Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Book Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Title: Emergency Contact Book Cover
Title: Emergency Contact Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance Publisher: Simon Schuster Audio Format: Audiobook Source: Scribd

For Penny Lee, high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she’d somehow landed a boyfriend, they never managed to know much about each other. Now Penny is heading to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer. It’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to, you know, see each other.

TW: Abuse, Racism, Mommy Issues, Daddy Issues (I’m sorry it’s been a month since I listened to it, so if there are triggers I missed, I’m sorry.)

Emergency Contact is the story of Penny and Sam. Neither of them is a particularly likable character. They are seriously messed up. But if I have to choose one over the other, I’ll take Sam, thanks.

For one, both have issues with their mothers, but for different reasons. To my idea, Sam has a legitimate reason to have issues with his mother, considering what she did to him. Penny, on the other hand, has issues with her mother for being herself. Penny seems to think that her mom is embarrassing and a pain in Penny’s butt on purpose. To my idea, that’s ludicrous and Penny is just being a brat.

When Penny moves to college and meets Sam via her dorm roommate, they become friends and text each other. Which is fine. Except they don’t tell anyone. They literally keep this a secret, when at first, there is literally no reason to. They’re just friends who talk to each other.

By the way, it takes way too long for them to figure out they have feelings for each other. Seriously. I thought they’d never figure it out. I had it figured out way before they did.

I don’t care for Mary H. K. Choi’s writing style – at least not in this book. I don’t mind books with multiple points of view, but this one was just irritating. At times it didn’t even seem like Sam and Penny were in the same story the way the chapters jumped around between Penny and Sam.

I gave it one star because I just did not like the book at all. I might give Permanent Record a try, but if it’s anything like Emergency Contact, I’m going to chalk it up to Mary H. K. Choi not being the author for me.

Book Reviews

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Review

Title: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder Book Cover
Title: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Young Adult Publisher: Delacorte Press Format: Hardcover Pages: 433 Source: Personal Collection

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

If there is one thing I do like, it is a good mystery. This one was definitely one of the good ones. The first thing you learn in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is that Sal Singh killed Andie Bell. At least that’s what everyone in town believes. Except Sal’s family and one other person. That person is our main character, Pippa.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – The Main Characters

Pippa is sort of an interesting character. She’s every faculty member’s dream. Her homework is done on time and very neatly. She studies all the time. Even when she chose to prove Sal Singh was innocent, she worked on that all the time. While she is an interesting character, I don’t think we got to see enough of her real personality. We got more of the workaholic than we did the actual person with Pippa. While she may be the main character in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, she isn’t the best main character I’ve ever seen.

Now we move on to Ravi Singh. Ravi is our second main character and Sal’s younger brother. He and his family have been deeply hurt by town’s belief that Sal killed Andie Bell. He would do pretty much anything to be able to have Sal’s name cleared. His personality has been shaped by the events that took place in 2014, when his brother was declared as Andie Bell’s killer. I wasn’t attached to him either. He just seemed a bit flat to me somehow. Maybe it was because I read most of the book between midnight and three AM.

The Review

I have to say that A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder was a great book – as far as the plot went. The plot had a lot of action in it and it was a fairly fast read once I actually sat down to read it.

One thing I found interesting about the book is that it is clearly set in the United States. However, Holly Jackson lives in the UK (London to be precise) and so some things that are unique to that part of the world are found in the book. They’re just little things, like everyone wanting tea instead of coffee. It doesn’t detract from the book in any way and I actually enjoyed it.

If there is one thing that you will find in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, it is mystery. First, the mystery of why Sal was pegged as Andie Bell’s murderer. Then we have the mystery of who doesn’t want Pippa investigating this case. Finally, we have the mystery of who really killed Andie Bell.

There are some heart-stopping moments in this book and it will definitely have you wondering what the outcome will be. I definitely never guessed it!

If you’ve read A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and you liked it, you might also like There’s Someone in Your House by Stephanie Perkins.

Book Reviews

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit

Title: 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Quit Book Cover
Title: 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit Genre: Christian, Self Help, Non Fiction Publisher: B Books Format: Kindle Pages: 154 Source: NetGalley

Have you ever gotten to the place where you just couldn’t take it anymore?

Dreams. Programs. Jobs. Relationships. There are so many different areas where we feel like calling it quits.

It’s time for an honest conversation on how not to give in to the temptation to give up.

Nicki Koziarz is a woman who has thrown in the towel a time or two. In fact, she’s quit just about everything in her life. But with God’s help, she’s discovered a few habits that have helped her and others conquer the choice to quit.

5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit will enable you to:

Evaluate the internal personal struggles that make you want to quit.

Cultivate consistent habits to help you progress toward your goals.

Receive a fresh dose of perspective from the Bible that will help you develop perseverance.

You are not made to quit! Join Nicki as she identifies five habits to help you keep going no matter what struggles may come your way.

Nicki Koziarz wrote 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit for me. I have a horrible habit of quitting the things I commit to doing. I’ve quit going to my offline book clubs. I’ve quit doing things with my online book clubs. I haven’t been doing things with my blogging groups. About the only thing I have not quit is going to school.

So yes, Nicki Koziarz wrote 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit for me. She wrote this book for you too. After all, I’m pretty sure you quit things as well.

Nicki Koziarz writes a book about Ruth and how she doesn’t quit. She details the 5 habits Ruth exhibits that means she doesn’t quit when the times get tough. Using Ruth’s story makes the habits Nicki is trying to tell us about easier to understand. As a result, the concepts outlined in this book are extremely easy to grasp.

When writing 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, Nicki tells us of several times in her life when she has wanted to quit. Quit working out, quit writing the book, quit trying to buy their Fixer Upper Farm (you HAVE to read that story – trust me). She lets you know that she is not perfect. She lets you know that she struggles with faith, with quitting, and with everything else. The result is a book that is funny, real, and will probably step on your toes, but in a good way.

She includes extras like sample prayers, Bible verses to help you not quit, and other things. If you are a woman who quits, 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit is written for you.

I chose to give 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit four stars. While this book is amazing, there is always room for improvement. I feel the book is a bit too quick of a read at only 154 pages.

I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Toll of Neal Shusterman

Title: The Toll Book Cover
Title: The Toll Series: Arc of a Scythe Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Utopian Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Format: Hardcover Pages: 625 Source: Library

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.

I’m going to admit, I was a bit confused when this book first started. I didn’t realize there was a time gap because I hadn’t read the blurb. I’d figured they’d have immediately started trying to salvage Endura, but clearly not.

I’m going to admit this right now, I can’t stand Goddard. He’s egotistical, he’s power hungry, and he’s a grade-A jackass. Yes, I said it. He’s a jackass. The way he treats people makes me want to reach through the pages and punch him. I can see why everyone hates him.

Greyson Tolliver’s character becomes much clearer in this book – he’s more defined than in Thunderhead and his reason for being in the story makes a lot more sense now than it did when I read Thunderhead. He’s not a particularly likeable character for me – he’s more just there because he needs to be, not because I’m intended to like him.

Sycthe Anastasia and Rowan are back, still like Anastasia better than Rowan and have no idea why those two are so much in love with each other, because there really isn’t much of a romantic arc to this story at all. But there you have it, they’re in love, for whatever reason.

I rather liked the Thunderhead and its scheming to save humanity. I understand totally why it was creating the different iterations of itself and how Cirrus came to be. I also understand that quite frankly, humans can destroy anything, even a perfect world. It’s our nature to destroy what is good and perfect.

I do wish for one thing though. Even if it’s just a novella, I want to see the aftermath. Both on earth and in space. I want to know what groups made it, which ones didn’t. I want to know of their lives after they made it to their new homes. I’m sitting here with burning questions and no answers.

This one was fast paced, even though it took me a bit to read it because I paused to read Blood Heir. When I was working on The Toll, I didn’t want to put it down. It’s a definite must read if you’ve already read the first two books.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

Title: Blood Heir Book Cover
Title: Blood Heir Series: Blood Heir Trilogy Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings Publisher: Delacorte Press Format: Hardcover Pages: 455 Source: Personal Collection

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

In case you didn’t know, this book is basically a retelling of Anastasia with magic and fantasy built in. Let me tell you, it works.

I love the concept of the Affinites and their affinities. I love that it isn’t just your basic elements, but that Affinites could have any number of things for their affinities. We see marble affinities, flesh affinities, blood affinities, grain affinities, as well as the basic elements. So the concept of having an affinity for a particular element has been taken much further than normal, which is awesome.

Ana is a great character. She’s tough, but she loves with all her heart. She loves her empire and she loves her people. And yes, she is naive when it comes to some things because she did spend the majority of her life living behind the Salskoff Palace walls. So there are things that she doesn’t know regarding the empire she loves.

I also liked Ramson’s character. He’s no stranger to tragedy and he knows exactly what goes on with the Affinites and how they are treated. He gives Ana a rude awakening to how things really are in her empire, which helps to move the story along very well.

As for the story, again, it’s a retelling of Anastasia and it’s very well done. I found no issues with the writing style as it was easy to read and the plot made me want to keep reading the book.

Now, to address the controversy that surrounded this book. You can read an explanation of the controversy here. There are some things that I can see – such as people feeling that the author took things from other books. There’s a sentence that is the same as in a Tolkien novel, as well some “copying” from The Hunger Games. I don’t think it’s actually enough for people to accuse her of plagiarism, because let’s face it, some of these things are found in multiple books, but it gave people something to gripe about.

The other issue was that the book was seen as anti-black. Part of this is due to May, a character that started off as a slave, and ended up as Ana’s companion. May is a little girl who came to the Cyrilian Empire with her mother – both were Affinites – and her mother was contracted to a different employer than May was. Ana was trying to help May find her mother.

At one point in the book, May does something that causes her death while attempting to save Ana. This is construed as a black girl being killed to allow a white girl to live. Ok, first, descriptions of May have her as “tan” skinned and “ocean blue” or “aquamarine” eyes. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t see too many black people who are just “tan” and have “ocean blue” eyes. I also don’t get where they get that Ana is “white” because she is described multiple times as having olive colored skin – which is a trait that several Middle Eastern and Asian cultures would be described as having.

I also heard some things on social media about how insensitive she was when she portrayed slavery. Well, slavery isn’t something that you can portray sensitively, and frankly, she portrayed it in a way that was very common at one point – indentured servitude. An employer would “buy” someone and that person would have to work to pay off their employment contract and gain their freedom. It wasn’t right in real life, it isn’t right in a book. And just like in real life, people didn’t like that it was going on and wanted to change it.

The controversy surrounding the book caused the author to delay the release of the book. She considered editing the book to fix what people said was wrong and ultimately decided to release the book as originally written. I’m sure people “cancelled” her because that’s what social media does – they cancel everything and everyone they think is wrong or they don’t like. But I’m glad she didn’t change her story. Because if she had, it wouldn’t be the amazing book it is.