Review: The Project

Title: The Project
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Review:

Lo Denham’s parents died in a car crash that left her with a large scar on her face. Her aunt took care of her after her older sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project. The Unity Project is a group known for their charity work and community outreach. Lo hasn’t spoken to her sister in six years, and she is sure that The Unity Project is a cult. When her boss’s friend claims that The Unity Project killed his son who jumped in front of a train in front of Lo, she knows she has to investigate The Project. Her research leads her right to the founder Lev Warren, who makes Lo question her own beliefs.

This story had dual narratives. Lo told her first person perspective, which alternated with a third person narrative about Bea and her years in the cult when she didn’t speak to her sister. The two sisters had been through a lot together, with losing their parents and Lo having a life altering injury from the car crash. However, Lev was able to convince Bea that the cult would be better for her than her sister.

Lev and The Unity Project were very convincing. There were accusations of abuse within the group, which prompted Lo to investigate The Project and find her sister. Lo was slowly drawn into the cult as well. The things they told her were quite convincing, but when you look at what they left out, they looked very suspicious. I could see the ending coming, but like other Courtney Summers’s books, it was heartbreaking.

This is a great, slow burn thriller.

Thank you Wednesday Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

The Grey Sisters by Jo Treggiari

Have you read The Project? What did you think of it?

First Lines Friday – March 5

This is a weekly meme hosted by Wandering Words, where you give the first few lines of a book to hook your readers before introducing the book.

Here are my first lines:

“I don’t care what any of the assholes I live with tell you. I don’t work at a bodega. It’s a health food store.”

Do you recognize these first lines?

And the book is… Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi.

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Goodreads synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Emergency Contact, which Rainbow Rowell called “smart and funny,” comes an unforgettable new romance about how social media influences relationships every day.

On paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. His graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn is a struggle. Plus, he’s up to his eyeballs in credit card debt. Never mind the state of his student loans.

Pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. The brand is unstoppable. She graduated from child stardom to become an international icon and her adult life is a queasy blur of private planes, step-and-repeats, aspirational hotel rooms, and strangers screaming for her just to notice them.

When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.

Check out my review of Permanent Record here.

Have you read Permanent Record? What did you think of it?

Review: The Memory Thief (Thirteen Witches #1)

Title: The Memory Thief (Thirteen Witches #1)
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Publisher: Aladdin
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, this fantastical and heartfelt first book in a new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson follows a girl who must defeat thirteen evil witches.

Twelve-year-old Rosie Singer’s mom is missing whatever it is that makes mothers love their daughters. All her life, Rosie has known this…and turned to stories for comfort. Then, on the night Rosie decides to throw her stories away forever, an invisible ally helps her discover the Witch Hunter’s Guide to the Universe, a book that claims that all of the evil in the world stems from thirteen witches who are unseen…but also unstoppable. One of these witches—the Memory Thief—holds an insidious power to steal our most precious treasures: our memories. And it is this witch who has cursed Rosie’s mother. 

In her quest to save her mom—and with her wild, loyal friend “Germ” by her side—Rosie will find the layers hidden under the reality she only thought she knew: where ghosts linger as shades of the past, where clouds witness the world, and a ladder dangles from the moon leading to something bigger and more. Here, words are weapons against the darkness, and witch hunters are those brave enough to wield their imaginations in the face of the unthinkable. 

At the core of this stunning novel—the first of the Thirteen Witches trilogy from critically acclaimed author Jodi Lynn Anderson—is a passionate argument that stories have the power to create meaningful change…and a reason to hope even when the world feels crushing.

Review:

Twelve-year-old Rosie Oakes has always made up stories to comfort herself. She lives with her mom, but her mom has never been like other moms. She can’t seem to hold on to any of her memories. One night, Rosie wakes up to find ghosts in her house. The ghosts show her a book that holds her mother’s secret history as a witch hunter. The witch called The Memory Thief cursed Rosie’s mother after Rosie was born. Rosie, along with her best friend Germ, have to hunt down the witch to get her mother’s memories back.

This was a fun paranormal story. My favourite books in middle school were about ghosts, so I loved this one. Rosie was a strong character who practically had to raise herself since her mother wasn’t present in her life. She was brave since she insisted in hunting down the witch who had cursed her mother. I love reading about brave, determined young girls like Rosie.

There were some subtle plot lines that were woven throughout the story. The prologue shows the night that Rosie was born, which ended up being important to the end of the story. There were also lots of references and similarities to Harry Potter, which I also love in a book. Despite the problems with the Harry Potter world, I find the references comforting and they connect me to the story.

This was a fun first book in the Thirteen Witches trilogy!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. by David Levithan

The Wide Starlight by Nicole Lesperance

Have you read The Memory Thief? What did you think of it?

TBR Thursday – March 4

TBR Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly Faye Reads, where you post a title from your shelf or e-reader and find out what others think about it.

My pick this week is Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard. 
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though. 

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter. 

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Review: Gutter Child

Title: Gutter Child
Author: Jael Richardson
Genre: Fiction, Dystopian
Publisher: HarperAvenue
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 26, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A fierce and illuminating debut from FOLD founder Jael Richardson about a young woman who must find the courage to determine her own future and secure her freedom

Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government.

But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. Elimina is sent to an academy with new rules and expectations where she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way through the Gutter System in whatever ways they know how. When Elimina’s life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all.

Richardson’s Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all too recognizable reality who must find the strength within herself to forge her future and defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.

Review:

The nation is divided into the wealthy Mainland and the policed Gutter. Elimina was taken from her mother in the Gutter and raised in the Mainland. She didn’t get to live a privileged life because her adopted mom was always protecting her from the prejudices of the Mainland. After her mother dies, Elimina is sent to an Academy where she will be trained for a life of servitude. Elimina was raised on the Mainland so she doesn’t fit in with the other Gutter children in the Academy, which is further enforced when she gets put in a position of power in the school. Then, Elimina’s life takes an unexpected turn that leads her back to the Gutter. She must find the strength to keep going and stand up to the injustices that she faces.

This was a coming of age story set in a dystopian that has roots in history. Elimina had a youthful innocence when she arrived at the Academy. She hadn’t had much experience with people from the Gutter, even though that was where she was born. She is suddenly forced to grow up after her mom dies and she meets friends with horrific backgrounds. The story takes place over a couple of years, but Elimina has to become an adult during those years.

This story had strong themes of systematic racism and slavery. The children were purchased by employers and had to work off their debt to society to earn their freedom. However, most people didn’t ever earn that freedom no matter how hard they worked. Elimina was right between the Gutter and the Mainland since she grew up on the Mainland but was born in the Gutter. She had experience in the Mainland but she didn’t know much about the Gutter despite being born there. Elimina was in a unique position to bridge the gap between the two societies.

Many parts of this story were difficult to read. Some possible content triggers are racism, abuse, rape, death in childbirth, and suicide. Though these are difficult things to read about, they are part of the history of racism that this story was about. It’s important to read stories like this to learn how to change in the future.

This is a beautiful debut from Jael Richardson, the founder of the Festival of Literary Diversity!

Thank you HarperCollins Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc

Have you read Gutter Child? What did you think of it?

‘Waiting on’ Wednesday – March 3

This is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. In this post we highlight a book that’s highly anticipated.

The book that I’m waiting on this Wednesday is Bruised by Tanya Boteju. The expected publication date is March 23, 2021.

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Goodreads Synopsis:

To Daya Wijesinghe, a bruise is a mixture of comfort and control. Since her parents died in an accident she survived, bruises have become a way to keep her pain on the surface of her skin so she doesn’t need to deal with the ache deep in her heart.

So when chance and circumstances bring her to a roller derby bout, Daya is hooked. Yes, the rules are confusing and the sport seems to require the kind of teamwork and human interaction Daya generally avoids. But the opportunities to bruise are countless, and Daya realizes that if she’s going to keep her emotional pain at bay, she’ll need all the opportunities she can get.

The deeper Daya immerses herself into the world of roller derby, though, the more she realizes it’s not the simple physical pain-fest she was hoping for. Her rough-and-tumble teammates and their fans push her limits in ways she never imagined, bringing Daya to big truths about love, loss, strength, and healing.

What books are you waiting on this week?

Review: Red School (Part 2)

Title: Red School (Part 2)
Author: Victoria Aveyard, Soman Chainani, Joel Gennari (illustrator)
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: N/A
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: December 2, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Fantasy titans Victoria Aveyard and Soman Chainani team up in a two-part graphic novel event! Featuring your favourite characters from ‘Red Queen’ and ‘The School for Good and Evil’ series.

Review:

The characters from Red Queen and the School for Good and Evil are still fighting a plague at the school. Mare, Maven, Cal, Agatha, Sophie, and Tedros must find a way to get to the School Master’s Tower and get the magical Storian pen to stop the virus that is infecting everyone at the school.

This was a great conclusion to the Red School graphic novels. There were some more cameos of characters from the novels that appeared at the heart of the problem. I would recommend reading at least the first book of the Red Queen series and The School for Good and Evil series before reading this one because the action begins right away without much of an introduction to the characters.

These comics were such a fun collaboration. It was exciting to see characters from two great series come together in this short adventure.

I hope there are more collaborations between these characters or other series in the future.

What to read next:

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Other books in the series:

Have you read Red School (Part 2)? What did you think of it?

Top Ten Tuesday – Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and it is now hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had. Here’s my list:

1. Lady Whistledown – Gossip Columnist

2. Elizabeth – Novelist

3. Ryn – Gravedigger

4. Annika – App Developer

5. Jace – Shadowhunter

6. Melody – Video Game Producer

7. Emily – Ren Faire Actress

8. Whitney – Reality Star

9. Beatrice – Queen

10. Coco – Fashion Designer

(All book covers from Goodreads)

What’s your list of books on your Top Ten Tuesday?

Happy Pub Day – March 2

Happy Pub Day to all of these new books!

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Memory Thief by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi

The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme

Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab

Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare

Covet by Tracy Wolff

Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera

Phoenix Flame by Sara Holland

The Bridge and the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski

The Queen’s Secret by Melissa de la Cruz

Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira

The Lake by Natasha Preston

Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi

The Castle School (for Troubled Girls) by Alyssa Sheinmel

I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre

What books are you most excited for this week?

Blog Tour Review: The Lost Apothecary

Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Park Row
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

Review:

In 1791, Nella is a secret apothecary who dispenses poisons to her female customers. She had two rules: the poison can never be used against a women and she must record all transactions in her record book. One day, her customer is a young girl named Eliza. She visits the apothecary to get a poison for her mistress to administer to her husband who has suddenly taken an interest in Eliza. This meeting creates an unlikely friendship and threatens to destroy Nella’s entire life’s work. In present day London, Caroline is on her ten year anniversary vacation by herself. She discovered her husband’s affair right before leaving, so she decided to take the vacation alone to have time to think. Caroline goes searching on the banks of the Thames for hidden treasures, and finds a mysterious vial. She takes it upon herself to research the history of the vial, and discovers the two hundred year old mystery of the apothecary murders.

This was such an amazing debut! It was fast paced and I couldn’t put it down. The narrative alternated between Eliza and Nella in 1791 and Caroline in the present. The two stories slowly unraveled together. All of the narratives had exciting cliffhangers that made it almost impossible to stop reading. I usually have a favourite narrative in a story with dual storylines but each of these women’s stories were so exciting, I can’t choose a favourite.

London was an important setting in the story. The two time periods had very different versions of London but they were both connected to the apothecary. Caroline had to use historical maps to figure out where the apothecary would have been in today’s London. Even though the city has been bustling since the time of Nella’s apothecary shop, the secret behind the shop had reminded hidden within London.

This was such a great story! I highly recommend it!

Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

About the author:

Sarah Penner is the debut author of The Lost Apothecary, to be translated in eleven languages worldwide. She works full-time in finance and is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida, with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. To learn more, visit slpenner.com.

Have you read The Lost Apothecary? What did you think of it?