling from her bedroom window, that makes sense, and it starts Jess on a long trail to find out what really happened, despite the insistence from those around her, that it's just her grief preventing her from accepting that Anna is gone.

The novel is written from Jess's perspective, and interspersed with writings by Anna, which gradually reveal a lot about the now-deceased twin, and also reveals a pair of twin sisters who are incredibly different from each other. Jess is socially awkward, while Anna is revealed to be friendly and to have a lot going on at school.

But the deeper Jess digs to uncover what has happened, the more she finds out that makes her think that they weren't just different, Anna was doing some things that their parents would never have approved of, and had people talking. Through Jess's amateur sleuthing though, she starts to gather some new friends and activities, but she won't stop searching for clues until she has closure. 

All the way through the book, I felt as insistent as Jess on finding out why things weren't adding up; even as many novels I feel like I've read where there's a death, and someone has to go and follow the breadcrumbs, at the risk of looking obsessive or crazy, to try and piece together what the truth is, this had me compelled all the way through. I also found the way that Amelia writes to be very natural, and in contrast to some YA contemporary novels, the way in which the teen characters speak to each other, it doesn't seem stilted or fake. 

And as much as I tried to piece the mystery together myself, I was wrong, and I couldn't do it, so all I could do, was follow along as the  story steered me and meant me to, and find out what happened just as Jess did. And that's exactly why this book works. 

As a young adult mystery, or simply as mystery wherein a death of a loved one must be solved, this book is an easy and satisfying read; there's nothing complex about it, but it left me feeling quite sad; I'm sure the loss of a twin is heart-wrenching. I have no idea how a twin might feel about how this book works, but I do know a lot about grief and about how it makes you search for answers. I'd also love to see what Amelia writes next. Her style of writing is a pleasure to read, and I do hope many of you get to read this one!


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I highly recommend listening to the audio for this brilliant piece of sci-fi in an unusual format

Illuminae - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

There are just so many reviews for Illuminae so I don’t have anything too revelatory to say, but the true reason for my enjoying it so much this time, is that while reading it, mostly on and off, I listened to the AUDIOBOOK. I think this is almost required for at least one of your experiences with this amazing book (as well as Gemina and Obsidio; I have the audiobooks lined up for those too).
The format of all the different kinds of writing that come in the hefty books that are the Illuminae Files, lend themselves so well to audio and the story just comes alive. The different voices of the cast separate the multiple ‘files’ and it makes the whole thing a living, breathing set of documents, rather than even a book. Aidan, Ezra, and Kady’s voices stick with you and make this whole journey and experience something completely transcendent. While Jay and Amie didn’t write this with audio in mind, they unwittingly created both a written and aural masterpiece.

Exciting YA read set in the Alaskan wilderness; strong female main character, witty banter, and fast pace makes this an easy pick

Not If I Save You First - Ally Carter

I'll be honest and tell you that this isn't ordinarily the sort of book I pick up and read on my own, but since I was given an early copy, I gave it a go. I'd also not read any of author Ally Carter's previous books so I couldn't compare this to any of those either. Sometimes going into a book 'blind' is actually the best thing, because then you don't have any expectations.

This fast-paced and rather short novel opens with a bang, almost literally; young Maddie and Logan are the best of friends, but they aren't really ordinary kids. Logan is the son of the president, and Maddie is the 10 year-old daughter of the Secret Service Agent sworn to protect the president's family, and the two of them are the best of friends, that is, until an incident at the very start of the book rips them apart.
Maddie has her world changed from then onwards, and she is brought to Alaska by her father to live an entirely different life. The real story begins when now-teenage Logan is sent by his dad (who is still president some 6 years later; a reminder of how LONG presidents can be in the White House) to be removed from his life of privilege because he's acting out. But Maddie isn't exactly happy about this after not having heard from Logan in all the time they were apart.
It sounds all too convenient a scenario, putting these two together again, but right away, a Russian assailant knocks out 'Mad Dog' Maddie and Logan is kidnapped. This kickstarts an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness, that shows off Logan's weaknesses, Maddie's strength of character, an exciting story, all sorts of interesting information about getting stuck outside in the snow, and a lot about not giving up in the face of adversity. I read this story so quickly because I was so caught up in the push-pull type of relationship that Maddie and Logan now had, and the thrilling adventure in treacherous snowy landscape was so compelling.
This was a fun and exciting read, and really showed off a strong female character. Made for another satisfying book, thanks to the role modeling.


*I keep reading books though, that remind why I do not want to get caught out in the snow or on mountains!

A dystopian novel that really seemed like a glimpse into the future: global warming has taken its toll at last, but is there any slice of hope? Fascinating read!

Pills and Starships - Lydia Millet

I really enjoyed this ‘glimpse into the future’, because while this is indeed a dystopian novel, it sure seemed like I was reading a real journal (that of the main character, Nat, who writes it in the week leading up to her parent’s planned death). I chose this book for a group read on Litsy, where we send a book, marked up with our notes, along to the next person, and the other three do the same with their picks, so that we have a book mailing circle.
This first caught my eye in my local indie bookstore, where it had a recommendation tag (and an awesome cover), and the premise is this: teen siblings named Nat and Sam, accompany their parents to Hawaii who together have decided to spend their ‘Final Week’ before the contract for their deaths is carried out. Nat and Sam are long to say their goodbyes. That’s right, in this imagined future, where global warming has finally made the world so unbearable and everyone gets through their days by taking moodpharms (ie happy pills because the world is so depressing), you can take out a contract for your death when you get old enough, and you can pay for assisted suicide on the Big Island (it’s not illegal anymore and quite encouraged, and rather embraced).
The world that is in this dystopian future is so sadly believable that I read it as if I had some sort of special peek into what was going to happen if we continued with what we are already doing to this planet, and I have a feeling author Lydia Millet has distinct opinions on what’s to blame for the ruin to come (I tended to agree!); it’s not hard to imagine much of our wildlife gone, whole states like Florida under water, a whole garbage vortex in the ocean....
I can’t say too much about the plot but this was a great, thought-provoking, interesting story, and I will say there was some hope at the end. It’s not a long book but it packs in a lot to think about. I hope for everyone reading it, that it makes them think a little bit more about their carbon footprint and about how we really are lucky to have this Earth.
*And I don’t care too much about a future without pet cats. That will be a sad day.

Stephen King’s first book, a true classic: read the book where it all started!

Carrie (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) - Stephen King

I have FINALLY read ‘Carrie’, Stephen King’s first book. Yes, it was his FIRST book!
Reading a book when you already know the story so well (from the movie) is such a different experience than reading the book and then watching the movie, but it’s even more different when it’s one like this. I’ve seen ‘Carrie’ so many times because it’s one of my favorite horror films (not talking about any stupid remake, despite the fact I happen to have the book copy that is the remake movie tie-in. Remakes of good films are blasphemy). The original movie is perfection with Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek and when reading the book, is was VERY hard for me not to get their images out of my mind. It was brilliant casting, for a brilliant story.
When reading this pretty short book (it comes in at basically 300 pages, which is so short, when you compare it to the behemoths of IT and The Stand), you are transported to 1979 immediately by the language, the descriptions of the clothing, and even the comparative style of King’s writing. It’s kind of a treat and a bit of a time warp you are pulled into. It took a bit of getting used to, along with the way King uses different narrative styles; the reader is given reports of the main ‘incident’, as well as character accounts, and intersperses them into the main story. If you didn’t know the ending from seeing the movie, you would have a good idea about a lot of it from these accounts as you go through.
As for the dynamic between Carrie and her hellacious (sorry, have to say it) mother, the interactions are horrific and they make your blood boil and King has given all he can to make the dread and tension so vivid. By writing in Carrie’s ‘thoughts’ we get little peeks into what’s going on in her mind as her powers are getting stronger; you start rooting for the girl who is being bullied, dominated, threatened all her life. You just know that there is no other way for this story to end.
What is most interesting to me now is the contrast with what what acceptable in terms of what kids could get away with (in terms of bullying and hazing) at school, compared to now. That’s a whole other story.
Anyway, I’m glad I finally got to read it as part of a Litsy buddy read. I love the movie so much, and it’s amazing to think that this is where Stephen King’s book career started. With a short novel that had one of most memorable horror movies made out of it.
*Don’t ever bother with the remake though.

‘Time Bomb’ is like ‘The Breakfast Club’ with an awful school bombing; suggests teens might just be ticking ‘time bombs’

Time Bomb - Joelle Charbonneau

This was an extremely fast read for me; I flew through ‘Time Bomb’ in a matter of hours, and it almost felt like I was following a similar clock to the one that was ticking away in the book. Six exceedingly different students, not unlike seen with the setup in the movie ‘The Breakfast Club’, find themselves trapped together because of the horrific circumstance of someone having set off bombs at their school (although, conveniently, school isn't quite in session yet, so there aren’t mass casualties).
The wrecked and damaged school that has them stuck inside, suspicious of each other, is a reminder of all the problems that schools represent for schoolchildren today: the gun debate because of the mass shootings inside schools, bullying, kids and their constant need to live up to certain standards, whether it’s their own or others’, unchecked mental illness, prejudice of others based on appearances...and by bringing ALL of this up in the teens’ conversations and through their own perspectives, Charbonneau makes the novel about more than just the bombs going off at this high school. The different stereotypes that the kids all fit into, serve to remind us that, right up until the end, when we find out ‘whodunnit’ all these kids are essentially ticking ‘time bombs’ waiting to go off. If not then, they could at some point. I think it’s easy to focus on the event of the bombs in this book, and kind of ignore that it’s all emblematic of the tumultuouness of teenagehood.
While ‘Time Bomb’ held my attention all the way through, I think this all could have been delved into in a more concrete way, because there were a lot of open doors to explore the hard issues that these teens were going through. Overall though, it’s a definite page-turner as far as the story and action go, with a surprise twist at the end.

Medieval fantasy that hits all the right spots: compelling characters, action-packed story, brilliant writing, different kingdoms - I didn't want this to end. 'The Smoke Thieves' has it all!

The Smoke Thieves - Sally Green

'The Smoke Thieves' had me thoroughly captivated as soon as I started to read it, and I can honestly say I didn't want to be interrupted at all once I fell into this brilliant medieval fantasy that author Sally Green has created. Woven around five main characters, from different walks of life, a story deepens to reveal a war between different kingdoms, an impending royal marriage, forbidden love, long-held family secrets, and the real reason why demon smoke is so sought-after.


The main characters are all wonderfully fleshed out in their nuances and are all given equal page time; the individual chapters follow their movements and whereabouts, whether in the war-mongering Brigant, or the more liberal Pitoria, and they embark on their own personal and physical journeys, keeping this novel action-packed. It's hard not to get attached to their individual situations as we follow each story.


We are treated to a princess, Catherine, who is ready to forge her own path, against the will of her father and brother, and she shows those around her that she will not stand for the brutal ways of her father, the King, and wants to create her own new strong identity. Ambrose is the princess' loyal guard, who has just seen his sister die, accused a traitor, and at the same time as being loyal to the crown, he is wrestling with feelings for Catherine. Then there are the demon hunters, including Tash, at only twelve years of age, she's nimble and fast on her feet (Green says she likes to include a runner in her books because she's a runner herself). The other two 'main' characters are March and Edyon: one who is a servant to Prince Thelonius, caught up in a plot to bring Edyon, a compulsive thief, back to Calidor under false pretenses, but the two of them end up falling for each other's charms.

There are whole host of other minor characters in the story and they fortify the novel with rich dialog and plot twists. Green has also created wonderful contrasts between the different kingdoms and made sure to point out language/accent differences, eye color traits, and clothing styles, and other things that add to the vivid world-building she carefully undertakes throughout the book. Simply imagining the parade leading Princess Catherine up to the castle in Pitoria is just brilliant.

*There is a lot of violence and appropriate blood and gore, as comes with war and fighting (it's medieval times, after all); sword-fighting, spears being thrown and that sort of thing, but there was no unnecessary sexual violence or triggers to warn about. Swearing happens, but that's life.


I honestly didn't want this absolutely engaging book to end, and I'm so glad that the story will continue; the end of the book saw the individual exploits of these characters entwine, and I can see the ensuing adventure becoming even more complex. I'm hooked! Demon smoke wasn't even needed.


*Thank you to Penguin Random House for my early copy of this (epic) book.

Insanely long dystopian/apocalyptic novel that holds on to you tightly; vivid imagery, could be shorter

The Fireman: A Novel - Joe Hill

So I read this as it was someone else’s pick for the ‘Horror Postal Book Club’ I’m in, and my first reaction when I received it was ‘oh my goodness, this book is huge’. It happened to be the first Joe Hill novel I’ve got around to reading, and it really was a wild ride. A long one.
It feels dystopian, apocalyptic, and sometimes sci-fi, and has huge sections that have a lot of action, but then it also felt quite slow in parts. I definitely feel like it could have been a lot less than 762 pages to get the story told.
Since I’ve journaled my way through my reading of this for my book club (we are mailing the book to each other; all the way from Singapore to me in Seattle, and back to out to Asia by way of BC, Germany, and Spain), I won’t babble too much here, especially since there are tons of reviews. My next Joe Hill will have to be NOS4A2, so I’d love to see how his writing compares between novels. This is entirely entertaining (and depressing, in too many ways!), but not the quickest read.
*Note: I don’t like it when the Space Needle gets hurt in books...