Friday, February 23, 2018

Loved Journal from Tyndale Publishing, 2015

This beautiful journal offers a lovely space to record your thoughts, prayers, and dreams. Scattered throughout its pages are quotes from Women of Faith speakers and friends, plus encouraging Scriptures to inspire reflections and personal insights. Lined pages make it easy to pen daily blessings, answers to prayer, or love letters to the One who loves you best.
(224 pages)

I have way too many journals. I always seem to get them as presents or pick them up at garage sales and the like, but my average rate of actually filling a journal has been about one per three years. I've already got my next two diaries, and I'm only halfway through the one I'm on now!

So why did I choose to get the Loved journal, you ask? Simple: because it was free. And because I thought it looked cool. It's got this great faux leather vibe to it that I wanted to check out.

Anyway, this is a pretty journal that's about the size of a hardback novel, and has some nice inspirational quotes on the tops/bottoms of some of the pages without sucking up too much of the actual writing space. I brought it on holiday with me over the winter break and my siblings and I scribbled down elaborate shopping lists in it and competed in tic-tac-toe championships (and I may or may not have ripped pages out of the back when we needed paper *cringe*). Not exactly the intended use of the journal, I know, but it certainly came in handy.

My main issue with the Loved journal, however, is that after just a few weeks of fairly heavy use the faux-leather was beginning to peel. It doesn't look nearly as nice now as it did out of the box. That may just be my fault for carelessly throwing it in my backpack a time or two, but I don't think that a journal meant to record your private thoughts and be stored for years should start to go bad that early (if at all).

It's too bad, because I do like journals, but I'm afraid I have to recommend you give this one a pass.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this journal through the MyReader Rewards Club.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon, 2015

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on Goodreads 
From the writer of Confessions of A Teenage Drama Queen and My Worst Best Friend comes this hugely entertaining teen read about falling for the wrong person. The first time Josh sets eyes on Jena he's hooked. He can't stop thinking about her; looking for her wherever he is; hoping to turn a corner and find her there. The problem is she's completely out of his league as his friends never tire of telling him, so Josh decides he will settle on simply being Jena's friend. But the more time he spends with her the more infatuated he becomes, despite the fact Jena only turns to him when she's had a fight with her on-again off-again boyfriend. Finally realizing he can't go on pretending he only wants to be her friend, Josh vows to tell Jena how he feels on Valentine's Day.
(288 pages)

Meh. Too many love triangles/squares for my taste. Sometimes I really love unrequited love stories, when they're well done, but here they're just cringeworthy and pretty dumb. I wanted to reach into the book and smack Josh for being such an idiot: he let Jena constantly take advantage of him, and treated his own friends like dirt in order to be a "good friend" too her (with secret aspirations for more). I don't really like the idea of becoming a girl's best friend to try to become her boyfriend, while letting her think you aren't romantically interested in her, because it just seems emotionally manipulative and dishonest.

I mean, it's one thing to be good friends while keeping the possibility of becoming more someday in the back of your brain; but Josh very explicitly decides that he wants to be romantically tied to Jena, but repeatedly lets her believe otherwise when she brings that very topic up. That's when I think it crosses the line and becomes stupid and unfair.

The characters were fairly well-written, though rather one-dimensional at times (each person basically had one or two traits/interests that defined who they were in the story), and there were a few too many of them–I wound up getting some of the more minor friends confused.

The language is also not ideal; I can't remember specifically what words were used (since I don't have my copy of the book here with me at uni), but I do know that I noticed it was bad in parts. That's not a huge deal for older readers, and it's realistic because the characters are in high school, but that's something to keep in mind for younger readers.

All in all, I was kept entertained by Just Friends but I wasn't wowed by it–rather, I was very frustrated/embarrassed for the characters in parts. I don't really recommend it highly, but I won't actively warn you off it either if you still think it sounds interesting. If you do decide to read it, let us know in the comments what you think of it!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher through a LibraryThing giveaway.

Friday, February 9, 2018

R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa B Sheinmel, 2017

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on Goodreads 
When Eliza Hart, the most popular girl at Ventana Ranch boarding school, is found dead on the cliffs outside her dormitory, Ellie Sokoloff is determined to figure out what happened to her. After all, Eliza was Ellie’s childhood best friend.

Never mind that ever since Ellie arrived at school Eliza has spread terrible rumors about her, calling her a liar and a stalker, when all Ellie wanted to do was rekindle their old friendship. Or that Ellie’s claustrophobia limits where she can go and what she can do. Or that Ellie’s suitemate, Sam, is the only one who will help her . . . because to everyone else, Ellie looks like the top suspect.

Can Ellie clear her name and solve the mystery behind Eliza’s death? Her hunt for the truth will uncover secrets she never imagined, sending her deep into her own memories of her childhood with Eliza Hart.

New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel delivers a gripping mystery and a sensitive and moving examination of the secrets that can hold us back—and even destroy us.

(336 pages)


Oof.

I have definitely read more than my share of murder mysteries over the years, many of which had very gruesome deaths and terrible motives, but few if any of those books can match the sheer misery in R.I.P. Eliza Hart.

That's not to say that it's a miserable book to read - on the contrary, Ellie and Sam (who is a guy, by the way) share a sardonic sense of humor that keeps the book from becoming unbearably depressing. But at the same time, Sheinmel creates a suspenseful and gripping story which doesn't pull any punches.

It starts out straightforward enough, with the interestingly flawed protagonist (Ellie) trying to solve the sudden death of a classmate (Eliza) and clear her name from suspicion, but as the story goes on we learn more and more about the dark parts of Eliza's life that she had worked so hard to bury deep away from everyone. Eliza's tale takes many twists and turns, which I really wish I could discuss but won't because I don't want to spoil them. Suffice it to say that this is where the book jumps off the track of most other murder mysteries, and I believe it's better for it.

I can't even pretend to be qualified enough to know whether Sheinmel's handling of mental health was good or not, but from what I could tell it seemed very sympathetic and believable. I did think that her handling of suicide (which many suspected Ellie to have committed) was almost a little too sympathetic, though: I hope that no one actually struggling with suicidal thoughts reads R.I.P. Eliza Hart.

For the rest of us, though, it's a gripping and thoughtful read about life, death, and hiding yourself in plain sight. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in it.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.