Review: The Quickening – Talulah Riley

The Quickening
Author: Talulah Riley
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Genre/Themes: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Release Date: June 23, 2022
Format: ARC


Does the world seem right, to you?

Years ago, Dana Mayer had a vision of a better world: one where women are in charge. Now her manifesto, The Quickening, has established the rules for a new order, designed to elevate and protect women. A genteel and peaceful society that prioritises nature, good manners and aesthetics. Of course, in order for women to maintain control, the freedoms of men have been necessarily limited.

Arthur Alden loves Dana Mayer but hates the world she has created. But can he find a way to resist, without losing everything? And with Dana intent on making men pay reparations for their past crimes, can Arthur be allowed to live without punishment?


This book takes place in 2043, in a civilization where women have assumed control and created the matriarchy. In this world, men are subjugated and treated either as workers, sold as soldiers when they’re still children, castrated, or turned into trophy husbands, referred to as Gentlemen, with no rights at all. When I heard about the premise of this novel, I thought I’d really enjoy the ideas portrayed in this novel, and it would have something important to say, but I was sorely mistaken.

My biggest problem with this novel is that it’s inherently anti-feminist. In fact, if a man had written this book, it wouldn’t have been published since it would have been considered thoroughly misogynistic. I think the author was trying to make the point that absolute power in any society will corrupt absolutely, and that the woman in power in this book are radical feminists, but the message is completely lost in the rhetoric of men being abusers and liars. Instead, this society where women are in power is considered even more backwards and toxic than the society we live in now.

The main issue that women have to face right now is that there aren’t enough of us in positions of political power where changes can be made to afford basic body autonomy and equality. Feminists don’t want to subjugate men, they want both sexes to be afforded the same opportunities. We don’t want men making decisions for us or our bodies and the things we can and can’t do. However, in the society created in this novel, instead of men deciding the rules for women, women do, once again taking choice away from the gender they’re supposedly meant to be serving. Are we really meant to believe that women would support this once again?

This book isn’t balanced at all. There are no likeable characters so I never connected with any of them and never cared about what happened to them. The plot meanders along and even 60% of the way through the book, nothing major actually happened. This book isn’t a character study or plot driven and I couldn’t figure out the point of it. I really wish I’d enjoyed this novel, but it was a chore to read and I had to force myself to finish it.

If you’re interested in how this society sounds and want to read more about how men are subjugated, pick up this novel. Otherwise, just read The Handmaid’s Tale, which did this story right and did it better.

Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing – Maryla Szymiczkowa

Mrs. Mohr Goes MissingMrs. Mohr Goes Missing
Author: Maryla Szymiczkowa
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: March 17th, 2020
Format: ARC



Cracow, 1893. Thirty-eight-year-old Zofia Turbotyńska has assured her husband’s rise through the ranks to university professor and is now looking for something to fill her long days at home. To stave off the boredom and improve her social standing, she decides to organise a charity raffle. To recruit the requisite patronage of elderly aristocratic ladies, she visits Helcel House, a retirement home run by nuns.

When two of the residents are found dead, Zofia discovers by chance that her real talents lie in solving crimes. The examining magistrate’s refusal to take seriously her insistence that foul play is involved spurs her on to start her own investigation, recruiting her quick-witted servant Franciszka as her assistant. With her husband blissfully unaware of her secret activities, Zofia ruthlessly follows the clues and gradually closes in on the truth.


I was very excited when I first heard about this book because I’ve been trying to read more books in translation, and I’ve never read a mystery novel translated into English before. This book was said to be inspired by the mysteries of Agatha Christie, which was very appealing since she’s one of my favourite mystery writers.

While this is a solid mystery novel, it left me feeling a little underwhelmed. First, the characters were underdeveloped, but worst of all, the main character, Zofia Turbotyńska, wasn’t very likable. I usually don’t mind unlikable characters, but Zofia was vapid and extremely preoccupied by appearances and prestige. Her motivations were also suspect since she didn’t want to solve the murders out of the goodness of her heart.

The plot moved at a decent pace, but there was nothing extremely exciting or interesting about it. The best part of this book is that it takes place in a country and a time that I was very unfamiliar about and I enjoyed getting to learn about it. I think a lot of the problems with this book were due to the meaning being lost in translation. While I understand that’s probably the case, it did impact my enjoyment of the book and I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

The Sixth Wicked Child – J.D. Barker

The Sixth Wicked Child (4MK Thriller, #3)The Sixth Wicked Child
Author: J.D. Barker
Publisher: Hampton Creek Press
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: August 27th, 2019
Format: Digital ARC




Hear No Evil

For Detective Sam Porter, the words “Father, forgive me” conjure memories long forgotten; a past intentionally buried. For Anson Bishop, these three words connect a childhood to the present as he unleashes a truth concealed for decades.

See No Evil

Found written on cardboard near each body, these words link multiple victims to a single killer—discovered within minutes of each other in both Chicago and South Carolina—clearly connected yet separated by impossible miles.

Speak No Evil

Chicago Metro and the FBI find themselves caught in chaos—a hospital on lockdown, a rogue officer, and corruption at the highest levels. When Anson Bishop, the prime suspect in the notorious 4MK serial murders turns himself in, he reveals a story completely unexpected, one that not only upends the current investigation, but one that will change the lives of all involved.


The 4MK Thriller trilogy is one my of my favourite mystery/crime trilogies of all time. The first book in the series, The Fourth Monkey, was one of my favourite books of 2018. I was immediately hooked on this dark, atmospheric series which felt like it had real stakes. I really enjoyed The Fifth to Diethe second book in the series, and was eagerly anticipating the concluding novel because there were so many questions left unanswered.

This book answered all my questions in a thoroughly unexpected way. I couldn’t have guessed how this plot would wrap up and there were so many surprises and twists. My one issue with this series is that it got less dark as the books continued and the plot was a little meandering in this novel. It started falling into the trappings of a really typical procedural serial killer novel, such as the serial killer trying to blame the detective investigating him and pretending he’s misunderstood and has been framed by the police department. I’ve just seen it happen so many times and it was a little frustrating to have such a cliched plot take up so much of the book. After how incredible The Fourth Monkey was, I found myself expecting far too much out of the remainder of this series and I was a little disappointed.

Overall though, this was a really solid book trilogy and I’ll miss the characters. Of course, I’ll be picking up any and all books J.D. Barker writes in the future.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts – Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney Talks to GhostsTuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts
Author: Kate Racculia
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Format: ARC




A dying billionaire sends one woman and a cast of dreamers and rivals on a citywide treasure hunt in this irresistible novel by the author of Bellweather Rhapsody.

Tuesday Mooney is a loner. She keeps to herself, begrudgingly socializes, and spends much of her time watching old Twin Peaks and X-Files DVDs. But when Vincent Pryce, Boston’s most eccentric billionaire, dies—leaving behind an epic treasure hunt through the city, with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allan Poe—Tuesday’s adventure finally begins.

Puzzle-loving Tuesday searches for clue after clue, joined by a ragtag crew: a wisecracking friend, an adoring teen neighbor, and a handsome, cagey young heir. The hunt tests their mettle, and with other teams from around the city also vying for the promised prize—a share of Pryce’s immense wealth—they must move quickly. Pryce’s clues can’t be cracked with sharp wit alone; the searchers must summon the courage to face painful ghosts from their pasts (some more vivid than others) and discover their most guarded desires and dreams.


Kate Racculia quickly became one of my favourite authors with her novel, Bellweather Rhapsody. She has such a gift for creating vivid, interesting, flawed characters and that was one of the best things about this novel as well. I was immediately hooked by the premise since the idea of a citywide scavenger hunt is pretty much my dream.

I knew the characters were going to be quirky and well-written, and of course they were. All of them were dynamic, but sometimes they felt a little too precocious, a little too perfect. Sometimes, they fell into cliches and were a little too cool. It was hard to think of them as real people at times.

I had the same problem with the plot. At first, it was exciting and fast-paced and then slowly lost steam. There were things that happened that are far too coincidental and don’t make sense in the context of the novel. The pace began to drag and suddenly the book was far more cutesy than I was expecting it to be.

Perhaps the fault lies with me since I wanted a darker novel, but while this book was fun to read, it doesn’t compare to Bellweather Rhapsody. The best part about it is the writing and the characters, and even those have flaws.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.


The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

The Stranger DiariesThe Stranger Diaries
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Horror
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Format: ARC




Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. A high school English teacher specializing in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, she teaches a course on it every year. But when one of Clare’s colleagues and closest friends is found dead, with a line from R. M. Holland’s most famous story, “The Stranger,” left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with the storylines of her favourite literature.

To make matters worse, the police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. Unsure whom to trust, she turns to her closest confidant, her diary, the only outlet she has for her darkest suspicions and fears about the case. Then one day she notices something odd. Writing that isn’t hers, left on the page of an old diary: “Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me.”

Clare becomes more certain than ever: “The Stranger” has come to terrifying life. But can the ending be rewritten in time?


This book is probably the best mystery novel I’ve read in a while. I love Gothic novels, because it mixes my two favourite genres, horror and mystery. While this book can’t be classified as scary, it still had elements of the supernatural and the atmosphere was really spooky. I was completely enraptured by this book’s premise and I’m happy to say it completely delivered.

This book alternates between the point of view of three women, Clare, an English teacher, her daughter, Georgia, and the detective investigating the murder cases, Harbinder. All three of these women are very different, and they’e very flawed. I love reading from the point of unreliable narrators and all three of them are unreliable in their own way. The characterization was so well done that I felt I knew all of them. Their reactions to each other were so unrealistic and the way their relationships developed with each other was really refreshing.

The plot was also completely engrossing. It was really complex and interspersed with snippets from Clare’s diary and also the fictional horror story, “The Stranger”. The Stranger was an incredible story and it ratcheted up the tension in the novel without the reader ever being able to pinpoint why. We get to read the full story at the end, which was a really nice addition. If R.M. Holland was an actual writer, I’d be reading all his books and stories.

The only con I had with this book was how quickly the book wrapped up. There wasn’t a lot of wrap-up after the killer was unmasked. I didn’t guess the identity of the killer, but I was just savoring the incredible writing and story, so I didn’t try very hard to figure the book out.

I’m such a huge fan of Elly Griffiths now and I’ll be reading all her novels. She is a rare mystery writer who is able to create engaging plots as well as phenomenal writing. This book was such an unexpected surprise and I’ll be recommending it to everyone!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.


Last Woman Standing – Amy Gentry

Last Woman StandingLast Woman Standing
Author: Amy Gentry
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: January 5th, 2019
Format: ARC



Dana Diaz is an aspiring stand‑up comedian—a woman in a man’s world. When she meets a tough computer programmer named Amanda Dorn, the two bond over their struggles in boys’ club professions. Dana confides that she’s recently been harassed and assaulted while in L.A., and Amanda comes up with a plan: they should go after each other’s assailants, Strangers on a Train–style. But Dana finds that revenge, however sweet, draws her into a more complicated series of betrayals. Soon her distrust turns to paranoia, encompassing strangers, friends—and even herself. At what cost will she get her vengeance? Who will end up getting hurt? And when it’s all over, will there be anyone left to trust?


When I read the premise for this novel, I was immediately intrigued. I knew that this book was a modern retelling of Strangers on a Train revolving around the #MeToo movement. Additionally, I thought it was so interesting that Dana Diaz was a comedian, especially since the Louis CK revelations came out. However, the most interesting part was that this was written before the #MeToo movement happened. Amy Gentry had written this novel by talking to women in the entertainment industry and adding her own experiences. She had heard the Louis CK rumors and created this novel, and I really wanted to know how it delivered.

This is a good novel, but there’s nothing too spectacular about it. Yes, it has Strangers on a Train vibes, but it’s a lot darker than that. The anger and vengeance of the characters color the whole novel and make it far darker than I was expecting. Unfortunately, I never connected to any of the characters and I just couldn’t understand why Dana would let Amanda control her as much as she did. I never liked either of the main women.

There were a lot of #MeToo stories brought up in this book and of course, I found that aspect infuriating. I hate hearing about how blatantly terribly women are treated  and this book is full of those stories. I think any woman who has experienced any sort of mistreatment at the hands of men is going to understand why Dana and Amanda were so angry, but it’s harder to get on board with the depths they went in order to exact vengeance.

There’s also a plot point in this novel that I saw coming which really bothered me. I can’t give it away without major spoilers, but I just have to say that Dana was far too trusting around men, which she really shouldn’t have been.

Overall, I think this is a solid mystery/thriller. It’s interesting, fast-paced, and it kept my interest until the end. I liked Amy Gentry’s writing style and I will definitely read her future novels.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Top 5 Best Books of the Year

To round out 2018, here are my Top 5 Best Books of the Year.

1.) Any Man – Amber Tamblyn

Any Man This book is a dark novel. It’s a scathing indictment of rape culture and how sexual violence is treated in today’s society. I was in awe of how amazing this novel was. Read my full review here.



2 and 3.) The Fourth Monkey/The Fifth to Die – JD Barker

The Fourth Monkey (4MK Thriller, #1) The Fifth to Die (4MK Thriller, #2)The Fourth Monkey is one of the most deliciously dark and twisted novels I’ve ever read. I actually had serial killer dreams while reading it, which never happens to me. Sometimes, I find the antagonists in serial killer novels too much of a caricature, but in this novel, the serial killer is so disturbed and actually really frightening. The Fifth to Die is also such a strong second novel. It never falters in its pace and it’s tightly crafted. Read my full review here.

4.) The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveI don’t know why it took me so long to read this book! I was waiting for the hype to die down because I don’t always agree with hyped books, but I had nothing to worry about. This book is incredible. It’s a compelling, heartbreaking, infuriating, and educational novel. I cried multiple times while reading it. I loved all of the characters so much and the relationship between Starr and her family was incredibly written. Though I’ve never lived through the same experience as Starr, her crisis of identity spoke to me so deeply. I think every immigrant kid can understand what it feels like to straddle two worlds. That’s such a small part of this book though.

Yes, this book made me furious, but I think that fury is needed. We all need to see the injustices that happen every day to people of color. This book is a must-read.

5.) Speak: The Graphic Novel – Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll

Speak: The Graphic Novel I first read the novel Speak when I was in high school. It impacted me so deeply even though I had never encountered anything like Melinda did. I’ve thought about it a lot over the years, and I was really interested in how it would be represented as a graphic novel. I cried when I read the novel, and I cried when I read the graphic novel too. This was beautifully illustrated and even though the writing was stripped down, it was full of the same vivid imagery as the novel had.

So highly recommended.

Top 5 Worst Books of The Year

This year, I read 112 books (and I have one in progress), so it’s time to do a wrap up of my best and worst books of the year. First up, the worst! These are in no particular order.

1. Artemis – Andy Weir


I AM SO DISAPPOINTED IN THIS BOOK. I devoured The Martian and I was sure that Andy Weir was going to be an auto-buy author for me. Instead, not only am I bored by the plot, I HATE the main character, Jazz. Andy Weir has no clue how to write a woman. Jazz is one of those girls that guys think is a “cool” girl. She’s chill, laid back, just one of the guys. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that girls grow out of that by the time they’re 18. Most of the girls who spend all their time trying to make wise cracks and hang out with the guys, who talk like them and act like them are just playing a part. No grown woman is going to respond to a question asking her “What’s in the box?” with “Porn, starring your mom”. She sounds like what a 16 year old boy is looking for in a woman.

Also, the “heist” is one of the dullest heists I’ve ever read about. I just don’t care about what happens and the random info-dumping is no longer charming in his second book. He should have worked through those issues by now.

Hard pass, Andy Weir.

2. theMystery.doc – Matthew McIntoshtheMystery.doc

This book is awful. Not only are you confused for the majority of the book, the parts where you do understand what is going on are just so uninteresting and pretentious. I’m sick of these male authors in their mid to late twenties trying to write the next great American novel. It’s always just terrible. Overwrought writing and a pointless plot.

This book is 4 and a half pounds and 1600+ pages of nothing. Don’t bother.

3. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory

I know that a lot of people love this book and it’s supposed to be a classic with a totally shocking ending. The problem was that I hated the writing style of this book so much that even the shocking ending couldn’t save it. There are also terrible descriptions of animal cruelty that made me feel sick. I despised all of the characters and I just wasn’t into this book.



4. Hand Me Down – Melanie ThorneHand Me Down

There’s nothing inherently bad about this novel. I just had a really hard time connecting to any of the characters. I didn’t find myself caring about any of them. Almost all of the adults were so despicable, and I just didn’t find myself wanting to know how this book resolved.


5. The Divergent Series

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

I think I’m just too old for these books. While I used to like the angsty romance, especially when it was in a young adult dystopia, this one had insanely boring characters and I didn’t need to read about another special snowflake bringing down a society. I understand that it was really popular when they first came out, but by the second book I knew I was out.

One Night’s Stay – C.B. Collins

One Night's StayOne Night’s Stay
Author: C.B. Collins
Publisher: C.B.C. Publishing
Genre/Themes: Horror, Paranormal
Release Date: September 9th, 2018
Format: Ebook


Thirteen strangers check into the Sunset Inn hoping to find rest. When one of them is murdered in the middle of the night, the survivors realize they’ve found something else entirely; an ancient evil looking to satisfy an undying hunger. If the guests want to make it through the night, they’ll have to discover the secret behind the motel and the mysterious town it serves. However, in uncovering the truth, they might find that the town’s past is nowhere near as dark as their own.


As soon as I read the premise of this novel, I was hooked. I have a weakness for books and movies that have a group of strangers coming together, especially when they’re in horror settings. This book starts off with all of the characters arriving at the Sunset Inn and for the most part, it was really creepy. The first third of this novel is completely tense and atmospheric and I had no idea what was going to happen.

When the story finally started to come together, it went in a completely different direction than I was expecting. There were so many unexpected twists to this novel and I was pleasantly surprised at how a lot of the storylines were resolved. While I thought the plot was pretty fast-paced, there was a lot of exposition in this novel. The core things the reader needed to know were sometimes info-dumped and a lot of it didn’t make much sense until the very end. I found myself really confused sometimes.

I really liked the characterization, but as the story progressed, sometimes the characterization started to falter. Certain moments (and certain deaths) that should have had more of an impact didn’t always deliver. A lot of the time I felt more of a spectator than someone who was heavily engrossed in the story.

Overall, this is a really tense, atmospheric novel. The story isn’t what you’re expecting and there a lot of surprises throughout the novel. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I recommend it to someone who is looking for a fast-paced horror novel.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way.

Leave No Trace – Mindy Mejia

Leave No Trace: A NovelLeave No Trace
Author: Mindy Mejia
Publisher: Emily Bestler Books
Genre/Themes: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
Format: Ebook



There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.


When I read Mindy Mejia’s novel, Everything You Want Me To Be, I was immediately hooked by how well she wrote and how fantastic her characterization was. The premise of this novel grabbed my interest immediately because it was so different than other mystery/thrillers I’d read. While I loved her first novel, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy this one as much.

There are some great things about this novel. Mindy Mejia is extremely gifted at developing characters that feel like real people. I loved the character of Maya because all of her issues felt genuine. They didn’t seem thrown in to make her more interesting. I also loved the way she interacted with her dad. The setting of this novel was also a big part of the story. It was described so vividly that I felt like I lived in Duluth too. However, the problems with this book far outweighed any of the positives.

My biggest problem was Lucas and his relationship with Maya.

***spoilers ahead***

Lucas was extremely violent to a lot of people. He choked Maya, threw someone over a railing, was responsible for someone’s head injury and handcuffs an orderly to a desk in his efforts to escape. Nevertheless, Maya is romantically involved with him and helps him in a way that is morally and ethically wrong. She’s his therapist and completely crosses the boundary of a professional relationship for very selfish reasons. I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of a therapist being in a position of power and starting a romantic relationship with her patient. It’s just so wrong. There were so many lines that were crossed. This book just didn’t need this romantic aspect in it. Also, this book is slow-paced. I went into it expecting a book like Mindy Mejia’s first, but this was even slower. There was a lot of repetition before anything actually happened.

While I thought mental illness was handled gracefully, there just wasn’t enough to redeem this book in my eyes. While I’d still be interested in reading Mindy Mejia’s future novels, I didn’t connect to this one.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.