Review: The Child

The ChildThe Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: June 27th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

 

Synopsis

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

Review

I was introduced to Fiona Barton through her debut novel, The Widow, which came out last year. While I enjoyed the story, I didn’t love it. I’m happy to say that her second novel is far more engrossing and interesting than her previous one.

In The Child, the reporter, Kate Waters, from The Widow is back, but the stories aren’t connected at all. There’s no need to read the books in order. I was really intrigued by this premise and I really enjoyed how this book takes place through the different viewpoints of four women. It’s really easy to keep track of the four characters since they have such different mannerisms.

This is a really fast-paced mystery, but I figured out what was going on long before Kate did. That usually never happens for me, but it didn’t decrease my enjoyment of this book at all. I was still really curious to know why and how it happened.

While the characters were all well-written, I didn’t like them all of the time. Just like in the previous book, I was bothered by Kate’s single mindedness about getting the story without considering who she was hurting. I hated Jude from the beginning and I never changed my mind. I pitied Angela, and was bothered by Emma’s weakness. I liked how the characters transformed by the end, but they never felt extremely well-developed. This may be that due to the narrative shifting between them all, we never got to know them very well.

Overall, this was still a highly enjoyable mystery and I know that if people liked The Widow, they will continue to support Fiona Barton by reading her second novel since it brings the same kind of story. It may not be as unique or nuanced as her first book, but overall, I found the reading experience to be better due to it being more fast-paced. I will continue reading all of Fiona Barton’s novels.

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

Review: Here and Gone

Here and GoneHere and Gone
Author: Haylen Beck
Publisher: Crown
Genre/Themes: Thriller
Release Date: June 20th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Review

Here and Gone has the kind of plot that immediately grabs me. I love thrillers because I like how fast-paced and adventurous they are. I never go into a thriller expecting amazing writing, but I do expect a good plot and decent characterization. Fortunately, I did get that from this book.

The plot was extremely fast-paced and kept me turning the pages, and the story was interesting and unique enough to keep me reading. A lot of the times, the book felt very cinematic, and I could see this book as a movie without any problems. The plot is very suspenseful and as the story unfolds, it gets a lot darker.

I also thought the characters were all really impressive. The story switches between the perspectives of quite a few characters, and they were all well-written. Their voices felt different and I was impressed with how dynamic they all were. My only qualm was that Audra’s backstory was really cliched. I think women with her backstory have been seen in thriller novels over and over again. My favourite character was Danny, and I wish there had been more chapters from his perspective.

I enjoyed the book’s writing style, but there was nothing literary or very impressive with the writing since this was a plot focused novel. However, this was a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to fans of thrillers.

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

Review: Dark Matter

Dark MatterDark Matter
Author: Blake Crouch
Publisher: Crown
Genre/Themes: Science Fiction, Thriller
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Review

This is one of the most intriguing premises I’ve ever read. I was immediately drawn to the mysteriousness of this book, and I was really in the mood for a science fiction thriller when I picked it up. It was extremely enjoyable and I raced through it.

Dark Matter is the kind of book that keeps you reading because it has something new to think about on every page. It deals with these big picture questions about fate, family, love, and it makes you question every decision you’ve ever made. It’s already so compelling and such a page turner that you walk into Jason’s world and can’t leave until you know exactly what’s going on.

These characters were so vividly written that I understood them so well. By the end, I thought I’d known them forever. Everything about this novel is plotted and comes together in such a rewarding manner. My only gripe with this novel is that since it’s so action packed and plot heavy, the writing isn’t anything special. Yes, there are some complex questions and I really enjoyed the science bits, but overall, the writing read like a movie and there were some very unfortunate dialogue problems.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can’t wait to pick up Blake Crouch’s Pines trilogy.

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

Review: Black Mad Wheel

Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel
Author: Josh Malerman
Publisher: Ecco
Genre/Themes: Horror
Release Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

The Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious-and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.

Review

Josh Malerman’s first novel, Bird Box, is my all-time favourite horror novel. It’s the only book that has truly frightened me and I thought it was remarkably atmospheric and suspenseful. I quickly decided that I would be reading all of Josh Malerman’s future books. I was extremely excited when I heard his sophomore novel was coming out and I was intrigued by the premise, though I did notice a vague similarity to Bird Box. In his first novel, the sight of some unknown entity renders a person insane, and in this one, a mysterious sound causes dramatic effects in both people and inanimate objects.

Nevertheless, I put my reservations aside and dove into this book expecting amazing things and I was so very disappointed. This book was not atmospheric, not tense, and not the least bit scary. It was a let down in every way. I wasn’t invested in the plot at all, nor did I believe it. I had to suspend disbelief at the fact that the military would send musicians to look for a mysterious sound in the African desert. The military is not known for outsourcing. In fact, my biggest problem with this book was that the plot barely made any sense. It had elements that had potential (crazy doctor, mysterious sound, possibly supernatural entity), but it tied together so poorly. I still don’t understand the motivations of any of the characters.

Speaking of the characterization, it was not anywhere near as well done as Bird Box. I didn’t like or dislike Philip Tonka or Ellen. There was also a strange instalove in this book that really confused me. I did like the relationship between the four band members and I thought that was the most authentic relationship in the book, but it wasn’t developed or written about for a long period of time.

The only redeeming thing about this novel was the fact that Josh Malerman can write really well, and even though his writing didn’t draw me into this story, I know he’s talented enough to draw me into another one if the story actually connects with me. Yes, I’m disappointed by this book, but that may just be due to the fact that this story wasn’t for me. I will still be reading all of Josh Malerman’s future novels.

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

Review: Eileen

EileenEileen
Author: Otessa Moshfegh
Publisher: Penguin Press
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors.

Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into a complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

Review

What I quickly realized while reading this novel is that it is nothing like it’s advertised. I thought this was going to be centered around a mystery, or a tragic event that occurred, but that was not the case. This book is not the least bit plot driven. In fact, the main plot point doesn’t happen until two-thirds of the way through the book. Instead, this book is a character study centered around Eileen.

I have never despised a character more than I did Eileen. She is self-obsessed, unhygienic, insecure, a borderline alcoholic, a stalker, and utterly despicable. Reading about her day to day life and her thoughts was so upsetting and frankly, a little boring. I understand that there are some characters that are going to be hard to like, but it was impossible to like Eileen. It was impossible to like any of the characters. I felt no empathy or connection to any of them.

The plot was so slow that I found it a chore to keep reading. I was interested in the big event that happened, but once it did, it was a major let down because it was so boring and unoriginal.

The only tolerable thing about this novel was the fact that the writing was very graphic and caused me to have a physical reaction (even if the reaction was mostly disgust). I applaud Ottessa Moshfegh for being able to elicit such a response from the reader, but the writing was unable to make up for how dull the story was and how unlikeable Eileen was. I don’t recommend this novel unless you’re really in the mood for a character study.

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

 

Review: Skitter

Skitter (The Hatching #2)Skitter
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre/Themes: Horror, Adventure
Release Date: April 25th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Gruyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up. Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack gives a shocking preview of what is to come, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a spider super weapon, but it’s not clear if it’s too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol. America, you are on your own.

Review

Skitter is the second book in The Hatching trilogy. I read the first book, The Hatchinglast year and enjoyed it a lot. There isn’t a lot I can say about this book without giving the plot away, but I still found the sequel to be an entertaining read.

Just like the previous book, I found that the whole story was extremely cinematic. It’s written in the same style as the previous novel – jumping between different groups of characters to show how they are all handling the spider invasion. In this novel, we see a few of these groups link up and I’m really looking forward to seeing how each group will be responsible for stopping the spiders in the final book.

I still really liked the characters, and while the female characters were still written in a slightly offensive manner, it was way more toned down than the previous novel. My biggest complaint in The Hatching were the female portrayals, but it wasn’t as overtly misogynistic in this bookThere were a few more characters introduced, and I think they will be helping in some interesting ways, but I never found myself attached to any of them as much as I was to the original cast of people introduced in the first novel. There weren’t a lot of chapters that included the original cast, and I really wished I could have read more about them.

However, a major problem I had with this novel was that a lot of it just seemed to be filler. There were people introduced that died in the same chapter, which was fine, but it happened multiple times. No huge breakthroughs were really made, there was not much progress forward. I feel like this didn’t need to be a trilogy, it could have been compressed down into a duology.

Of course, I will be reading the final book in the series because I really want to know how everything will be resolved. These novels are fun and complete page-turners. It’s escapism at its best. I can’t wait until the final book is released!

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

Review: The Charming Predator

The Charming PredatorThe Charming Predator
Author: Lee Mackenzie
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Genre/Themes: Memoir, Non-fiction, True Crime
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

She was a capable and confident young woman, studying broadcast journalism and honing her skills of observation and objectivity. She was also a little unworldly, the product of a small, rural Western Canadian community where doors were never locked and life was simple and direct. On a backpacking trip in the UK, she met the man who would become her husband. A man who everyone agreed was one of the most intelligent, charming people they had ever met. Easy to like, easy to believe. Easy to love. A man without mercy who shattered her emotionally, psychologically and financially.
Decades later, Kenner Jones is at large today, having committed crimes around the world under a series of fake names and personas. He has been described by a seasoned US immigration officer as “the best conman I have ever encountered.”
No one got closer to Kenner Jones than Lee Mackenzie. In The Charming Predator, he is unmasked for the first time.

Review

Unfortunately, this was a book I was unable to finish. I really hated giving up on this book, but it was really hard for me to connect with the main character, even though we’re both from the same place.

The premise of this novel was intriguing, and I wanted to know how a smart woman could have been duped by such a terrible conman. The problem was that after the prologue and the first chapter, I just found myself not connecting to either the main character, Lee, or her writing style. For a book such as this, the writing needs to be really engaging, and I felt that it was lacking. I got about halfway through the second chapter before I stopped. I mean, it was really obvious that Kenner was a liar and there were just so many warning signs that went ignored.

There isn’t a lot else for me to say about this novel. I just didn’t feel like reading it any longer.

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

Review: You Will Know Me

You Will Know MeYou Will Know Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Publisher: Little Brown
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: July 26th, 2016
Format: Ebook

Synopsis

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.

Review

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about Megan Abbott’s books. I’ve heard that she’s extremely talented at writing women and their relationships with each other. Due to these recommendations, I had high expectations for You Will Know Me. While I enjoyed the novel a lot, I found myself a little underwhelmed with some of it.

I’ve always had a soft spot for books about gymnastics or dance. There’s something about sports competing against other women that cause really dynamic, interesting relationships to write about. This novel was full of those strange interactions, and I have to agree that Megan Abbott has an innate talent for getting to the heart of characters and their motivations. She’s able to get into the heads of each of her characters and having them respond to situations and process emotions in a really complex, yet genuine way. While I didn’t like any of her characters as people, I understood them and saw what made them the way they were. I really thought the characterization was spectacular.

The part that left me underwhelmed was the plot. I knew the resolution to the mystery aspect pretty quickly, and I could see all the red herrings as well. I know that the point of this book isn’t really about what happened with the death, but how everyone got to that point, but it still bugged me. I wanted more from the plot, I wanted there to be more to the story. I wanted something original, and I didn’t get that with this book.

Since Megan Abbott’s writing is so beautiful and poetic, and her characterization so raw and intense, I know I’ll be reading her other works. For the most part, I really enjoyed this novel, and I recommend it to those who want a book with great characters and sharp writing.

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

Discussion: Canada Reads 2017

It’s that time again! On March 27th, Canada Reads begins. If you’re not familiar with Canada Reads, it’s an annual competition where 5 Canadian novels are chosen based on a theme. Each novel has a prominent Canadian associated with it and their job is to defend the book as the moderator asks them questions. At the end of every day, all 5 panelists vote on which novel should be eliminated based on the day’s discussion. Even when the book is eliminated, the panelist stays on so every day, all 5 panelists vote on which novel should be eliminated.

This year, the theme is: “What is the one book Canadians need now?” I read all 5 novels and here is my ranking of which I think is least deserving to which I think should win.

5. Fifteen Dogs – Andre Alexis

Fifteen Dogs I had a really hard time getting through this book. Not only am I not a fan of apologues, I just don’t see how this book is related to the theme at all. I understand the book was trying to make a point about humanity and human nature, but this is no way a “Canadian” book. The book could have been set anywhere, and throwing random Toronto places into the book was wholly unnecessary. This isn’t a book that deals with specifically Canadian problems or makes any grand declarations about the lives of Canadians. While I know this is an award winner, I feel like this book was only picked for the short list because it won the Giller prize. Overall, a really poor pick for the competition this year.

4. Nostalgia – M.G. Vassanji

Nostalgia This was another book that I had a rough time with. I thought the idea of this book was so wonderful, but it suffered from really poor execution. The book had little to no plot building, and we were thrust into the story immediately without any understanding or background knowledge. The plot was also disjointed, and the main character was entirely forgettable. However, this book has social commentary on the plight of refugees and less fortunate countries, which I do think is something that Canadians need to consider and develop an understanding for.

3. The Right To Be Cold – Sheila Watt-Cloutier

The Right To Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole PlanetThis was the only book in the competition that I was unable to finish. The subject matter bored me, mostly because I only tend to read memoirs of people I’m familiar with and want to know about. While I admire Sheila Watt-Cloutier for dedicating her life to her Inuit community and being a Canadian environmental activist, this isn’t something I wanted to read and I didn’t like the tone and voice of the book. The reason why this book is number 3 on the list instead of number 5 is because I do think that this subject matter suits the theme really well. Climate change is an ongoing problem, not only for Canada, but for the world. I think it’s important for Canadians to realize the effects of this global issue to our country and our people.

2. Company Town – Madeleine Ashby

Company TownThis was the most entertaining book out of the bunch. This is a science-fiction novel about how technology can affect Canada in the future. It also raised some really interesting points about multiculturalism. The world-building was so detailed and richly imagined. I loved the main character, Hwa, and all of the secondary characters as well. I even enjoyed the romantic sub-plot. It was written really well.

The only criticism I have is that it could be really confusing at times. I’m still not sure I understand everything that happened and sometimes the writing was a bit disjointed which meant I had to re-read a couple of passages.

However, it doesn’t really embody the theme very well, which is why I can’t choose it as my number one pick.

1. The Break – Katherena Vermette

The Break If this book doesn’t win Canada Reads this year, it will be a travesty. Not only does this book discuss the real problems Aboriginal women face in Canada, it’s beautifully written and extremely heartbreaking. Not only was it shocking with how graphic and horrific it was, it just showed how hard it is to be a Native woman in Canada. The blatant racism, the poverty, the addiction – it all builds and creates these women that are damaged, but still very strong and deeply loyal to their families and their communities. I loved this book for a lot of reasons, and I really hope this wins.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Canada Reads results stack up against my own personal rankings.

If you’re interested in following the competition, more details can be found here: http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads/how-to-tune-in-to-canada-reads-1.4037838

Review: So Much Love

So Much LoveSo Much Love
Author: Rebecca Rosenblum
Publisher: Penguin RandomHouse Canada
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: March 14th, 2017
Format:Ebook

Synopsis

When a young woman named Catherine Reindeer vanishes without a trace from her small town, those who know her are left to cope with her absence. Moving back and forth from her outer circle of acquaintances to her closest intimates, Rebecca Rosenblum’s first novel reveals how the lives of those left behind can be overturned in the wake of an unexplained disappearance. But at the heart of the novel is Catherine’s own surprising story of resilience and recovery.

When a final devastating loss after months of captivity forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows her dramatic escape. Woven throughout are stories about a local female poet who was murdered decades earlier, a woman whose life and work become a lifeline for Catherine during her darkest hours—and who may ultimately hold the key to Catherine’s quest to find solace in the aftermath of unimaginable tragedy.

Review

Unfortunately, I stopped reading this book when I was halfway through it. I tried really hard to become invested in this novel, especially because it’s from a Canadian author, but I was unable to do so.

So Much Love is a debut novel from Rebecca Rosenblum, and it falls into the pitfalls that a lot of debut novels fall into. There are far too many characters in the book. While I understood that the goal was to show how the disappearance of Catherine Reindeer impacted those who knew her, the end result was disjointed. Every chapter was from the point of view of somebody else, but their names were never explicitly pointed out so it took a while to understand who was speaking. I could have gotten past this, but the main problem was there was no cohesion in the story and because we jumped between the (many!) characters, it was hard to gain an understanding of who they were as people.

Another huge issue I had with this book was that it was so dreadfully slow. I don’t mind it when novels are slow and there’s great character development, but this book didn’t have either for me. I couldn’t connect to the characters or the plot and I just didn’t care how the story was going to turn out.

I’m really disappointed that I couldn’t finish this novel because it sounded very intriguing and it has beautiful, poetic writing. I just found myself really disconnected to it. I’m sure this book has an audience out there and it has great ratings, but it just wasn’t for me.

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