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: 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.

Review: The Roanoke Girls

The Roanoke GirlsThe Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Crown
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Contemporary
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Format:Ebook

Synopsis

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. There is a darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.

Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago.

Review

When I first read the synopsis for this novel, I knew I was going to enjoy reading it. It has everything I look for in a novel – the mystery of a missing girl, dark family secrets, and a young woman forced to confront her past. Amy Engel is a new author to me, but after reading this book, I will be picking up all of her other works.

This isn’t an easy book to read. It has some really shocking and disturbing subject matter that made me feel squeamish and sick to my stomach for a lot of the book. It’s extremely dark and twisted, but in my opinion, this book is as close to perfect as any book can get. It’s one of my new favourite novels and that’s not an honor I give out lightly.

There are a lot of shocks in this story, but the first one is dropped about 11% through the book. It’s done without any preamble or preparation, and I was taken completely by surprise even though I knew something big was coming. I just didn’t know what it would be and that it would be done so quickly. I liked that the reader knows what the big secret is right away, but it’s not boring since there are still layers that are peeled back as the story continues. The plot moved at a great pace and even though the novel is quiet, it has moments of drama that keep the reader transfixed.

Additionally, the atmosphere of this novel suits the novel so very well. The oppressive heat of the Kansas summer and the beauty and desolation of the Roanoke house combine to create a setting that mirrors the experiences of the characters. Just like the beauty of Roanoke hides something evil and twisted, every beautiful Roanoke girl was hiding something as well. It’s a marvelously written parallel and handled with such grace and eloquence by Amy Engel.

Lane was one of the best characters I’ve ever read. Even though she’s beautiful and sought after, her experiences have left her a mess. She’s self-destructive, selfish, cruel at times, and yet you can’t help but love her. I wanted the best for her and for Allegra. I wanted the best for all the Roanoke girls, and I loved all of them. The secondary characters were also so well-developed and interesting. I also really enjoyed the writing and the layout of the book because we learned about all the Roanoke girls. We understood who they were and we learned some of their secrets too. The one thing I was unsure about was the romantic subplot. I didn’t think I would like it, but I really ended up loving the way it developed. It was everything I wanted for Lane, and the ending was hopeful, which is the best I think you can ask when it comes to a book this tragic.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone. There are going to be people that are so bothered by the subject matter that they won’t be able to get past it to the beauty within. The darkness of the novel will mar everything else, but I really recommend people try and read past it. I want people to read down to the heart of this book, which is about a damaged protagonist trying to find redemption and a little hope. It’s a beautiful story, and one worth reading.

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

Review: The Trophy Child

The Trophy Child
The Trophy Child
Author: Paula Daly
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Genre/Themes: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

Synopsis

Karen Bloom is not the coddling mother type. She believes in raising her children for success. Some in the neighborhood call her assertive, others say she’s driven, but in gossiping circles she’s known as: the tiger mother. Karen believes that tough discipline is the true art of parenting and that achievement leads to ultimate happiness. She expects her husband and her children to perform at 200 percent—no matter the cost. But in an unending quest for excellence, her seemingly flawless family start to rebel against her.

Her husband Noel is a handsome doctor with a proclivity for alcohol and women. Their prodigy daughter, Bronte, is excelling at school, music lessons, dance classes, and yet she longs to run away. Verity, Noel’s teenage daughter from his first marriage, is starting to display aggressive behavior. And Karen’s son from a previous relationship falls deeper into drug use. When tragedy strikes the Blooms, Karen’s carefully constructed facade begins to fall apart—and once the deadly cracks appear, they are impossible to stop.

Review

This is one of the craziest books I’ve ever read. Paula Daly has already made a name for herself by writing these mystery/thrillers that follow a formula that I’m obsessed with. All of the characters are multi-faceted (often times unlikeable), and the plot always has a few twists.  From the premise of this novel, I thought this book was going to be a standard mystery/psychological thriller, but it was so much better than I was expecting.

Every character in this book is extremely well-written and well thought out. All of them are so deeply flawed that there really aren’t any good or bad characters. They’re all dealing with their own issues and trying to find a place in their family where their main goal is to not disappoint each other. Paula Daly writes the complexity and the problems of a blended family really well. She forces the reader to examine the typical idea of what a family is, and also the many ways a mother can love her child. Even though Karen is a typical “tiger mom”, these mothers love their children and want them to be successful and they show it in a slightly different manner. There’s so much competition between mothers that perhaps they end up showing their love inappropriately. I tried to understand this side of Karen, and a part of me could do so, but it was really hard to like her. It was hard to like any character fully because they all acted selfishly. That was the beauty of the characters though.

The plot was so fast-paced and intriguing that it was almost impossible to stop reading. I thought I knew exactly what this story was going to be about, but there were so many twists and curveballs that the plot was completely different than what I thought it would be. I really liked the whole investigation aspect and how everyone was a suspect, but I was disappointed by the ending. I really hoped for a longer resolution and for the motives to be a little clearer. This is also a British novel so there were slight differences in how they ran their police investigation. Apparently, British police officers don’t carry guns, which I find a little strange.

Overall, this was a nearly perfect mystery novel and I was so addicted to the plot and the wonderful characters. I’m so interested in all of Paula Daly’s future books. She is definitely one of my new auto-buy authors.

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