The Unquiet Past – Kelley Armstrong Review

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I have read all of Kelley Armstong’s young adult novels and I have loved every one of them. The Unquiet Past is no different. In fact, the only real negative thing i can say about this book is that it is way too short! I was begging for more.

We follow a sixteen year old girl named Tess who has been an orphan for as long as she can remember except that she has a secret. Tess sees these visions of people that she thinks are ghosts and she has no explanation as to why she gets them. On her eighteenth birthday, she will receive a clue to discovering her past, however this day comes early when a fire burns down her orphanage home and she can no longer stay there. Tess is put into this journey of self discovery and finds herself in Quebec, Canada learning things about her history perhaps she would rather not know.

Right off the bat we are introduced to this protagonist that has a supernatural ability. So, like most other novels, we are thinking that this power is going to be some self-revelation for the character and it’s going to play some HUGE role in the plot; but actually this is not the case. While her ability is significant, the story has more of a thriller feel than paranormal. Armstrong is really great at writing female protagonists. She has written her fair share of them, yet they are always unique and always badass in their own way. Tess is super resourceful, funny, really smart and tough. Although she is small and has been living in an orphanage her whole life, she has remarkable knowledge of the outside world. The lead male character in this story is pretty much the epitome of a teenage boy. He’s grumpy, stubborn and he never likes to talk, but he’s also smart, caring and understanding. I like that Armstrong doesn’t exaggerate on his features. He is tall and slim which makes him cute. It’s a realistic attraction, he’s not this over the top sexy, male model that is so out of the girl’s league. Speaking of attraction, Armstrong is also great at progressing relationships and avoiding the ‘love at first sight’ syndrome, AKA L.A.F.S.S.. Her writing is gripping and the story is enthralling. It was actually a lot creepier than I had originally thought it was going to be. Maybe it was because I was reading in the middle of the night, but my heart was genuinely pounding with anticipation.

Besides the book being too short, I also think that Armstrong could have written the story in the present. It is set in 1963 Quebec and Ontario, however, I do not think it was necessary. There were minimal references to the actual time period that if written in present time, would still have made sense. But it didn’t change my overall experience with the book anyways.

Now to the SPOILERS section:

So, first thing is first, asylum hospital?! Thanks Kelley for stimulating the halloween thoughts right out of me. I was actually kind of freaked out when Tess was in the basement and she heard that girl asking for help. I think I was holding my breath! Also, when she gets locked in the closet room thing and the girl screams like right next to her, like oh my goodness, what the actually heck!? That would really scare the poop right out of me! I was thinking for a while that the ghost she was seeing was actually her mother. I though that would have been really interesting, but it never happened.

I really loved the characters in the book, even though we really weren’t introduced to too may secondary ones. I think that with a shorter book like this, it is a good thing that we really only got to know seven or eight people at the most. Tess was a great protagonist. She has all the characteristics that readers love to read about but she still has flaws. She is still insecure about her abilities and about being called crazy. I also really liked Jackson. He was just such a genuine character that even when he was being anything less than polite, I couldn’t help but love him!

As far as stupid decisions go, Tess getting into that truck with Mr. John/Etienne/Steve the Creeps was the worst choice she could have ever made. I knew he was going to be bad news, it was a definite given. I also liked that Jackson felt protective of her pretty early and not because he was developing feelings right away but just because she was a girl (and because he had sisters) and he felt it was his position as a guy to stand up for her. I thought that was very chivalrous.

Uhm… did anybody expect the old professor to be Dr. K? I actually did not see that coming! Man… I was actually shocked when I read that.

I really liked the scene where Tess and Jackson are fighting because he kept that huge secret about his family from her. I especially enjoyed that she doesn’t forgive him for a while. It’s very realistic as far as actual arguments go. I was so sad when she said that it was strictly a business relationship and Jackson’s face fell. I felt so bad for him but I understand why Tess was so angry. I love that she was so smart about it though. She didn’t just ditch him, she actually just said that because she knows she can’t do it without him, she will stick around and I thought that was really mature.

I am happy that we find out what happened to her mom and to Jackson’s parents but I’m a bit disappointed that Tess’ father was sort of forgotten. She doesn’t even care that she has no idea what happened to him and I think that it doesn’t really follow her character since at the beginning she was so determined to learn as much as she could about where she came from. But, oh well, I guess if Armstrong wanted to keep the book short she would need to cut that out.

One more thing that I really like is that it is set in Canada! My home country! It makes the characters and the story so much more relatable when it’s taking place in my own home. It brings the element of closeness that I just don’t get with American authors. End of [SPOILERS]. 

Overall, I loved this one. Kelley Armstrong is one of my favourite authors because she has an amazing way of writing. Her characters are so great and her stories are so unique that I think everyone can enjoy it. I recommend this for all Armstrong lovers, anyone who wants something October/Halloween to read and anyone who wants a short novel that will leave them wanting more!

4.5/5 stars

sincerely,

B

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Dumplin’ by: Julie Murphy Review

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Dumplin’ by: Julie Murphy

Genre: Contemporary/ YA

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review

So, I have been in quite the contemporary mood as of lately, it might have a little to do with the fact that classes are back in session and I have been dying for something fluffy and cute. Now, with Dumplin’ I got exactly what I asked for and a little something more. This novel has started controversy in the book world since it’s mention and I am here to stump those negativity Nancys. I would gladly like to start this post with the obvious fact that I am not completely aware of the negativities that this book summons upon, and I would also like to mention that this book in no way claims to be a pro body positive campaign. Murphy wrote a story about a confident young girl, who like most her age, has flaws and insecurities and expresses that by her own means of dealing with it. Now, we are told right off the bat that Willowdean “Dumplin’” Dickson is a self-proclaimed “fat girl.” This spurs the body positive theme that all have claimed Murphy expresses throughout Willowdean’s story. I do not disagree that her weight is a heavy topic throughout the plot but I would like to touch upon the synopsis quickly.

Willowdean Dickson, the self proclaimed fat girl, the best friend to Ellen the all American beauty and the daughter of Blue Bonnet’s pageant queen. Life is good when you feel good in your own skin and Willowdean expresses this comfortability throughout her days in small-town Clover City. That is until Bo Larson begins working at Harpy’s and makes Willowdean realize her insecurities are more than skin deep.

Murphy touches upon the highs and lows of high school life, both through the eyes of a distraught teenager with the biggest funny bone, a band of unlikely misfits, new friendships, drag queens, being yourself, peachbutt boys and a snippet of pageant life. There are many likes and dislikes I can mention about this book; I can talk about how I went into this book with clear interest but not with high expectations. I can refer to how I was intrigued to read my first real “fat girl” book. But mostly? I was attracted to this like many other readers, hype and constant positive reviews but the controversy in this book is what sprung me to really make the full commitment.

[SPOILER] Its that time folks, here comes my spoiler-y points about Dumplin’.

  1. + Willowdean was fun, comforting, hilarious and real.
  2. + Lee was my favourite character; I wish I was friends with a Dolly Parton drag queen-alike.
  3. + I enjoyed the band of misfits and the friendship they all shared with one another in the second half of the book.
  4. – Bo Larson is a jerk.
  5. + Bo Larson got better.
  6. – I wish Willowdean and Ellen made up sooner.
  7. – I was so not into the minor characters, Callie and Bekah were just add-on’s.
  8. – Love triangle? Was that necessary?
  9. + Family bonding and friendships > cute boys any day.
  10. + I enjoyed Mitch, but there wasn’t enough of him.
  11. – I wish the pageant wasn’t shoved in last minute as if it wasn’t the main point mentioned in the plot line.
  12. + The writing style was unique, a reason why I couldn’t put it down.

All in all, Dumplin’ is worth the read and I recommend it for anyone looking for something that is more than just what it seems. If you’re a Dolly Parton fan? Pick it up. If you like quirky unique writing? Pick it up. If you like pageant books? Meh, get ready for a ride before you get to pageant city.

Sincerely, C.

Kissing in America by: Margo Rabb Review

Kissing in America by: Margo Rabb

Genre: Contemporary/ YA

Rating: 4/5 stars

Writing Style: first person

Review

What I can say about Kissing in America is that it is more than what the title entails. I believe as readers, are attraction to a book is based off three necessary elements. Cover art, enticing title, and a story worth reading. I have to admit the first time I picked up this book was in the middle of August, I was craving a light read, a fluff read if you may. Something that would lift me from the slump of the constant reminder than school was right around the corner. A story about a road trip, true friendships, first loves and family? Sign me up. It took me a while to get back into the groove of Eva’s story but in the end, it was worth much more to me than just a fluff read.

Kissing in America, a tale of a sixteen-year-old Eva who finds comfort in reading romance novels, and we’re not talking light new adult reads here. This seems to fill the void of her recently deceased father who throughout this story has a large role in Eva’s adventures. We follow Eva’s cross country bound story that takes her beyond finding her true love, Will in the heart of California, but in a search to find herself and the truest form of love. I believe a story has a chance to make up for its flaws, and I really went into this book wanting a good story. I left with a good ache in my chest, the kind that reminds me that a good story can be found in the most unlikely of places.

Margo Rabb has a way of capturing you into a story, whether it be her poetic way of writing or the instant connection she forms with you through her characters. I found throughout this book that I carried a sense of wanting more, and though this happened more so in the beginning half of this novel I found myself not wanting to put it down once I picked it back up. I enjoyed both Rabb’s writing style, the flawed characters, and the immense boundaries overturned that make Eva’s spontaneous voyage worth remembering. Some of my dislikes with this story were the slow pace in the beginning portion, it took nearly 200 pages before we find ourselves on the road. Now I do believe in building a world, but with a contemporary such as this? There isn’t much to build from, especially with an insta- love situation. [SPOILER] Will’s character was not someone I was fond of throughout this book, he had his flaws and he owned up to them but in the end I wasn’t too sad with the outcome. Eva was immature, stubborn, naïve and very annoying at times but that’s what makes her great. A character that isn’t perfect is something I strive for in a novel, I have no patience for a Mary Sue.

Now, without spoiling the plot I would like to mention two points. One, if you have a strong interest in family histories, geographic quests, real friendships and quirky dialogue? You will fall for this book. Secondly, if you’re looking for a romance and you happen to pick up this beauty remember, love is not love but the purest kind.

Sincerely, C.

How To Get Out Of A Reading Slump!

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(Picture is from Google)

Hey guys! So everyone has those times when they just can’t get into reading. They try their hardest to plough through a book but it is just not happening! Well, thats okay, I am here to tell you a few things I do to get out of a reading slump!

  1. Sometimes when you’re in a reading slump, it signifies an increase of stress. Is it too hard to submerge yourself into a new world when you’re too busy worrying about your own? Well, the first thing is to figure out what you are stressed out about and solve the problem. If it’s something like school or work, then take part in an activity that calms you down. Whether it’s listening to music, playing video games, watching TV, knitting or just going for a walk, DO IT!
  2. If you have been reading for a while and you start feeling a reading slump coming on, take a break. Put the book aside for a while and do something else that entertains you and keeps you busy. It can be anything from starting a new art project, or learning a new song on your favourite instrument or maybe marathoning a new TV show on Netflix.
  3. Are you reading because you have to or because you want to? Are the books you’re reading mandatory school readings or work documents/seminars? This could be the reason you’re entering a reading slump. Take a break from the boring reading and pick up something you know you will be more interested in. Tackle that TBR shelf and go back to your mandatory reading after you’ve finished it.
  4. The book you’re currently reading is just taking forever to read? Whether the book is good and you just find yourself reading slower or whether it’s not so good and that is why it’s taking you forever, put it down! Go back to a book that you have already read and that you loved! Sometimes your brain just wants to go back into a world that is familiar.
  5. The most important step of all: NEVER FORCE YOURSELF TO READ!!! If you are just not feeling the reading scene, then take a break. The worst thing you can do is force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. We already have to do that enough in the real world, don’t let that taint your reading life for you.

Those are just some of the tips I use when I find myself getting into a reading slump. I hope this is helpful. Remember, reading is supposed to be enjoyable, don’t force yourself to read if all you need is a break. Everyone gets reading slumps and that’s okay but overcoming them is the greatest accomplishment.

Sincerely,

B