Review

Book Review: The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night

Title: The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night

Author: Jen Campbell

Publishing Date:  November 2nd 2017

Genres: Adult, Mystery

Pages: 212 pages

“Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world. 
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.”

Goodreads| Amazon 

I read this book for the 7 in 7 Readathon and, especifically, for the challenge to read a book outside my comfort zone. I don’t usually like anthologies and the stories in this one had magical elements, I have never read an anthology with this type of elements before, so those are the reasons I chose this for that challenge. I ended up really enjoying this book, it was really well written, I loved a few of the stories and I didn’t hate any of them, which is always a risk with anthologies. Here are my thoughts about each story:

Animals (3.8 stars): 

  • Beautiful & captivating writing
  • It’s thought provoking: it discusses love, abusive relationships, giving up too easily versus trying until everything turns ugly, & a loveless world versus a world obsessed with love.
  •  It was predictable in terms of the relationship between main character and Cora, but it had a surprising element at the end.
  • I could have used more details about the world in which this takes place.

Jacob (3,5 stars): 

  • This was a cute and simple story about a kid asking a bunch of question that seemed random but that were connected to a need of estability in a time where everything in his life was changing.
  • I’m amazed at Campbell’s ability to write in very different tones and styles. This is completely different from the first story.
  • The voice of the main character, who is a kid, is compelling.

Plum Pie. Zombie Green. Yellow Bee.Purple Monster (3,5 stars):

  • I liked the way this addressed disfigurement and bodily differences through a metaphor of characters that were part human and part plant.
  • But I didn’t find this as captivating as the others.
  • As with the first story, I could have used more details about the world in which this takes place.

In the night (3,2 stars):

  • It had funny bits and I really liked the narrator
  • It had a nostalgic feeling to it, but I didn’t necessarily understood the point it was trying to make or the meaning behind it.

Margaret and Mary and the End of the World (5 stars):

  • This story was heartbreaking and infuriating and the best one of the book
  • I loved the references to fairytales, art history and religion
  • It deals with heavy subjects like eating disorders and sexual assault

Little Deaths (3,2 stars):

  • This was way too short
  • Interesting concept revolving around ghosts
  • An intriguing way to look at death

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night (5 stars):

  • This story is a conversation, an interesting – even if it seems random at first – conversation.
  • The ending is surprising and really good, and it left me feeling so sad.
  • It’s one of those stories that even if they are short, they pack a punch.

Pebbles (3,2 stars):

  • I liked the fact that it was a f/f story and that it features a celebration of pride.
  • Campbell was trying to say something about war in this nooks and, there was a very obvious point she was trying to make about how people romanticise war, but I could find a deeper meaning or maybe there wasn’t one.

Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel (4,2 stars):

  • The story had a cool concept about a hotel where people can come closer to death and spirits and prepare themselves for death and it’s basically a scam, that’s where the story begins.
  • It ended too abruptly. It was getting intriguing and creepy and then it ended
  • The way it dealt with the fear of death and what comes after dying, was really interesting.

Sea Devils (3,5 stars):

  • I think I don’t completely understand the relationship between the sea devils and the real devils of the story.
  • Maybe the point is that sometimes we think evil is in somethings or some places when it’s not, but we don’t see actual evil when it’s right in front of us.
  • It left me sad but it had a good ending.

Human Satellites (3 stars): 

  • The concept of this story was interesting, it’s about this thing that they find in space that it’s like a planet made of screens that play scenes from the past, the present and the future  and how people react to it.
  • I didn’t really understand the point of the story, I feel like the idea was  interesting but it lacked a bit of development. Maybe that’s just me not getting what the story was trying to say.
  • It was too short.

White Bright Hearts (3,2 stars): 

  • I liked the way it talked about being different and about bodily difference in particular.
  • This story was a bit all over the place, sometimes it jump from one thought to the other quite abruptly.
Overall rating: 4 stars 

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Review

Mini Reviews of 4 Hercules Poirot Novels by Agatha Christie

Mini Reviews

Agatha Christie created a character called Hercules Poirot, who appeared in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975. Recently, I started to read Agatha Christie books, first I read And Then There Were None (review), followed by Murder on the Orient Express in which the main characters is Poirot. After that, I started to make my way thorugh a bunch of Hercules Poirot books and I decided to review them a few at a time here on the blog. These are the first reviews:

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the orient express

(Published 1934) – 4 stars

What more can a mystery addict desire than a much-loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant detective in Hercule Poirot, and the most ingenious crime ever conceived?

  • I really enjoyed the setting of this book, the train is stuck in the snow in a secluded area, so there’s no way out, all the characters are stuck together in the same place and Poirot has no information that wasn’t provided by those involved in the murder. I just like that kind of setting the most.
  • I liked that this was told by an omniscient narrator that is unobtrusive and only gives the facts.
  • I love the way this book was structured because we are shown the method that Poirot uses to solve the murder and the way he organizes the information, which I thought was really compelling and fascinating. It was my favorite thing of this book.
  • I really liked the ending, it was surprising because it’s hard to imagine how elaborated the plan is, so much so, that when the connetion between some of the characters was revealed, I still didn’t guessed the answer to the mystery.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Published 1920) – 3,4 stars

Who poisoned the wealthy Emily Inglethorpe, and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Suspects abound in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary–from the heiress’s fawning new husband to her two stepsons, her volatile housekeeper, and a pretty nurse who works in a hospital dispensary. Making his unforgettable debut, the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is on the case.

  • This was the first Poirot book and it definitely established the fact that these books were not gonna be action packed or the detective chasing the murderer around. Poirot books are about the conversations with the people involved and the clues in the crime scene and the slow and thoughtful evaluation of the information, which I find fascinating and intriguing and I think it’s the reason I enjoy this book so much.
  • I didn’t like the narrator in this book at all. It was narrated by a character named Hastings and he was so annoying, he keep inserting his own theories that made no sense, he was swayed by everything and he made fun of everything Poirot did or said. His narration frustrated me so much and was the main reason I gave it a low rating. 
  • I really enjoyed that there were lot of viable suspects, everyone had secrets (many not related to the murder) and because of that, they were acting in a suspitious way.
  • I found the ending logical but not satisfying, I didn’t though it was as clever.
  • This book shows that Poirot is a romantic, which added a fun an cute element to the story.  I really liked that.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd(Published 1926) – 4 stars

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Now, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with a drug overdose. But the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information. Unfortunately, before he could finish the letter, hwas stabbed to death…

  • In Christie’s books, there’s these ‘smaller mysteries”, these questions that need to be answered before solving the mystery of the murder.  I liked that, in this book, the clues allowed the reader to figure out those small mysteries and  I was actually able to solve them, which was fun.
  • The ending of this book is spectacular, the twist is brilliant and I didn’t see it coming at all. The worst is that I noticed a clue right at the beginning that pointed to the killer and I still didn’t figure it out, I think it was because it was the only clue that pointed to the actual murderer. Anyway, this book has one of the best endings to a mystery that I have ever read.
  • But – like I have mentioned before- I do have the feeling that to have that very surprising ending in this book, there’s not as many clues or information that point to the actual murderer. I feel like the reader couldn’t have solved this before Poirot reveals the answer to the mystery, at least not by following the clues.  Which I think it’s not the point of a mystery book, I like to feel that I could have solved it.
 Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under the Sun

(Published 1941) – 3,8 stars

Set at the Jolly Roger, a posh vacation resort for the rich and famous on the southern coast of England, Evil Under the Sun is one of Agatha Christie’s most intriguing mysteries. When a gorgeous young bride is brutally strangled to death on the beach, only Hercule Poirot can sift through the secrets that shroud each of the guests and unravel the macabre mystery at this playground by the sea.

  • It had a secluded setting, which I really enjoyed, because I feel like it intensifies things. This takes place on an island that while it’s not entirely cut off from the world, it did felt a bit separed and isolated.
  • I really liked that this book wasn’t told by one character that it’s part of the story, like a lot of the Poirot books. In this one, we get different perspectives and that means we get a lot more information and particulary we get a lot of information that Poirot has and that he probably wouldn’t have share if another character was telling the story.
  • I really liked the twist in this book, because they discover something and it seems like it’s pointing them in one direction but it’s too obvious, so when it’s time to the reveal and everything is explained, it’s surprising and a bit far fetched, but I still enjoyed it.
  • I liked the overall theme of the book, there’s a lof ot talk about evil in this book and at the beginning I didn’t understand the purpose, but then by the end I really liked the message. It was kind of a commentary on the shaming and vilification of women. 

 

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Review

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And then there were none

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Published 1939 

“First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.” 

Goodreads | Amazon 

And Then There Were None is a compelling, fun and quick read that keeps readers at the edge of their sit with the supense, secrets and lies. To be honest, the beginning of this book is a bit overwhelming since we are introduced to 10 characters in very short chapters, so it’s difficult to keep track of all of them, but once they get to the island that gets much easier.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the setting, it takes place in a secluded island, where the 10 characters are trapped since there’s no boat to take them away and there’s no way to communicate with the outside world. The characters don’t know who to trust and they are all paranoid, they are all accused of murder when they get to the island and most of them deny it, but they are all being ‘brough to justice’ regarless and no one knows who is next. That situation sets a compelling mood for the story since the reader doesn’t know the truth about the characters either, so there’s several mysteries at a time, what happened in the past of all these characters and what’s happening in the present while they are in the island.

Another of my favorite things about the book is that there’s a character that very methodically tries to figure out what’s going on and I always like mysteries where the facts are presented orderly to the reader by a character that’s trying to figure out things like alibis, motives, opportunity and that kind of things. Not all characters have the same reaction of trying to understand what’s happening, but that’s something I liked about the book because the reactions of all the characters to the situation are different but very realistic.

From the moment the characters get to the island, there’s suspense and intrigue non stop, which set a really amazing pace to the story and it kept me in the edge of my sit the entire time. The way the secrets of the characters are revealed throughout the story and not just at the beginning, kept my interest really high and kept me confused the whole book. At the end, it’s explained who did it and why, and I liked the fact that even when I didn’t guess, I know I could have guessed because, at the end, the character who set the whole thing up tells you which clues could have helped you figure it out.

Rating: 4,4 stars

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date 2

Title: The Wedding Date

Author: Jasmine Guillory

Publishing Date:  January 30th 2018

Published by:  Berkley

Genres: Adult, Romance

Pages: 224 pages

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other… 

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

Goodreads | Amazon

The first half of The Wedding Date is full of cute, romantic and even some relatively steamy moments. The main character, Alexa, is smart, strong and driven and then the other main character, Drew, is really charming, at least in the first half of the book. Both characters have established careers that they are passionate about, which makes the story and the characters more compelling.

Something else that adds to the story is the fact that Alexa and Drew are an interracial couple, Alexa is black and this is #ownvoices representation, while Drew is white. Throughout the book, there are scenes where they have some interesting conversations about race, which adds depth to this story and make it more engaging. Also, this book does a very good job of showing Alexa’s insecurities and how society’s beauty standards  can affect someone body image.

The second half of this is where things go a bit south for me.  As I mentioned before,  the main character, Drew, is pretty charming thorughout the first half of this  and I even like him in the second half when he is with Alexa. Nonetheless, everytime Drew is with his best friend, Carlos, especially towards the end, he’s an asshole and a terrible friend, which takes away from the belief that he is a great guy for Alexa, because someone who is rude and inconsiderate towards their friends isn’t exactly good relationship material.

Another issue I have with this book is that the problems between Alexa and Drew in the second half are communication problems and they could have been solved easily. I think this is particulary frustrating because at the beginning of the book, Alexa and Drew are established as mature and intelligent characters, and so it was a bit unbelievable that they couldn’t have an honest and open conversation about their relationship. I understand that the fact that the relationship starts with fake dating makes them have doubts about it, but I also think that their inhability to communicate and talk drags out way too long.

Overall, this is a fun and cute read, especially at the beginning, and it deals with important subjects like race and body image in a very good way. Nonetheless, it loses some of its appeal by the end because both the main character, Drew, and the relationship between Drew and Alexa become less charming.

Rating: 3,6  stars

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Review

Book Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Frost and Starlight

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publishing Date: May 1st 2018

Published by: Bloomsbury YA

Genres: Fantasy, YA

Pages: 272

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

Goodreads | Amazon 

This book was so disappointing, it was absolutely unnecesary. Most of this book revolves around characters walking around Velaris and shopping for presents. Then there’s scenes that are simply fans’ wish fulfillment. Also, there was a really weird sex scene in this that left me confused and creep out.

The chapters I thought were interesting were the ones told from Casssian’s and Nesta’s perspective, because they gave a little bit of  insight into the next books in the series. But to be honest, this book gave almost no information about the next book and that was frustrating. I feel like Mor may also play a big role in the next books because she got a POV in this book, but I think one of her chapters was a disservice to her character and the other one made no sense. Going back to Nesta, one part of the book that I actually found interesting and compelling was the portrait of Nesta’s PTSD. To me, she is the most interesting and complex character in the series and I’m looking forward to read from her POV.

There were three or four scenes from Feyre’s and Rhysand’s POV that I thought were cute or interesting or fun to read, like the christmas scene where all the characters were together. Nonetheless, I feel like Sarah J. Maas could have realesed those scenes as bonus content in her newsletter or website or anywhere, but there was no need for an entire book. Almost every scene in this was pointless. I feel like this book needed a lot more editing.

So, why did this get 3 star and not less? I actually don’t know…. I think it’s because when I first heard the name of the book, I thought SJM was going to take this in another direction. I thought she was gonna have the next books be about the Winter Court and about Mor, and as much as I love Mor, I wanted my Cassian and Nesta book. Since this book confirmed that they are gonna be main characters in the next books, it made me happy. Also, I loved their scenes together in this book, getting to read from their POV and, as I said before, the portrait of Nesta’s PTSD. Additionally, I think the teaser we got from the next book also help this in terms of rating, which I know doesn’t make sense since that’s part of another book, but it just made me enjoy the experience of reading this a lot more.

Rating: 3 stars

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#ownvoices · Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

Title: The Poet X

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Publishing Date: March 6th 2018

Published by: HarperTeen

Genres: Comtemporary, YA

Pages: 368

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Goodreads | Amazon 

The Poet X is an #ownvoices story about a dominican american girl called Xiomara. It’s a story that explores Xiomara’s struggle with inhabiting her body, a body that attracs attention and because of it, it’s unwillingly subjected to the male gaze; it also deals with growing up in a conservative latinx family that it’s extremely religious and that imposes faith and leaves no room for questions. It’s a book about trying to figure who you are in an enviroment that doesn’t leave much room to do so.

This book is written in verse, which allows the reader to connect with the main character, Xiomara, and her struggles so much more and it makes the story more compelling than it would have been if it was written like a normal novel. We get a direct line to the powerful emotions that she is experiencing and trying to express, which allows an intimacy that it wouldn’t have been possible any other way. Despise being written in verse, the narration is still easy to follow because all the different parts are connected and one flows into the other with ease.

One of  the strongest aspects of the book is the exploration of faith and religion; reading from Xiomara’s pespective, the reader gets to understand all her doubts around her own faith, but also her questioning of the rol that women have been assigned in catholisms as the sinners, the temptation and a lot of times the inferior gender. It also explores the tension that exists in a lot of latinx families when it comes to religion and how even when certain ceremonies like the Confirmation are meant to be a voluntary acceptance of the faith, they become this mandatory step to be a part of the family. Also, the way this books draws a parallel between prayer and poetry is absolutely sublime and it’s done in a very powerful way.

This book also explores complicated family dynamics and it’s particulary interesting to see the mother/daughter relationship; the misunderstanding, the judgement, the contrary beliefs, but also the way it develops when both mother and daughter try to understand each others truths. They don’t arrive to that point until a huge confrontation that it’s intense, raw and heartbreaking, but seeing the ups and downs of their relationships is compelling and engaging.

Throughout the story, Xiomara discovers slam poetry and it’s amazing to experience, through her perspective, the freedom and the happiness of finding a way to express all her thoughts and emotions in a time of her life when she really needs that outlet.

Rating: 4.7 stars 

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Diverse Books · Review

Book Review: The Summer fo Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

the summer of jordi perez

Title: The Summer of Jordi Peres (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Author: Amy Spalding

Publishing Date: April 3rd 2018

Published by:  Sky Pony Press

Genres: Contemporary, YA

Pages: 224 pages

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?

But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her? Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?

Goodreads | Amazon

The Summer of Jordi Perez starts with Abby, the main character, on her way to her first day working at her favorite boutique. I feel like the first few pages are not the best introduction to Abby as a character. Abby is very, very disperse at the beginning, she gets distracted way too easily and it’s a bit annoying because we’re reading the story from her perspective. But if you give it a few pages that distractiveness isn’t a big character trait in the rest of the book.

After that rough start, I actually got to like Abby. She is a pink-haired, fat, lesbian girl, who loves fashion and blogs about it and is always dressed in colorful clothes. Then there’s Jordi, the love interest, a talented mexican-american girl, who loves photography and dresses all in black. The amount of good representation in this book, in terms of sexuality, body-positivity and ethnicity is lovely to see.

From the start, it’s easy to tell this is the story of a first love, there’s certain innocence to the relationship and the romance that made the story sweet and put a smile on my face. There’s instant attraction between the characters, but the relationship development is organic.  They like each other, they go on dates and it doesn’t take forever for them to get together. Abby and Jordi are incredibly cute together and there’s so many sweet moments. The conflict that surges between them is very predictable, there’s a lot of not so subtle hints about it, and it’s not the biggest conflict ever, but it’s easy to understand where the characters are coming from. At the end, this is a very adorable story, so don’t expect lots of angst and drama when it comes to the conflict, which to be honest is something I really like about it.

I was expecting the whole best burgers of Los Angeles plot to be a bit more important since it’s on the title of the book. The reality is that Abby and Jax go eat burgers together in several ocasions throughout the book and they become friends because of that. They are very different people and they have very different perspectives and it is interesting to read their conversations, which  are hilarious, and the burgers are more an excuse for their friendship to develop that anythig else. Don’t go into this book expecting amazing food descriptions because that’s not what you’re gonna find. Instead, you’ll get an amazing and compelling friendship, that will keep you entertain. It is one of my favorite parts of the story.

Other interesting subjects and themes that are present in this books are: complex family dynamics, especially between Abby and her mom; then there’s female friendship, Abby has 3 friends who are not perfect, but they are supportive, encouraging and loving; and also there’s abby’s work in the boutique, which revolves around social media, it’s really great to see the real applications of social media in buisness and the importance that it has, because it’s such a big part of our world.

Overall, this is short, cute and funny story with a diverse cast of characters, that addresses important subjects and that will have you smiling the entire time. 

Rating: 4 stars

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