The Three Books that Demolished my Reading Slump (Reviews!)

A History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger 
Release Date: June 5, 2018 
Publisher: Dial Books 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 
Source: ARC provided by publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review 
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History buff Ray knows everything about the peculiar legends and lore of his rural Connecticut hometown. Burgerville's past is riddled with green cow sightings and human groundhogs, but the most interesting thing about the present is the new girl--we'll call her Jane Doe.

Inscrutable, cool, and above all mysterious, Jane seems as determined to hide her past as Ray is to uncover it. As fascination turns to friendship and then to something more, Ray is certain he knows Jane's darkest, most painful secrets and Jane herself--from past to present. But when the unthinkable happens, Ray is forced to acknowledge that perhaps history can only tell us so much.

Mixing humor with heartache, this is an unmissable coming-of-age story from an exciting new voice in YA.


The History of Jane Doe was such a wonderful surprise! I loved the characters. They were so awkward, so endearing, so funny, so REAL. I loved Burgerville. It was quirky and eccentric- the definition of small-town America - but I wanted nothing more to visit it, to look for the mutant green cows with Jane, Ray, and Simon. I loved the writing. Michael made every word count. Never once did I feel bored or distracted; instead, I soaked it all in - embracing every feeling, good OR bad, that Michael brought my way. 

Why You Should Read The History of Jane Doe

(1) Ray - Ray's the main character, and I loved him to pieces. Over the course of The History of Jane Doe, the reader witnesses two Rays - the one with Jane and the one without Jane. Ray with Jane was a whole new Ray. He was daring and reckless. He lived his life with his heart on his sleeve, and while it got him into trouble at times, he didn't care. He wanted Jane. He wanted her respect, her love, her appreciation. He wanted her to know just how special she was. What I loved the most about Ray, however, was that he fully embraced his quirks. He loved history - talking about it, reading about it, etc. - and he never shied away from that love. His history related talks with Jane were some of my favorites, because I felt that it showed just how strong the bond was between them. The Ray without Jane broke my heart. He was angry and sad. He was a shell of himself, and he didn't know how to move on, how to live his life after he had experienced his own "mutant green cow," something so different, so life-changing that no one else could understand. While I didn't always approve of his anger or his outbursts, I could understand them. I would probably be the same in his shoes. Plus, seeing those low points made seeing the high points, especially towards the end, even more worthwhile. 

(2) The History - Like Ray, I'm a huge history nerd. I love learning about new place and new people, and that love transited over quite well when it came to learning about Ray's small town. Michael Belanger has created such a rich history within the pages of The History of Jane Doe. I loved how fresh and unique it was, how Michael as well as his characters made me want to be a green cow believer. I also enjoyed the reflections on history. They made me think, and they always tied in beautifully with the overall story. 

(3) Jane - It was easy to see why everyone was so fascinated with Jane. On the surface, she gave off a tough, don't mess with me vibe; however, underneath there was this sweetness to her, this personable side. I enjoyed seeing her find a family with Ray and Simon. I loved that she brought so much good to their lives, that she made them come out of their shells and do more, be more. I also appreciated that Michael never shied away from Jane's problems. Over the course of the book, Jane deals with depression, and it's never a cut-and-dry type issue. It's something she deals with everyday, and it has varying effects on the book. I won't say too much about it, but I will say I appreciated that Michael presented it in such a three-dimensional way. 

(4) Action - The History of Jane Doe doesn't contain much action; however, I still liked reading about all the adventures the characters went on and seeing them just live their lives. Michael made the mundane interesting, because of how rich and developed the characters were. I wanted to know everything about them, to see all the parts of their lives, and that's exactly what I received. 

Overall, The History of Jane Doe is a noteworthy debut. Books like this are the reason why I always make a point to read as many debut books as I can during the year, because there's so much potential, so much goodness to be found within them. I've found a new favorite author here, and while Michael did manage to break my heart, he also built it up again by the end. 

Side note: If you love Down and Across (another amazing book!!), you need this one in your life ASAP!!

4 stars!!

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson 
Release Date: May 29, 2018 
Publisher: Razorbill 
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense, Thriller 
Source: ARC provided by publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review 

Gabe and Elyse have never met. But they both have something to hide.

Quiet, shy Elyse can't believe it when she's cast as the lead in her Portland high school's production of Romeo and Juliet. Her best friend, Brynn, is usually the star, and Elyse isn't sure she's up to the task. But when someone at rehearsals starts to catch her eye--someone she knows she absolutely shouldn't be with--she can't help but be pulled into the spotlight.

Austin native Gabe is contemplating the unthinkable--breaking up with Sasha, his headstrong, popular girlfriend. She's not going to let him slip through her fingers, though, and when rumors start to circulate around school, he knows she has the power to change his life forever.

Gabe and Elyse both make the mistake of falling for the wrong person, and falling hard. Told in parallel narratives, this twisty, shocking story shows how one bad choice can lead to a spiral of unforeseen consequences that not everyone will survive.


Jennifer Donaldson's Lies You Never Told Me has officially brought my reading slump to an end, and I couldn't be happier. 

To put it simply, this book is WILD! It's suspenseful, action packed, and the perfect amount of creepy. Reading this book during the day was one of the best choices I made because I think I would've been scared of my own shadow if I had read it at night. There were some truly chill-inducing moments contained! 

Lies You Never Told Me features two POVs - Elyse and Gabe. I thought Jennifer did a fantastic job of switching between them. She always ended the chapters at the most perfect moments. There were so many times, I was like "Wait, I need more!!" only to be switched to Elyse's POV or Gabe's POV, which made me read this book even faster! I also found Elyse and Gabe easy to like. While they made some truly horrible decisions over the course of Lies You Never Told Me, I still wanted nothing but the best for them. I wanted Elyse to see that happiness and freedom shouldn't come at the cost of alienating the ones closest to you, and I wanted Gabe to find his voice again, to take control rather than cave to his ex-girlfriend's stalker-like actions. I also appreciated that there were so many fun, lovable side characters introduced. I loved getting to know Gabe's and Elyse's best friends and families, and I especially loved seeing such positive, loving friendships! Gabe's and Elyse's friends would do anything for them.

When Lies You Never Told Me begins Gabe and Elyse appear to be in different parts of the country; however, as the book progressed and the action built up, it made me feel as if they were closer than we were lead to believe. While I did accurately predict the big twist, I still found the reveal to be exciting and well done. I was still fully shook. Plus I just love when I correctly call a plot twist! It makes me feel like a super sleuth. While the romance did give a slight insta-love feel, I wasn't too bothered by it. I found the connection to be believable, and I loved the Romeo-and-Juliet feel that came with it. 

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and the The Truth Beneath the Lies, Lies You Never Told Me is an exhilarating debut; however, if you're anything like me, be sure you block out a few hours to read it. Trust me, you'll NEED to know what's next - so much in fact that you'll be considering canceling all your plans. I know I was! 

4.5 stars!!

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir 
Release Date: June 12, 2018 
Publisher: Knopf Books 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction 
Source: ARC provided by publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review 
A debut novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the emotionally stirring, wildly captivating story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family's hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart.

Esther Ann Hicks--Essie--is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She's grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family's fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie's mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show's producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia's? Or do they try to arrange a marriage--and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media--through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell--Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?


I tend to stay away from books dealing with religion; however, there was something about The Book of Essie that intrigued me. I wanted to know more about Essie. I wanted to know more about her family's reality show as well as the many secrets hidden behind the scenes of the show. As it turns out, The Book of Essie was an engrossing, interesting read. I easily finished it in one day, but there were several times where I felt more plot/character development was needed. 

The Book of Essie contains three POVs: Essie's, Roarke's, and Liberty-Bell's. The good? I found them easy to like. While Roarke was my favorite out of the three, I still admired Essie's determination and willingness to make things right as well as Liberty-Bell's urge to give Essie a chance and help someone similar to her former self. They were all strong, caring characters, and while each of them experienced their respective shortcomings, it easy easy to see that there were good people. The bad? Even though three POVS are featured, I felt that Essie's over shined the other two in development. Honestly, sometimes I didn't understand why three POVs were used, because at the end of the day, Essie's was the focal point. While Liberty-Bell and Roarke deal with their own issues and problems, they always felt more like an "assistant" to Essie rather than their own person, and that bothered me, because I wanted to know more about Roarke and Liberty-Bell. I wanted to know more about Roarke's childhood, more about his relationship with his family, more about how being shipped away changed him as a person. I wanted to know more about Liberty-Bell's past. Yes, we know that she was part of an religious cult; however, there was never much below the surface.I felt that their stories were important as well, and honestly I felt jibbed when it came to their narratives. Even at the end, Liberty-Bell and Roarke were sort of thrown to the side, Essie only mentioning little things about where each had ended up. 

The plot of The Book of Essie relies heavily on the dramatics. There were so many times where I couldn't believe what I was reading. Essie's family was truly horrible, and while I wanted to be able to see some good in them, it was incredibly hard to do. It's horrible to see just how much people will put aside and ignore for the sake of money. The plot primarily focuses on Essie's upcoming nuptials, used as a cover for her pregnancy, and Essie's plans to bring her family's empire down once and for all. As mentioned before, I thought it was an interesting storyline, and I did feel that Meghan did a decent job exploring tough issues within in (teen pregnancy, religion, sexual assault, etc.). However, once again, I felt that there could have been more here. Everything moved very fast, and while I loved a fast paced book, I don't love it when it sacrifices development for the sake of speed. There were several times I wish Meghan would've slowed down - the wedding, the big revel/takedown, Essie's discovery of her sister, etc. - or cut down the number of events to develop the remaining ones. I also didn't feel that the ending was particularly believable. Yes, it made me happy, but there was also a voice in my head saying "But would it really be that easy?" 

Overall, The Book of Essie is a enjoyable read based on the dramatics and the reality TV like feel; however, the lack of development and even focuses brought down my enjoyment considerably. It left me wanting more, and not in a "I can't get enough" kind of way, but in a "wait, what just happened?" way. 

3 stars!! 


  1. Hooray for getting out of the reading slump! Lies You Never Told Me sounds crazy and so good!

  2. I won a copy of Lies from GR, so, yeah! Glad you liked it. I was DENIED for Jane Doe, but it really does sound like a book I would enjoy, and you noting that lovers of Down and Across would enjoy it, solidified my belief. Great reviews and glad you are un-slumped.


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