Review: The Unraveling on Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan

Cassidy Holmes was “Sassy Gloss”, the fourth member of one of the hottest pop groups in America. Gloss was the pop act that everyone wanted to be. Fans couldn’t get enough of them, their music, and even the drama that followed them. Then the group imploded in 2002, at the height of their fame. Cassidy was apparently to blame. Now Cassidy is dead by suicide.

The world is shocked as are her former bandmates. Rose, Merry, and Yumi, the three other members of Gloss, each had a special bond with Cassidy. However, after the band’s separation, no one really spoke to Cassidy. She had closed herself off from the entertainment industry and everything that made her “Sassy Gloss”. Now after years apart, her former bandmates are wondering if there was something they could have done.

REVIEW

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes discusses several sensitive topics. Such topics discussed include: suicide, physical assault, rape, eating disorders, stalking and harassment, implied drug use, and implied grooming of a minor. If any of these topics make you uncomfortable or upset, I don’t recommend this book for you.

This was my Book of the Month selection for August. I overall really enjoyed this book, it took me a little longer to get through mainly because of the heavy topics involved. I liked that it was an honest look at what these girls would have gone through in the entertainment industry. We jump back and forth in time. Cassidy narrates the past, about the rise and fall of Gloss, while Yumi, Merry, and Rose narrate the present. I think the way that the book tackles mental health is incredibly well done.

It is not an easy read at all due to the topics discussed, but I think if you are comfortable reading about them you should definitely check out The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes.

RATING: 8/10

Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

A decade ago, five teenagers defeated the evil enemy known as The Dark One. The Dark One caused widespread death and destruction. These five teenagers were brought together by the government because they fit the perimeters to be “The Chosen One” laid out in a prophecy on the defeat of the Dark One.

Ten years later, the world has moved on and The Chosen Ones have become celebrities. Sloan hates every minute of it, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She can’t move on, The Dark One haunts her thoughts. She feels listless. Shortly after the dedication of a monument to the fallen lives, the Chosen Ones experience another devastating loss. As they gather for a funeral, they discover that the Dark One might not really be gone.

REVIEW

This is Veronica Roth’s first adult fiction novel after a string of young adult hits, such as the Divergent Series. Ugh this book, I need to stop giving Veronica Roth chances. I ended up completely hating the Divergent series, but I thought the synopsis of this book sounded interesting. I thought it was going to deal more with the aftermath and the trauma in these peoples’ lives. About 100 pages in there is a big reveal that thrusts them into a new conflict, and everything that was interesting just disappears.

It’s called Chosen Ones but you really only get to know Sloan. I didn’t like her as a character, all her decisions are incredibly selfish, and she is just frustrating. It annoyed me how little we got to know the other “chosen ones”. You only really ever go inside Sloan’s mind, so the other “chosen ones” feel like virtual strangers. In a weird decision, one of the “chosen ones” does not join the other three on their new adventure. So you don’t get to know her at all. I ended up hate reading this book, just powering through so I could finish it.

If you like Veronica Roth, you might enjoy this book. However, if you’ve had problems with her books before, I think you can skip this one.

RATING: 3/10

Review: From Blood & Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Maiden is chosen at birth, they must live a life of solitude, never to be touched, can’t be looked upon, and never to be spoken to. An entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, yet she isn’t quite sure what she wants. Right now she would like to be able to enjoy life, and fight back against the evil that took her parents life.

Then she meets Hawke, a gorgeous guard who becomes honor bound to ensure her safety until the day of her Ascension. They have an instant connection, and he makes her feel things she shouldn’t feel as the Maiden. As this test of her faith is happening, Poppy also finds herself caught in the middle of a fallen kingdom trying to rise again.

REVIEW

I knew nothing about this book, but kept getting it recommended to me because of how much I like Sarah J. Maas’ books. I ended up completely loving From Blood and Ash, and finished it in 24 hours. (It also helped that my area got hit by a tropical storm, so I had lost power and I had no other distractions.) Poppy and Hawke have such great chemistry, and I love the world that Jennifer L. Armentrout built in this novel. I also enjoyed the slow trickle of information, you find out things as Poppy does. Poppy has a lot in common with many young adult fantasy heroines, but I really enjoyed the exploration of her sexuality. That often isn’t seen or maybe done off-screen in other novels, but fully explored in From Blood and Ash. I did figure out the one major twist beforehand, but it didn’t hinder the book for me at all.

I recommend this book if you love fantasy and romance. It definitely checks off both those boxes. I can’t wait for the sequel which comes out September 1st!

RATING: 9/10

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Alex Claremont-Diaz makes up one third of the millennial marketing strategy called the White House Trio, and his mother just happens to be the first female President Ellen Claremont. They have become a fixture in society, and one duty is to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince Phillip. One downside of being a member of the White House Trio is that your every move is photographed, so when photos surface of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis, Prince Henry, at the wedding it becomes a threat to American/British relations.

So the White House PR team has a plan, stage a fake friendship between Henry and Alex. Alex has enough to worry about, with finishing his last semester of college, his mother’s re-election campaign, and his own political ambitions, he doesn’t have time to waste playing pretend with Prince Henry. However, as Alex gets to know Henry he realizes first impressions aren’t what they seem. Alex soon finds himself falling for the Prince. They soon begin a secret relationship that could derail his mother’s campaign and disrupt the British monarchy. Meanwhile, Henry is worried if Alex is worth all the trouble their relationship could bring.

REVIEW

Red, White, & Royal Blue was such a fun and entertaining novel. It’s an easy and romantic read that was perfect after reading a bunch of dark, suspenseful books. It’s filled with a cast of characters that make the book come alive. The White House Trio (made up of Alex, his sister June, and the Vice President’s daughter Nora) are all so well developed, that as you’re reading you want to become a part of their trio. It was really empowering as well, with Alex and Henry discovering themselves and what is worth fighting for in their lives.

I was sold on this book the moment that Alex and Henry bonded over Star Wars, since I’m still just a Leia looking for her Han. It was sweet, relatable, empowering, and somewhat stressful, but you can’t go wrong with this romance.

RATING: 10/10

Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her parents moved into Baneberry Hall, a huge Victorian estate located in remote Vermont. Baneberry came with its own dark history before her family ever arrived. They spent three weeks there, before fleeing in the dead of night. Maggie’s father decided to recount their terrifying ordeal in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. It became an instant best seller, and proceeded to follow Maggie for the rest of her life. Maggie doesn’t remember any of the events in House of Horrors being that she was only five at the time. She also doesn’t believe that any of it actually happened, because obviously ghosts aren’t real. So when she inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she makes the decision to remodel and sell the house, but not before she learns its secrets and discovers the truth for herself.

REVIEW

This is my second Riley Sager novel. I read Final Girls last year around Halloween, which was perfect for that time of year. When I saw that Home Before Dark was available as a choice for Book of the Month, I picked it right away. I love haunted house stories, and I love how meticulously planned out all the details are in Riley Sager’s novels. There are a bunch of big discoveries, like any true horror novel, and I only saw one of them coming which is pretty great.

Maggie is a great narrator, she’s smart and her story is compelling. The chapters from her father’s book alternate with the current storyline which helps to add context Maggie’s discoveries and amp up the drama. I don’t want to give too many details away, since I think with books like Home Before Dark the less you know the better.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, it’s entertaining and definitely a great book if you are looking to get into the Halloween spirit.

RATING: 8/10

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic and confusing letter from her newly married cousin, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a large Victorian mansion in the Mexican countryside. Her cousin’s new husband is a virtual stranger and outsider, after a rushed courtship and marriage. Noemí is an unlikely candidate for rescuer, she’s glamorous, with a calendar filled with cocktail parties. Underneath that appearance though, she is tough, smart and isn’t afraid of her cousin’s in-laws no matter how odd they seem. Her only ally is the younger brother to her cousin’s husband. He is shy and often intimidated by Noemí, but he’s her only chance at figuring out what is wrong with her cousin and escaping High Place.

REVIEW

This was my Book of the Month selection for July and it did not disappoint. I have never read anything by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (though I’ve heard great things about Gods of Jade and Shadow and its on my to-read list). I was constantly trying to figure out what was going on, and what weird thing the family was into and I was still surprised in the end. It had everything you love about the gothic horror genre. The gradual rise of dread throughout the novel is perfect. The dread actually never ends, and there is an ambiguity to the ending that is haunting. It makes the novel really stick with you. Mexican Gothic also touches on racial, class, and labor inequality. The author hits all the Gothic tropes, but they are in a different viewpoint which makes it work so well.

It’s the perfect novel if love Gothic horror, or you are looking to get into some spooky Halloween vibes.

RATING: 9/10

Review: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, this is a version of the Bennet family that you may be familiar with. Liz is a magazine writer, who like her yoga instructor sister Jane, live in New York City. After their father suffers a health scare, they return to Cincinnati and their childhood home. Upon arrival they discover their childhood home is crumbling, and the family is on the verge of financial ruin. Despite this, Mrs. Bennet’s chief concern: how to marry off her daughter, especially as Jane’s 40th birthday is rapidly approaching. By pure chance Chip Bingley, a handsome doctor, has recently moved to Cincinnati. At a party, Chip immediately notices Jane, but Chip’s friend, a neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, butts heads with Liz. However, we all know that first impressions can be deceiving.

REVIEW

Pride and Prejudice is my absolute favorite, so I will always give an adaptation or retelling a chance. This was a part of The Austin Project, which enlisted best-selling authors to “modernize” Jane Austen’s beloved novels.

For me, it did take a little bit to get going, but once everything was established and the world had been built I had been sucked in. The author truly captured the feel of every character, and even though I knew the plot points that would be coming, I still couldn’t stop turning the page. The pace is breezy which is perfect. I did grow truly frustrated with Mrs. Bennet. I didn’t agree with the decision to make her into a homophobic, racist and anti-Semite person. Mrs. Bennet is a snob there is no doubt about that, but it made her unbearable.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. I don’t think its a necessary book really because to me Pride and Prejudice is perfect and doesn’t need to be modernized. However, if you love Jane Austin you should definitely check it out.

RATING: 6/10

Now I’m going to go reread Pride and Prejudice for the millionth time!