Book Review + Giveaway: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

9781492647553-PRTitle: Secrets of Southern Girls

Author: Haley Harrigan

Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Contemporary

Page Number (Paperback): 320

Date Published: June 6th of 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Synopsis:

In this powerful, affecting debut, a young woman uncovers devastating secrets about the friend she thinks she killed

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 of 5)

I want to thank the publisher for making it possible for me to have an access to the book in exchange for an honest review, via Netgalley. Additionally, this giveaway is in partnership with the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark. 🙂

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I would keep this review short and to the point. But first, look at that cover and tell me you agree with me–it’s gorgeous! I feel like it ultimately packages the story of the book very well. I got an e-copy of this book through Netgalley and I remember requesting it because of the beautiful cover (it was a different cover). But might I just say, the cover improvement is stellar.

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Book Review: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

18383325Title: The Most Magnificent Thing

Author: Ashley Spires

Genre: Children’s, Short Stories, Picture Books

Number of Pages (Hardcover): 32

Date Published: April 1st of 2014

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Synopsis*:

Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!? But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.

For the early grades’ exploration of character education, this funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl’s frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it’s okay to make mistakes. The clever use of verbs in groups of threes is both fun and functional, offering opportunities for wonderful vocabulary enrichment. The girl doesn’t just make her magnificent thing — “she tinkers and hammers and measures, she smoothes and wrenches and fiddles, she twists and tweaks and fastens.” These precise action words are likely to fire up the imaginations of youngsters eager to create their own inventions and is a great tie-in to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I want to thank the publisher for making it possible for me to have an access to the book in exchange for an honest review, via Netgalley.

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I have a weakness for all things children and illustrated and I thought this was so cute! I greatly admired the artwork here, especially because the author did them–talk about multi-talented!

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REVIEW // Mer by Joelle Sellner

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33825562Title: Mer

Author: Joelle Sellner

Genre: Graphic Novel (Comics), Fantasy, Young Adult

Date Published: April 19th of 2017

Publisher: Diamond Book Distributors

Number of Pages: 128

Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Twilight meets the legend of Atlantis in this gripping graphic novel from writer Joelle Sellner and artist Abby Boeh. After the death of her beloved mother, Aryn’s father has moved her family to a new town hoping for a fresh start. At first things seem to be going well—Aryn is making friends and has even caught the eye of one of the hottest guys in school. But there are dark forces moving under the surface that Aryn cannot see; and her new crush may not be … human.

Rate: 3 of 5



Thoughts bannerAs a reader, I haven’t really been exposed to much graphic novels that I really am not sure where to classify such type of books, ergo, I all flag them down as “comics”. Which is really weird. So, please, forgive me if iI flag a graphic novel as “comics” the next time–I’m still wading my way in through the genre. 🙂

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Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Pottermore Presents, #2) by J.K. Rowling

31538614Title: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists

Author: J.K. Rowling

Illustrator: MinaLima

Series: Pottermore Presents, #2

Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories, Young Adult

Number of Pages (eBook): 71

Date Published: September 6th of 2016

Publisher: Pottermore Limited

Synopsis (via Goodreads):

No Muggle Prime Minister has ever set foot in the Ministry of Magic, for reasons most succinctly summed up by ex-Minister Dugald McPhail (term of office 1858-1865): “their puir wee braines couldnae cope wi’ it.”’ – J.K. Rowling

Pottermore Presents is a collection of J.K. Rowling’s writing: short reads originally featured on pottermore.com with some exclusive new additions. These eBooks, with writing curated by Pottermore, will take you beyond the Harry Potter stories as J.K. Rowling reveals her inspiration, intricate details of characters’ lives and surprises from the wizarding world.

These stories of power, politics and pesky poltergeists give you a glimpse into the darker side of the wizarding world, revealing the ruthless roots of Professor Umbridge, the lowdown on the Ministers for Magic and the history of the wizarding prison Azkaban. You will also delve deeper into Horace Slughorn’s early years as Potions master at Hogwarts – and his acquaintance with one Tom Marvolo Riddle.

Rate: 3 of 5



Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists includes the background of well-known characters such as Dolores Umbridge, Quirinus Quirrell, etc. and includes a glimpse on the name inspirations behind them. Peeves’ story is thrown in somewhere there. I finished this in one sitting because it is just a compilation of short stories–it’s the perfect book to sit down with a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies!

Now, this is a rare occurrence, i.e. I don’t really have anything significant to say about this. It’s a solid it’s okay. It’s a work of Rowling, so in that aspect I can see the excellent writing and such but I guess I didn’t really particularly cared for the characters (or some magical things) discussed together with their background stories. I mean, sure, a chapter on Umbridge is nice but I mean, I don’t really care. I would be sugarcoating this if I didn’t say that I just picked this up for the sheer want of getting immersed again to the wizarding world. I desperately wanted to redeem my thoughts on Harry Potter ever since I read Cursed Child. (Read my review here: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (HP #8) by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne) Perhaps, I need to reread the Harry Potter series again? 😛

On the other hand, the chapter on the Ministers for Magic was particularly fun. I liked how the composition of the Ministers across time has been so diverse. Some of the stories were also hilarious.

I was particularly looking forward to the chapter on Peeves but I was extremely disappointed because there was hardly any information about him. Of all the stories in this book, I was so excited for Peeves only to be let down. 😦 It feels like his chapter was just a filler chapter.

Of the three Pottermore Presents series, this is my least favorite because I seem to be having the impression that the short stories were just thrown in together whereas I was looking for some kind of cohesiveness. However, for the Harry Potter fan, you should definitely read this!

But wait, wait, wait. Don’t go yet. Is it just me that missed that that blasted quill thing of Umbridge’s was really her invention?! LIKE WHAT HOW DID I MISS THAT.

Do I recommend it? Yup
Be my friend on Goodreads!


*Cover image and Synopsis via Goodreads.

A Really Awesome Mess by Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook

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Title: A Really Awesome Mess

Authors: Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Number of Pages (eBook): 288 pages

Date Published: July 23rd of 2013

Publisher: Egmont USA

Synopsis (via GoodReads page here): 

A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

Rate: 3 of 5

*Get a copy from The Book Depository*


I don’t know what the deal about this book is but it seems as if many hated it. But strangely, I didn’t hate it. It was okay. Not bad, but also not something that blew my mind away, you know. Just the weird grey space between “Ooooh, this is amazing.” and “Oh my god. This. Is. The. Worst.” The 1-star ratings in GoodReads just made me want to read it more so that I would know what the deal with this is. I still don’t understand the hate. Okay, I do. A little.

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I LOVED the fact that the main character is a Chinese girl. It’s not everyday that I read a book with a main character that’s non-White. The angle of her character seems very interesting, too, I must say. A Chinese-born adopted by an American couple who grew up to doubt the love her adoptive parents got her? Uhm, yes please. But I do hope they played on the drama of her being adopted more because I was really into that side of the story.

Also, I think it could have been better if the authors played more on the little clique that they had (with  Diana, Jenny, Tracy and Chip) instead of just Justin and Emmy. Emmy’s story was interesting…Justin’s was too generic. (OH MY GOD DON’T HATE ME) The various emotional issues of the supporting characters were really interesting. The angle on a school for therapy is really interesting, too. So, I’m really sorry that the authors decided to play more on the romance between the two main characters. I don’t know if I’m just single AF, but the lovey-dovey stuff made me want to retch a little. I’m not even kidding. Okay, I am kidding. A little.

Basically, there were so many good stuff to write about. The story. The characters. The interesting angles on the story. But they chose to write about the typical teen “romance”. Sure, sure. 

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3 of 5. Not remarkable, but not THAT bad either.

Do I recommend it? Meh.


*Cover photo and Synopsis via GoodReads; Gifs via Giphy.

Kima by A. H. Amin

32068901Title: Kima

Author: A.H. Amin

(Expected) Date of Publishing: December 1st of 2016

Publisher: Self-Published

Synopsis (via GoodReads page here): 

Christmas Eve 1928 gave birth to a yearly phenomenon in South Africa. A herd of false killer whales were found beached upon the shore. It has also given birth to the story of two young children who meet an old woman named Kima. Kima somehow knows why this has happened, but that’s not all she knows. The children, Alex and Alice, realize that there is more to this woman that what meets the eye, and ear. She will reveal to them a tale, a mysterious story she claims was passed on to her by a mythical Black Seagull.
Derived from both historic tales and figures, Kima is a fictional character portrayed in a way that makes her become real.

Rate: 3 of 5

*Get a copy from The Book Depository*

I had a love-hate relationship with this book. I loved the synopsis of the book and it got me intrigued on the subject of it. But I felt like, the synopsis was a tad bit lacking after I got around to reading the book. So, yeah. Why a love-hate relationship?

First off, I loved the fact that it was so easy to read. It is essentially just a novella so it’s a little shorter than a normal novel. Well…thus it is called novella. Hahaha.

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If you remember those cute little stories that children read before going to bed, I believe it was called “fables”. Yeah, that one. It was just like reading fables…but for adults. I’m not so sure as to how it worked, but it did.

Although, one qualm I had while going through the book was that in some circumstances, the shift between the animal and then the human kingdom were kind of confusing. The transition from one to the next was really important to the flow of the story so that leaving it out to an abrupt ending of one part and then starting another really left me disturbed. At times, I need to read back because I was sort of lost as to why I am in another one. That’s essentially it. I got lost in the transitioning between one part to the next.

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The nice touch of the story being around the time of 1928 was not really outlined well in the book so at times I forgot that the story was of times past. Which is really a shame because that could have given the story a new light.

Okay, the next thing I loved will be kinda a spoiler, so beware. As a Christian, I LOVED the flick of Jonah’s story in the plotline. Ahh. While I was actually reading I was like “Wait, did he actually include the story of Jonah in the book? OMG. He did! OMG, he did.” Haha. For some weird reason, I loved that little innuendo in there. It wasn’t really outright told that it was the story of Jonah but it was obvious enough to those who know his story. I’m pleased. Haha. 😛

I still have mixed feelings about the fact that this was inspired by real events. Like, it’s so surreal! And yes, I do know that in some places there were tweaks in the story. But like Stephen King said, “Fiction is a lie. And GOOD fiction is the truth inside the lie.” The story of Kima and the woman who inspired the story is really thought-provoking. A woman who can see into the future? Curiouser and curiouser.

I have often said it time and time again, I am a judgmental person when it comes to cover art. I gotta be honest, I was not a fan of the cover art. For me, this would be picked up by more people if the cover art was beautiful and thought provoking at the same time.

Lastly, this I gotta say, I feel this story would be better portrayed if it was made into a movie or a video production…I don’t know. Seems like it. Because of the poor fading in, fading out into the parts as I have said earlier. I have visualized it and it has so many of the characters that the Life of Pi, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc. have. I don’t know, I just really though of it and I was like, “Huh. Maybe that will work.” 😛

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I rated it 3 of 5 because as I have said, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I loved the characters and the story. Although, I did hate the times where I was confused as to the story flow. The ending did provide me with a sense of a closure to the story, which is good.

Favorite quote: 

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Do I recommend it? If you like fable-like stories, yes.

I want to thank the author, Ahmed H. Amin, for giving me the privilege to read the book in advance in exchange for an honest review! Watch out for this book, Kima, around December of 2016.

 

 


*Cover image and synopsis via GoodReads; Gifs via Giphy.

The House on Schellberg Street by Gill James

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Title: The House on Schellberg Street

Author: Gill James

Date Published: April 7th of 2014

Publisher: Crooked Cat Publishing

Synopsis (via the book’s GoodReads page here):

Renate Edler loves to visit her grandmother in the house on Schellberg Street. She often meets up with her friend Hani Gödde who lives nearby. This year, though, it is not to be. Renate finds out a terrible secret about her family. She has to leave behind her home and her friends and become somebody she never thought she could be. The house on Schellberg Street needs to stay strong.

Will it and those who work in it be strong enough? Will Renate ever feel at home again? And what of those left behind?


Rate: 3 of 5

*Get a copy from Book Depository**Get a copy from Book Depository*

My heart skipped a beat and I was excited that this is historical fiction. I am a lover of historical fiction through and through. Actually, this book is partly fictional and partly not. It wasn’t up until the end that I realized that this was based on the real house on Schellberg Street. That’s right, there really is a thing like that. And some of the characters are actually real.

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I absolutely delight on novels that touch the times past. Amongst my favorites of this kind is Memoirs of a Geisha and a Ben Singkol. (Oh, how I love F. Sionil Jose’s novels!) As with any book that I read, of course, I had high hopes for this one! Especially because it’s a genre which I actually enjoy. The last time I read something about the World War II era that’s based in Europe was when I was in highschool (Yikes, was it that long since?) It was The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

Reading even the first chapter of this book made me feel dreadful already. You can just the feel the horrible things that’s gonna happen. Like when you are watching a movie and you know something’s gonna happen so you don’t want to look but at the same time you also want to know what happens next. That’s what I felt. I must say, I was a little tense while reading this one.

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I both hated and loved the fact that in the beginning almost every new chapter brought about new characters. At some point I was actually kind of confused. It hadn’t been until the close to the end until it had been made quite clear the connections on the characters.

But, I must say that it is quite fascinating to finally read a book on WWII in the perspective of the Germans. Albeit they are young girls at the time, but Germans nonetheless. It makes you realize that not everyone is bad in this world.

One of my greatest qualms on the book is how I didn’t feel the sense of an ending. I didn’t feel the closure in there and it sort of left me hanging. The story is great, it’s interesting in it’s own right. But the ending felt too hurried. (Some people just need closure…#hugot)

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All the elements that would have made me really like this book were present: it was in the perspective of adolescent children and war era. It’s not exactly a “meh” read, but not something I would be eager to pick up and read all over again any time soon.

Do I recommend it? Yes. It’s a fairly good read so, yes.


*Thanks to NetGalley for giving me access to the book in exchange for an honest review.

**Cover photo and synopsis from GoodReads; Gifs from Giphy