Middle Grade Monday: The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills

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I have a Middle Grade Monday post ready for next week about a few books with spooky storylines and ghosts but I felt that there was no way that I could group this book into that post so it’s getting one of it’s own. Today I’ll be discussing and reviewing The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills.

After losing her mother unexpectedly, Shelly begins to hoard ghosts. A gift that has been passed down through generations of women in her family, Shelly has the ability to see ghosts, catch them, and help them move on. When she realizes that her mother has not come back as a ghost, she can’t let the other ghosts go.

Rooted in a Cree worldview, Shelly and her grandmother use their long hair to catch ghosts and then help to guide them onward to whatever comes after death. I thought that The Ghost Collector was a really deep story of a young, grieving girl who has to learn how to let go. It was so interesting to see how different ghosts could be, anywhere from the old, the young, animals, happy, sad, angry… The list goes on.

It was heartbreaking to see what Shelley was going through, just wanting to see her mom one more time. I think this was a unique and beautiful story about death, grief, and learning to let go. It is so important to share stories like this with young readers, to give them a more broad perspective of the topic of death, dying, and more. I really enjoyed reading a “ghost story” that wasn’t scary. I feel like what is often the case is that ghosts are made out to be malevolent and while those stories are definitely fun, it’s good to see stories where ghosts are just existing too.

In terms of reviewing this book, I gave it three stars. I would highly recommend it to anyone but I personally felt that parts of the story were underdeveloped. The origins of a few characters felt unexplained as did the backstory as to why Shelley and her grandmother were able to see ghosts and catch them in their hair. I would have loved more explanation and a bit of world building in that regard… I did try to do some internet research on the topic of ghosts and Cree beliefs but came up with nothing! Regardless of these qualms that I had, I thought this book was spectacular and have definitely thought about this story a lot since originally reading it.

If you are interested in a book that handles grief well and provides a new view on ghosts and death, this might be the book you’re looking for! Definitely worth checking out.

**I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

 

 

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Review: Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn

Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn is all about grief and healing. Telling the story of a girl named Olivia, three years after the death of her younger brother. A new girl named Kara Hallas moves in across the street with her grandma and mother and Olivia is immediately drawn to them.

While hanging out with Kara, Olivia begins to pull herself out of the hole that her brother’s death left her in. The two of them form an unlikely bond while writing letters to death row inmates and Olivia tries to learn who exactly the Hallas family is.

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I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking. It’s all about grief and healing and it felt so personal to look into the lives of the people within this book. At times I felt like it was too much, like I was reading about the lives of real people and I felt almost bad reading it. Although it was really hard to read I ended up reading it all in one sitting while I was doing some work at the library a few weeks ago.

The prose within this was beautiful and I think that Morgyn did a fantastic job writing her first novel. I thought that the different portrayals of grief added a lot of depth and I appreciated that Olivia and her parents all dealt with the loss of her brother in vastly different ways.

The actual Resurrection Girls subplot in which Olivia and Kara wrote letters to death row inmates was very minor, at least in my opinion. I thought it was interesting but it didn’t lend itself to the plot as much as the descriptions of this book make it out to be. I think in general this book is more about healing and relationships than anything else. There is a bit of a romance subplot as well and I thought it was okay. I loved the overall arc of the book and while I wasn’t so invested in the subplots I did enjoy them for the most part.

In terms of characters, Olivia is the only one that felt fully fleshed out. Every once in a while we got into the depths of the other characters but throughout the whole story Olivia is the sole focus. I appreciated the depth we got from her parents towards the end, it felt right, but I would have loved to know more about Kara and Prescott. Prescott had so much potential to be a really great character and in the end, he lacked depth. I talk more about what I wanted from Kara in my spoilery section later in the post.

Due to the dark nature of this book I’m including content warnings here, and then the next section contains spoilers so if you want to skip them, scroll down to the next picture.

 

 

Content warnings for: death of a child, suicide, overdose, addiction, serial killers, death

This next section contains spoilers:

So this book, I assume, is considered magical realism but I honestly think that the whole subplot of the Hallas family having some sort of “curse” could have been done away with… Or this book could’ve been 50-100 pages longer in order to fully develop what was going on with them. I felt that the ending was extremely rushed and it didn’t really add anything to the story. Kara and her family could have just as easily been a normal family with how little I learned about who they really were. It was easy to imply some of the gaps in the story but I wanted more from that storyline. That was really my main issue with the book.

I am also a tad uncomfortable with the part of this book in which Olivia overdosed. Not saying that this was bad, but I will say it felt unrealistic. Like from what I remember they didn’t even place a psychiatric hold on her? They just let her go home with her mom… The same mom that she got these pills she overdosed on from? I’m probably just being nitpicky here but this is an area where I have a ton of personal knowledge and it felt really brushed over and reduced to something really simple. Definitely not saying it was bad, just that this also could have been expanded on and written differently.

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Resurrection Girls was incredibly dark, hypnotic, moving, and deep. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it. I ended up giving it a rating of 4/5 stars and am looking forward to whatever Ava Morgyn comes up with next.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy you can find links to the book here:

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Book Review: Filter This by Sophie White

Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be reviewing my first ARC from my whole list of September releases.

The book in question is Filter This by Sophie White and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Ali Jones is hell-bent on achieving her #lifegoals: 10,000 Instagram followers and a win at the upcoming Glossie Influencer Awards. So when she inadvertently leads people to believe she is sporting a baby bump and immediately gains thousands of followers, she realises that the Mummy Influencer wave could be her ticket to Insta-success, even if off-screen it feels like her life is falling apart with what’s happening to her beloved dad.

But then Tinder Sam, Ali’s one-night-stand, resurfaces and seems determined to take his new role as baby daddy seriously. And falling for Sam is definitely not part of Ali’s plan.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s biggest influencer (and Ali’s idol) Shelly Divine has it all … at least on paper. But beneath the immaculately curated feed, cracks are appearing. Shelly harbours a secret from her followers and, more importantly, her husband – but who will be the first to discover what she’s been hiding?

As the Glossies approach, what will it take for the women realise what’s truly important before they lose what matters most?

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So when I requested this I knew what the plot was going into it… But like I must have really not been paying that much attention because honestly if I had realized that this whole thing revolved around a faked pregnancy I probably would have passed on it. I feel very conflicted with my rating on this solely because I cannot understand how anyone could possibly be okay with faking a pregnancy for social media clout but I’ll go more into detail with that later in my review.

In the end, I’ve settled on 3/5 stars.

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I guess I’ll preface the whole review by saying that I in no way support the plot that the author put together. The faked pregnancy is a really bad take on faking something for social media, I think the worst part was the fact that the main character, Ali, actually let her one night stand believe that he had knocked her up. That is so incredibly manipulative and gross and I hated that part of this book more than I can put into words.  FAKING A PREGNANCY ISN’T CUTE. LYING TO THE MAN THAT THINKS HE KNOCKED YOU UP IS MANIPULATIVE AS HELL.

In other terms of things that I didn’t like about this plot:

  • Ali’s drinking problem. There are so many pieces of media in which heavy drinking is portrayed as much less of a problem than it is. Binge drinking is a really toxic behavior and it shouldn’t be played off as a typical young person thing in the way that it is.
  • This book isn’t going to be timeless. It’s full of modern pop culture references and does nothing to mask that fact. I know that social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but I feel like it’s hard for all of these books that focus in so much on what is going on *right now* to be relevant in a few years time.
  • There were many chances to go in depth about losing a parent early due to illness and also to postpartum depression and yet NEITHER of these plot points were ever discussed beyond surface level. Both Ali and Shelley (the character that has the secondary viewpoint of the book) had the opportunity to go on big sprawling character developing arcs and yet I really don’t think either changed by the end of the book.
  • And with that there’s supposed to be a sequel. In which, obviously, Ali and Shelley are most likely going to try and redeem themselves. I just feel like that’s an excuse to leave this book underdeveloped and lacking in substance. None of the main characters meant anything to me and in fact, I really didn’t find myself invested in Ali or Shelley as people either. Very flat and surface level for the entire book.

Now the things that I liked about this book were:

  • It was funny. Like I snorted about some of the things that happened. It was outrageous some of the things the women in this book do for a simple “like”.
  • If you really think about it, this book portrays an outrageous story about women who do outrageous things in order to maintain clout on the internet. I feel like a book like this would be one that could be dissected and compared to real life in order to show just how far people will go to be popular. I find social media to be so toxic at times and I feel like if you’re reading this book in the right mindset then it illustrates exactly that. Like this book was messy… I mean in the first few chapters Ali literally put together a moldy bowl of oats in order to have a perfect breakfast shot and then promptly ate a cheesy croissant instead. I just know there are people out there that do this kind of stuff and it makes my stomach churn at the thought of needing to cultivate such a perfect life.

So is this the next great book? Oh by no means. But if you’re looking for something quick and funny to read, this could be up your alley. If you’d like to purchase a copy of your own you can get one at this link.

 

 

Review: 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

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I’m going to start off by saying that I am sad. Sad because of how good this book could have been… And I feel like that is just the entire theme of my reading this year. I swear I say this for at least one book every month: IT HAD THE POTENTIAL AND THEY SHOULD HAVE WORKED IT OUT A LOT LONGER BEFORE PUBLISHING IT.

So I got an ARC of this book from NetGalley and was super excited to read it. I mean look at that cover, one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in a while. It started off really good but in the end I had to rate it 2/5 stars.

This book is about a girl named Tessa who got into a car accident with her grandma which resulted in her being temporarily blind for can you guess? 100 days.

Tessa is a poetry blogger and so in an attempt to help her feel a little bit more normal again, her grandparents try to run an ad in the newspaper to find someone who can help her type the poems and publish them onto her blog.

In comes Weston, an amputee. He’s decided that this is the perfect opportunity to be treated like a completely normal person for the first time since he lost his legs. He asks Tessa’s grandparents to not tell her what has happened to him and together they work together as Tessa slowly recovers from the accident.

I’ll start off with the things that I did enjoy about the book:

The story was very sweet at times. I appreciated how close Tessa was with her grandparents and that she had a close group of internet friends that she found through her blogging. I also really liked Weston’s family aspect and how close he was to his brothers.

The writing was really pleasant to read and it was so easy to read that I flew through multiple chapters at a time when I actually had a chance to sit down and read this. I also liked that it was a pretty straightforward story with really no dilly dallying around the plot. It was short and got right through it all.

Also these are very small issues but if you’re looking for a book about blogging, this isn’t it. They basically talk about Tessa’s blog a total of three times. And it’s an extreme case of insta love.

And now… We get to the really big issues I had.

Both Tessa and Weston had extremely traumatic things happen to them. Tessa was in an accident that caused her to lose her vision and Weston had to have both of his legs amputated after getting an infection. And they were both left to just deal with the aftermath of that by themselves… I mean yes, they had their families but they never went to therapy, they never talked about therapy, it just didn’t happen.

When something traumatic happens your entire brain chemistry can change. The mental consequences of events like these are horrifying and I’m absolutely appalled that you could clearly see that both of these characters were suffering with PTSD like symptoms and yet were not ever treated like it was something that should be taken care of or evaluated. I mean Tessa had the chance of never being able to see again and they just decided “okay she can just learn how to deal with that if she doesn’t get her vision back”.

I mean, what would have happened if she didn’t get her vision back (which also I found that her getting her vision back immediately on Day 100 was so trite and predictable, really didn’t like that). If she had been permanently blinded she would have lost all hope that she had at her chance of recovery. That would have been devastated and her already fragile mental health would have been destroyed. I just think that the entire aspect of mental health was poorly written in order to have this incredibly preachy underlying message about how we all need to suck it up and get over our issues.

Here’s more on that, first with a quote:

“Everyone’s always treating me like I need help- and, sometimes, it’s hard to resist giving in. It’s hard to resist accepting what the world says about you… That you’ve got a disadvantage, a flaw, a problem. Because these days we’re told that it’s okay to let our problems control us. It’s okay to be the victim. It’s okay… because you have every right to be miserable.” I shook my head slowly, sweeping the room with my gaze.

“But I want to tell you that it’s not okay. It’s not okay to let your problem stop you from doing anything you want to do. It’s not okay to be your problem… because you’re a person”

I mean like the line on the cover says… “When life knocks you down… Get up” it just breaks me knowing how many people out there want you to feel like you are not allowed to feel the way that you feel. No, you can’t live every single day of your life miserable but you can’t go around acting like everything is peachy keen, sometimes you are the victim. Sometimes you are completely broken down. Sometimes you feel like giving up. And you know what? I’m here telling you that that is okay. We can’t possibly have everything together all the time.

Sometimes, our handicaps, our hurts, our abuses… Sometimes they win. And no those problems are not who we are but they are a part of us and we can’t ignore them in order to make everyone else around us think better of us. Sometimes we get knocked down and we can’t get back up again for a while. And I really, really don’t appreciate how this book preaches to the fact that we shouldn’t feel bad for what is wrong with us. I’m sorry but I will never be fully strong. I will never fully win. And I am incredibly angry that this book is trying to tell me that I am pathetic, yes it makes me feel pathetic, for feeling the way that I do.

There’s another line very early on in the book that says something along the lines of “no one ever sees the light by being told that someone else is dealing with something darker” and THAT is what I wanted to see more of. I have been told time and time again in my life that there are people out there that have it worse than me and that I’m not allowed to feel the way that I do because of that. I don’t know if I’m just being overly sensitive but it really hurt me to have Weston talk the way that he did despite never doing anything for himself to get help about his mental health other than deciding that he needed to essentially “man up” and just do whatever he wanted no matter what anyone else thought.

I just don’t understand how this author can go from writing a beautiful line like that to preaching that we aren’t allowed to be miserable about what is wrong with us. Especially because right after that quote Weston basically plays the victim saying that he can’t possibly be with Tessa because he’s an amputee. It just made no sense to me. I mean if Weston doesn’t want people to treat him like his handicap then he can’t act like that when that finally comes up.

I just think the story overall was so immature and absolutely poorly told in both cases of disability. I really wish that I hadn’t read this book because I know I’m going to get angry every single time I think about it.

I think that this book puts out a really entitled message and I’m really disappointed. This is not a book that I would recommend. I really wish that this book had been different.

I also wanted to share a link to another review that touched on some things that I didn’t talk about here. You can find that here.

If you are interested in reading it yourself, you can pick up a copy at this affiliate link

Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

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Apparently, romance does still have the potential to melt my cold, dead heart. Y’all, this book was so good. I got an eARC of The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai from NetGalley to review here.

This book centers around Rhiannon, an extremely cynical dating app creator who helped to revolutionize the dating scene. She got burned by a mystery match who ghosted her and then ends up finding out he’s a famous ex-football player and working with another dating website. She fumbles around with the idea of giving him a second chance and going against everything she believes about love and relationships. 

I found myself relating to how hard and cold Rhiannon is to love for herself and yet enjoying seeing it flourish in other people. Every single character was so unique and diverse. The main character is black, the love interest (Samson) is Samoan. Rhiannon’s assistant is a lesbian, her best friend is plus sized and has agoraphobic anxiety (I really really really hope that Alisha Rai does spin off stories of some of these side characters). One of Samson’s friends is a stay-at-home dad.

To me, these characters are coming up on that level of unique that I felt in Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and honestly that’s all I could ask for from side characters.

The relationships in this were also all so good. Friendships, family, and love, just all very healthy and strong and I ate it up. There were also much deeper storylines regarding feminism, concussions in football, and toxic/abusive relationships and sexual harassment.

I hope it comes as no surprise that I rated it 5/5 stars! This was such a breath of fresh air after some of the not so great and sad books I’ve read recently. It was such a kick ass story and I am definitely going to be picking up my own copy of this soon!

One of the things about this story that I absolutely loved more than anything was how well Samson handled learning about Rhiannon’s “baggage”. How he just accepted all the trust issues she had and went with whatever she felt comfortable with. Like when she couldn’t handle being called by her full name, Samson immediately got himself to call her Rhi and never once tried to act like he could change the way she felt about her full name during intimate moments.

And at the end of the book when he said that he would take her as is trust issues and all? Guys, I bawled. Samson was such a sweet and caring man and even when he was getting down and dirty in bed he was still a good man.

If Alisha Rai writes more books in this universe of characters I will definitely be picking them up!

I would recommend this book to you if you like romance with slightly deeper plots, really sweet romance, and aren’t the biggest fan of smut. This definitely had some smutty scenes but it wasn’t overly done in my mind (I’m very picky with romance books in that sense). Also, if you’re like me and lean towards the cynical side when it comes to love and romance, see if this book can melt some of that ice cold heart for you too 😉

This book is out today so you can pick up a copy of your own at the links below if you’re interested!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository