Tag Archives: Contemporary

The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead

 The Secrets We Keep
by Deb Loughead

First she blamed herself. Now she doesn’t know who to trust.

When Kit disappeared at a party and was found drowned in the quarry the next day, Clem knew who to point the finger at: herself. She was the last person to see him alive, the last person who could have helped. If she had just kept a closer eye on him instead of her crush, Jake, maybe Kit would still be here. She knows she made a mistake, and wishes she could just forget about it — but Clem’s friend Ellie says she’ll expose Clem’s secret if she doesn’t play along with Ellie’s lies.

Jake seems to have his own difficult secrets, and when he and Clem start to talk, they make a plan to help themselves move on. But when an unexpected discovery at the quarry makes everyone question what they thought they knew, Clem and Jake decide it’s up to them to uncover the truth.

Rated: DNF
Publisher: Dundurn
Publication: December 10, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead

I started The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead because I was just like yessss, murder mystery, young adult, possible romance, this is so great! I’m such a fan of mysteries and all that angst over characters thinking x person’s death is their fault when in reality something else entirely happened. So, I was super excited to get into this. And then, it all fell through when I actually read the words on the page.

This is a super short review because obviously I Did Not Finish-ed the book. Maybe the story itself is decent, but the writing, I could not get past it. It feels like the written equivalent of the Steve Buscemi’s gif where he is dressed like what he thinks teens wear saying How do you do, fellow kids?

The disconnect between the age the character is supposed to be, and the way it is written, the words used, is so severe and jarring, I just cannot keep going with it. It feels wrong. It feels as though the author is trying to write how she thinks teens talk and think, but at the same time, passing judgement on them?

If you can get past the writing, then I hope the story is an enjoyable one. It definitely seems like there’s something intriguing there, and hopefully my initial hunch that Ellie knows more than she’s saying is wrong, but for me, I’ll never find out. The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead is just a bust.

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

The Sunlight Pilgrims
by Jenni Fagan

It’s November of 2020, and the world is freezing over. Each day colder than the last. There’s snow in Israel, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to drift just off the coast of Scotland. As ice water melts into the Atlantic, frenzied London residents evacuate by the thousands for warmer temperatures down south. But not Dylan. Grieving and ready to build life anew, he heads north to bury his mother’s and grandmother’s ashes on the Scottish islands where they once lived.

Hundreds of miles away, twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy, mountainous Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. Living out of a caravan, they spend their days digging through landfills, searching for anything with restorative and trading value. When Dylan arrives in their caravan park in the middle of the night, life changes course for Estella and Constance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they’ll all be ready.

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group / Hogarth
Publication: July 19, 2016
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTAQ*
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
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Rated: ★★

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jennie Fagan

A global environmental disaster sets the backdrop for The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jennie Fagan, yet for all that the synopsis emphasizes these apocalyptic times, the story focuses more on family connections and growing up/living in a small town. The main part of the story that drew me in and kept me interested was Stella and seeing her try to cope with life in a tiny, bigoted crowd.

Character development was the driving point of this Sunlight Pilgrims. Readers see Stella evolve from extremely insecure, depressed, and self-conscious, to realizing the boys and kids around her aren’t worth her attention, depression. She learns this the hard way after an alluded to hospital stay. Why is Stella having such a hard time? Because she is a transgirl living in a tiny, religious town. Stella was the high point for me and I was extremely eager to read her chapters, to see more of her evolution. Meanwhile, we also have Londoner Dylan befriending Stella and trying to woo her mother. His arc started with emotion and steam, but fizzled out almost immediately. The only time his arc picked up interest was when he discovered his dark family secret, which I would have loved to have seen more fully explored.

While this reminds me a bit of A Sudden Light by Garth Stein mixed with The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, it doesn’t seem to come close to being as great as either. Still, The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Faber is a solidly written book, but does falter at living up to the synopsis. I would have preferred the apocalyptic nature of the extreme cold and snow had been shown as something extremely serious (like it was in “The Book of Strange New Things“) and/or that there be a greater focus on Stella’s development and maturing, as well as a more in-depth look at Dylan’s family secret and its impact.

Quotes & Excerpts

There is a slight impenetrability to absence.
Chapter 1

It’s all borrowed: bricks; bodies; breathing — it’s all on loan! Eighty years on the planet if you’re lucky; why do they say if you’re lucky? Eighty years and people trying to get permanent bits of stone before they go, as if permanence were a real thing. Everyone has been taken hostage. Bankers and big business are tyrannical demigods. Where is the comeback? There is no comeback because they own the people who have the guns who are there to keep the people (bankers and big business and governments) fucking safe and now they’re saying on the news it is too little, too late.
Chapter 1

I just wanted to tell you that holding your hand when you were a kid, watching The Wizard of Oz on the big screen in our pajamas, sitting on the back step eating our cheese sandwiches together or hanging out with Gunn, drinking gin — they were the very best minutes of my life. I could have traveled the world and nothing would have beat them. I’m sorry I didn’t teach you how to let the world in (other than in film) but I never figured out how to do it myself.
Chapter 8

Right down there in the darkest cells. Tiny dots of light!
Like little lanterns inside her veins.
Or glowworms curling to sleep. In the most secret part of her — a place where she will go and sip tea one day — and to get there she’ll have to go through the darkest parts of herself — between the pulsing aorta with its rivers of blood — to her heart, where there is a tiny little door to forever.
Chapter 16

Sometimes, in the quiet moments like this, she has to fight note to hate her body for threatening her with a baritone. She won’t do that, though, she won’t let herself hate it, because her body is a good one. It is strong. A girl is a girl is a girl.
Chapter 17

He feels bad for the dead and their secret squirrel routine.
Chapter 30

All those little lies, left unsaid, in families; all the things that then become unsayable.
The selfish dead fuck off and leave us with half-truths and questions and random relations and bankruptcy and debt and bad hearts and questionable genetics and stupid habits and DNA codes for diseases and they never mention all the things that are coming– like a fight at a wedding, it just breaks out one day.
Chapter 30

The Glittering World by Robert Levy

The Glittering World by Robert Levy


When up-and-coming chef Michael “Blue” Whitley returns with three friends to the remote Canadian community of his birth, it appears to be the perfect getaway from New York. He soon discovers, however, that everything he thought he knew about himself is a carefully orchestrated lie. Though he had no recollection of the event, as a young boy Blue and another child went missing for weeks in the idyllic, mysterious woods of Starling Cove. Soon thereafter, his mother suddenly fled with him to America, their homeland left behind.

But then Blue begins to remember. And once the shocking truth starts bleeding back into his life, his closest friends—Elisa, his former partner in crime; her stalwart husband, Jeremy; and Gabe, Blue’s young and admiring co-worker—must unravel the secrets of Starling Cove and the artists’ colony it once harbored. All four will face their troubled pasts, their most private demons, and a mysterious race of beings that inhabits the land, spoken of by the locals only as the Other Kind…

The Glittering World
Robert Levy
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication: February 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Locate: amazon | b&n | local libraries
Rated: ★½

The Glittering World by Robert Levy

If ever there was a time to not judge a book by its cover, this would be it. The title, along with the ethereal and dreamlike cover, give the impression that you are about to read a magical book about faerie world. You already have an idea about what the fae and faerie world will be like, whether you’re thinking of the Sidhe, or the Seelie/Unseelie courts, or maybe even more earthy fae types such as brownies, hobgoblins, red caps, etc. Well, throw all of that out the window and prepare for a new type of faerie tale.

The Glittering World by Robert Levy doesn’t so much as glitter as it does seep through the earth and into the very bloodstreams of the local inhabitants and across the pages to the reader as well. Slow to build, and heavy in long sentence structures overwrought with description, Levy’s heavily stylized writing detracts from the actual story. It was a struggle for the first third of the book to find actual interest in continuing. There was too much flourish and not enough substance and I found myself quickly glancing over the endless descriptions to uncover what it was that was happening.

What it was that was happening was an actually intriguing story. Blue, a rising star in the chef community, returning to Canada against the wishes of his mother, to claim and sell a home willed to him by his estranged grandmother. Along for the ride were Blue’s longtime friend and secret crush Elisa, her new husband Jeremy, and newcomer to the group, outsider Gabriel, with his own claim to Blue. Levy does a wonderful job fleshing out each of these characters and revealing their motivations through their interactions with one another and a series of flashbacks and memories. In fact, the way the entire story seems to revolve solely on their relationships and not on achieving a greater goal, this intimate quartet seems better suited for the theater than a novel.

There is a “greater goal,” though how great is up for debate. The quest for faerie land. It’s what drives the inhabitants of the town, and eventually drives Gabe and Elisa. And the faeries? Remember how I mentioned earlier to throw out any notions you may have had based off of previous stories or myths? Keep them gone as these faeries are more akin to giant praying mantes. They live in traditional underground mounds, and still cannot reproduce among themselves, requiring interspecies breeding with humans — that much is still reminiscent of the usual tales of the fae and changelings. However, after that, it’s a whole new world.

Once the action picks up about halfway to 2/3rds of the way in, the book is a quick finish. If you enjoy the weird and don’t mind overly descriptive writing, I’m sure you’ll love The Glittering World by Robert Levy. Personally, I finished the book feeling pretty meh about the whole thing.

Quotes & Excerpts

Elisa settled on her sit bones in the passenger seat.
– Chapter One
What an awkward way to phrase that…

Jason bopped his head and tapped his square, well-manicured nails against the steering column, emoting like the heir to Nat King Cole as he sang along to a big band tune on the radio. Gabe’s unfamiliarity with the song didn’t prevent him from humming his own form of accompaniment. Folded like a crab claw with his spearmint-green Pumas on the back of Elisa’s seat, he looked happy just to be along for the ride, busy doodling in his sketch pad with a black Sharpie, his writing hand scarred by a childhood burn.
– Chapter One
LONG descriptive sentences jammed together made this an exhausting read to get through. 

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A Sudden Light, by Garth Stein

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein


In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light
Garth Stein
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication: September 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, American Gothic
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Locate: amazon | b&n | worldcat
Rated: ★★★★★


Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman


Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He’s a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he’s still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.

Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real

The Magicians
Lev Grossman
Publisher: Plume
Publication: May 2010
Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, NA
Personally purchased title
Locate: amazon | b&n | worldcat
Rated: ★★★★½