[Review] THE GLASS HOTEL by Emily St. John Mandel, 4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: The Glass Hotel
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (March 24, 2020)
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

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Review

Vincent’s life is full of surprising twists. She is a product of a forbidden love, with her mom falling in love with a married man. In her early teens, her mom suddenly disappears, leaving everyone asking if she drowned or committed suicide. Moving forward in her mid-twenties, Vincent now works as a bartender in Hotel Caiette, and helps her problematic half-brother get a job there too. One night, she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a wealthy man more than twice her age, and a relationship blooms based on conditions and convenience. What she thought was an easy way through the kingdom of money ends in a fiasco impacting many sorrowful lives.

This literary fiction with a hint of paranormal keeps a slow pace. While telling the story in a non-chronological order is necessary for the suspense build-up to make sure the revelations come at the right time, this writing style proves to be confusing at times. A lot of things are happening and you need to look out on several characters, but the ending explains everything and is unexpectedly satisfying.

A feminist book with a diverse set of characters, The Glass Hotel is sure to capture the imagination in a gripping way. Trigger warnings include drug abuse, multiple deaths, cheating, sex, blood sugar problems, financial scam, depression, drowning, and suicide.

Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Alfred A. Knopf for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.⁣⁣ ⁣For more bookish content and honest reviews, check my sidebar: follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts.

[Blog Tour + Giveaway + Review] ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban, 5 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: All Your Twisted Secrets
Author: Diana Urban
Publisher: HarperTeen (March 17, 2020)
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense, Contemporary
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Book Depository | Kobo

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Blurb

This thrilling debut, reminiscent of new fan favorites like One of Us Is Lying and the beloved classics by Agatha Christie, will leave readers guessing until the explosive ending.

Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

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Excerpt

My pulse raced as I stared at the syringe of poison and the bomb atop the gleaming silver platter. Within the hour, you must choose someone in this room to die. If you don’t, everyone dies.

“That’s one sick prank,” said Robbie. “Who the hell would do this?” He grabbed the note from me, his eyes darting across the page. Diego leaned against the edge of the table, studying the bomb.

“Wait, wait, wait.” Sasha clutched her throat. “Does that mean . . . if we don’t kill one of us, that bomb will go off in an hour?”

Scott burst out laughing.

“What the hell is so funny?” asked Sasha.

He leaned back in his chair. “It’s obviously a joke, and you fell for it like an anvil.”

“Doesn’t seem very funny to me,” muttered Robbie.

“Who would do this?” Priya cried. “Who would think up something so awful?”

“Did anyone see who shut the door?” I asked. Priya and Scott shook their heads.

“No.” Diego slumped back into his seat. “I didn’t see anyone.”

“Me neither,” said Sasha. “I was too busy talking to that creep.” She motioned toward Scott, and he scoffed.

“Someone probably stood behind the door and pushed it closed,” said Diego.

Priya visibly shivered. “Does that mean someone was hiding behind the door the whole time?”

“And are they still out there?” My voice shook slightly.

Robbie slammed the note on the table and scooted his chair back with a screech, making me jump. “This is ridiculous.” He rounded his chair and pounded on the door. “Hey! Unlock the door!” His jaw tightened when nobody replied. “This isn’t funny. Unlock the door now!”

“Oh my God,” said Priya. Sasha took slow, deep breaths, trying to keep calm, but her eyes darted around the room frantically.

“Robbie.” I rushed toward him, grabbing his hand. “Calm down. It’s just some morbid joke. I’m sure they’ll get bored and let us out.”

He shook me off and knelt, peering with one eye into the large keyhole below the doorknob. “There’s no key.”

“I didn’t hear a lock click or anything,” Sasha added.

“It all happened so fast.” I touched the oak door, the wood cool under my palm, and turned back to the group. “Think they’re still out there?”

Robbie shrugged. “Who the hell knows?”

“Hello?” I called out. “Is anyone there?”

“This is bullshit.” Robbie kicked the door. “What kind of sick psycho would—”

“Shhh.” I waved him off and pressed my ear against the door, but all I could hear was Priya muttering, “Oh my God, oh my God,” over and over again. “Priya, shut up,” I said. She clamped her lips shut, her eyes glassy.

I pressed my ear against the door again, straining to hear something. A voice. Footsteps. Someone breathing. Anything. But all I could hear were the muffled baritones and strings from the orchestral music playing in the main dining room.

“Nothing?” asked Diego.

I shook my head and knelt, peeking through the keyhole. My heart raced as I held my breath. Years of watching horror movies had trained me to expect an eyeball to appear on the other side. My whole body tensed, ready to leap backward.

But all I could see was one of the red-cushioned booths across the main dining room. There was no movement of any kind. “There’s nobody there.” I stood and turned back to the group. “I don’t see anything.”

“Damn, it’s so hot in here.” Sasha touched the back of her hand to her forehead.

“It really is.” I wiped my upper lip and scanned the walls. “Crap. The thermostat must be out in the main dining room.”

“It’s gotten worse since we got here.” Priya tugged on her hair. “I just want to go home.”

I gasped and bit my lip. Home. I forgot to text Mom when Robbie and I got here. “Oh, no.” I grabbed my phone from the table and raised it toward the ceiling, but I had no signal whatsoever. Sasha tried the same thing, stretching toward the windows facing the alley.

“Nothing,” she confirmed. “I can’t get anything.”

“Crap, crap, crap.” My chest tightened like a vise squeezing my heart. What if something terrible did happen here tonight? What was the last thing I said to my mother as I ran out the door? Did I tell her I loved her? When was the last time I told my parents I loved them? A chill tore through me despite the room’s warmth, and I shook the morbid thought away. This was just a prank. It wasn’t real.

“Oh my God.” Sasha hunched over, hugging herself around the middle. “This can’t be happening.”

“So what do we do?” asked Robbie.

Sasha straightened and rubbed her forehead with trembling fingers. “I can’t believe this is happening. What if we’re really going to have to do this? What if they really make us kill one of us?”

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Review

Amber and five of her friends have been selected for the Brewster Town Hall Scholarship. They get invited to dine with the mayor to celebrate this achievement. What they’re hoping to be a night full of warm smiles and delicious food turns out to be a disaster. The mayor doesn’t show up and they get locked up in a private dining room with no reception at all. What’s worse is that they are the only guests for the evening and there’s no way to escape.

On the table are a poisoned syringe, a note, and a bomb that goes off in an hour. The note says they have to pick someone to kill with the syringe, or the bomb goes off and they all die. They assume that this is just a prank but can’t help but panic as the countdown goes. What if it’s real? Secrets are spilled and true colors are revealed. Can one life be measured by success and appearance? Who’s to say that one life is more worthy of saving than the rest?

This YA mystery is fast-paced and hard to put down. The writing is crafty as the story mostly deals with six people contained in one room. That is hard to pull off but the interaction is balanced and no one gets left behind. It starts with the present and then flashbacks. The past reconnects to the present, and the pattern continues. Each chapter is a revelation; the characters are well-written and their backgrounds are realistic. This Breakfast Club/Saw/Mean Girls is highly recommended to all the mystery fans out there. TWs include bullying, suicide, car accident, hypoglycemia, abusive parents, drugs, gaslighting, and depression.

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About the Author

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

I’m Diana Urban, and I write dark, twisty thrillers for teens including All Your Twisted Secrets (HarperTeen, March 17, 2020). When I’m not torturing fictional characters, I’m a marketing manager at BookBub, a leading book discovery platform. Outside the bookish world, I live with my husband and cat in Boston, and enjoy reading, video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance.

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Giveaway

Win 1 of 2 copies of ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban (US-only). This giveaway runs from March 17 to March 31, 2020. Click here to enter.

For more chances of winning, you may also join the giveaway on Instagram. Follow @books_andpoetrii and check my All Your Twisted Secrets post.

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Tour Schedule

Click the banner below to see the complete schedule for this Fantastic Flying Book Club blog tour.

[Review] THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE by Abi Daré, 4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Title: The Girl with the Louding Voice
Author: Abi Daré
Publisher: Dutton Books (February 4, 2020)
Find it on: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | Penguin Random House

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Review

Adunni’s life in Ikati is miserable but still bearable somehow. With the death of their mother, she and her siblings are now relying on their father who spends most of the day drinking and self-loathing. At the young age of fourteen, Adunni is forced to grow up quickly and manage the household. She is driven by positivity and love for her family. Things start to crumble down when her father agrees to wed her to his old friend in exchange for money.

Abi Daré’s The Girl with the Louding Voice takes you on an experiential journey of a child-turned-bride-turned-housemaid in Nigeria. It is both expository, as it reveals the current state of Nigeria and probably most of Africa, and persuasive, as it shows an isolated and extremely lucky case of a girl who has been in the right place at the right time. Adunni has faced a lot of harrowing challenges but achieves her dreams in the end. While this is a wonderful story of bravery and hope, it is also a call to end the injustice and inequality that still remain despite global efforts to resolve them.

Adunni may be simple but she is smart, funny, and always asks the right questions. Intentionally using broken English is necessary for the narrative to be realistic and compelling, and I commend Daré for daring to do that. The book is feminist and has shown a lot of instances of women helping women regardless of social status. This book is to all the Adunnis out there who believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, not realizing that they, themselves, are the light; this is to all the Khadijas out there who have been betrayed but still choose to love and hope anyway; this is to all the Rebeccas out there who silently cry for help; and this is to all the Tias out there who make this nasty world a better place to live in.

Trigger warnings include death of a parent, social injustice, violence against women and children, child labor, child marriage, sexism, adultery, alcohol and gambling problems, rape, and human trafficking. Please note that these warnings are included not to discourage people from reading the book and are not an attack on the author. They are listed here to be inclusive and sensitive to future readers who might have experienced trauma related to these events. (I can’t believe I even have to note this down because of an author who felt that putting TWs on reviews is a bad thing.)

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This book was reviewed for Edelweiss+. Check my sidebar; follow me here and on the rest of my social media accounts for more bookish content and honest reviews!

[Review] THE ILLNESS LESSON by Clare Beams, 3 out of 5 stars

It’s 1871 in Ashwell, Massachusetts and Samuel Hood decides to convert his barn into a progressive school for young girls. He’s planning to teach the students himself together with his daughter, Caroline, and friend, David Moore.

Eliza Pearson Bell is one of the girls who express interest in becoming a student. Coincidentally, she is also the daughter of Miles Pearson – the man Samuel loathes the most. Caroline and David decide Eliza will bring good publicity to the school but for very different reasons.

Everything is going well for the Trilling Heart School (named after the strange red birds that re-appeared in the area around that time) until Eliza gets sick. It becomes even more mysterious when the rest of the girls gets the same illness. No one can figure out what’s gotten into them or how they got it. Samuel calls his physician friend, George Hawkins in the hopes that he can bring light into this case.

Clare Beams’ The Illness Lesson is dark and haunting. It is slow-paced and serious, curious as it is rich with symbolism. Caroline holds a lot of promise as the heroine of this book, but she fails. It is so ironic how the school that wants little girls to grow up as critical thinkers is the very same school that will shut educated women down. It is so disappointing to see a strong and knowledgeable woman like Caroline defeated by a patriarchal society. But maybe the real lesson here is to keep on fighting because back then, our sisters could not. Trigger warnings include epilepsy, death of a parent, implicit malicious acts, adultery, and sexual abuse.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Doubleday for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.