Review: The Truth She Knew

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Title: The Truth She Knew [Book #1]
Author: J.A. Owenby
Publication Date: Sept 12, 2016
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Mama didn’t want me. In fact, she would’ve traded my soul back for someone different if God would’ve let her, but he didn’t, so she was stuck with me.
For eighteen-year-old Lacey, life at home is a rollercoaster. She doesn’t think she’ll ever be good enough to truly deserve Mama’s love.

But when Lacey enters college and meets Walker, everything starts to change. Suddenly, Lacey is face to face with the realization that maybe what she’s always seen as normal really isn’t. Her entire life—and everything she’s ever believed about herself and her family—is abruptly hanging in midair.

Lacey is left facing two paths, and she has to make a choice. The first means walking away from everything she’s ever known. The other means never really knowing the truth.

I finished this book and wanted to scream like WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ENDING!?!? I can’t even. WHY.

Lacey believes that she is possessed by demons because that’s what her mother says. And she also believes that her mother has a special relationship with God. Lacey believes that God tells her mother what she does when she’s not home, because her mother somehow knows everything.

Enter Walker, normal guy, normal life, relatively normal family. When he meets Lacey, he begins to show her that maybe her family isn’t “normal.”

As a whole, this book was both insanely what-on-earth and yet amazing. Lacey’s belief in her mother’s “relationship” with God is astounding – and it’s sad to think that there are people who live like that. If their family is all they know, they will never be able to tell what’s “normal” and what’s absolutely, totally, insanely wrong. Lacey doesn’t realize that her family is crazy simply because it’s been something that she grew up with, lived with, and has been reinforced through her sister and her mother’s “friend.” There are so many things wrong with Lacey’s perception of the world, and I think this book does a great job of showing how skewed it can be and how much of an impact family can have.

Note: I’m not saying her family is crazy ’cause they’re religious (I mean, I’m Christian, and I’m like 90% sure I’m not crazy…), they’re crazy and dysfunctional for very different reasons…

Lacey grew A LOT throughout this book, and her character grew to be better, stronger, more resilient. Then there’s Walker… Oh man. There’s so much about the second half of the book that I want to just toss out there, but it’ll spoil the book. BUT I WAS SO ANGRY. LIKE… F U R I O U S.

In part, I get why it happened, kind of. But it really flipped some of my initial judgements on their head. I actually got so mad at the end, and then the book was suddenly done. AND I WAS SCREAMING. Ask my roommate.

I mean, it’s one thing to have that happen and for the book to progress, but everything just hits the fan, and the book ends only like 20 pages later.

LIKE WHAT?

YOU CAN’T DO THAT — JHLAKJHFLKAJSDHKAJDH

Anyways, so the book ends – I fly to GoodReads, and I’m both frustrated and relieved to find that this is actually the first book in a series.

Now I’m waiting for the next book to release and am hoping that we see a lot more of Lacey as she tries to navigate the world with her new perspectives (and a few dashed hopes).

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Cover: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.46/5

eARC obtained through Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Every Last Word

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Title: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
GoodReads

Synopsis:

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

First thing’s first. I cannot attest to the legitimacy of the portrayal of OCD or anxiety in this novel. I know nothing about either disorder or its effect on a person’s way of thinking or acting.

That being said, this books spun out a wonderful story about healing and self-discovery. Sam wove a web of secrets for herself, keeping her condition hidden, but also her new friend and locker neighbour Caroline. However, she spent a great amount of time trying to ensure that her acceptance in the popular circle was secure.

That being said, when she discovers the Poet’s Corner, she learns that there are people out there who are having a hard time with life too. She begins writing and finds that it helps her keep her brain in check.

I really liked the poetry aspects of this novel. It reminded me a little bit of Collen Hoover’s Slammed, with a little more camaraderie and a little less teacher x student love haha. As I’ve said in the past, poetry really gets to the heart of things and expresses feelings and aspects of characters that you’d have never known about otherwise. It’s so hard to see into the heads of those around you, but poetry helps lay it all out there for the world to see. The poetry is probably was what sold me on the book, but it wasn’t all perfect.

One thing I didn’t quite understand about this book is how she was able to keep her OCD so hidden. While I’m no expert in it, I’ve read other books where the repetitiveness of a task is clear and overpowering. Sam’s wasn’t quite that. There were just enough scenes to ensure that readers never forgot she had the condition, but it never overpowered her, especially since it sounded like her diagnosis was quite extreme. She just seemed like a normal girl with a couple hangups, like her need for the speedometer to read a certain way. While there were intrusive thoughts and some aspects that showed the difficulties with the condition, it just didn’t seem like a prominent aspect of the book to me, like it was addressed, but then moved away from after a moment.

The end of the novel was a real twist. I don’t know if this is supposed to be some kind of paranormal thing, or if this is actually possible, but the end of the book definitely surprised me. Again, I’m not an expert in this subject in any way. This is just what I think, and I thought it was a really interesting end to the novel.

Overall, I think this novel is a good one to read. It has an great story line that had me sobbing at some points, and a lot of insightful poetry and characters that have their own unique voices.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 3.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads: 4.18/5

eARC obtained via Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: All Fall Down

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Title: All Fall Down [Embassy Row #1]
Author: Ally Carter
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Mystery
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

I actually thought I had reviewed this months ago when I read it in January. I didn’t apparently though.

I couldn’t love this book. There was so much that happened, but at the same time, I felt like nothing did. I’m used to the action-packed, suspenseful, mysterious plots that usually come with Ally Carter’s book. This one was trying too hard to do the whole PTSD thing. Grace has been traumatized by her mother’s death, or murder as she remembers it, but has been traumatized even more by the people around her telling her to let it go and that it was a mistake, not murder. Due to this, the whole book was like going around in circles – her screaming it was murder, her being told it wasn’t, her investigating on her own, and her again being told that nothing happened, and around in a circle it went. It felt empty, almost.

There was a lot of telling, and very little showing in this book, to the point where I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Grace was a frazzled mess, and had very few concrete thoughts, and when she did, it was an obsessive focus; Noah was entertaining and cute, but that was all I could say about him; Rosie was fun, but I know basically nothing about her; and I can’t even remember the other partner in crime’s name – just that her skills and appearance were a little too convenient in line with Grace’s “clue-finding”.

Admittedly, the highlight was the end. It was not what I had expected, and it was enough to make me not totally hate the book. While this book could have had more action and more allure to it, I can see why some things were done as they were. Grace’s adventures are mundane, because she is mundane. She too far in her own world, even prior to her mother’s death, and she can’t seem to realize that she’s not like Cami or Kat – she has no training or skill in really anything except causing problems, jumping to conclusions, and diving in head first into brick walls and dead ends. In the end, I felt sorry for her, but prior to that, it was hard to get through internal complaints and frustrations. That may seem unsympathetic because no one wants to hear that someone with a mental health problem is being told to just be “fine”, but at the same time, it was a little extreme, everything she did, and it was her impulsiveness that annoyed me more than her thirst for the truth.

This book, overall, was not the quality that I’m used to from Ally Carter. It didn’t catch my attention as well, it didn’t draw me in, or keep me glued to the pages. It actually took me two weeks to finish this book, because I didn’t have an itch to run back to it everyday.

I enjoyed some of the twists of the story, but this story didn’t have the same connection and flow that all of her other books had. If I had to say one thing, it’s that I wish this had been another Heist novel instead of a new series.

Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 3/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Cover: 4.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.79/5

ARC obtained via Scholastic Press in exchange for an honest review.

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