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.

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Rook – Sharon Cameron Review

Rook History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

This novel is an homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, and even though I’ve never read it, I found this story to be enjoyable and interesting. Even though this is a dystopian novel, I still thought it brought something new to the genre. I think my favourite part of it was the blend of the future and the past.

In this novel, the magnetic poles shift, which cause all our electronic devices to stop working essentially sending us back to the Middle Ages. This novel takes place in the far future where all knowledge of today is regarded as myth and all technology and plastic is outlawed. This was a really unique twist on the end of world scenario. The book takes place in the Sunken City (formerly known as Paris), and is run by a dictator who turns the lower class against the upper class and executes his prisoners with the use of the Razor, which is a large guillotine. Sounds a little familiar, right?

The main character, Sophia Bellamy, was a really likeable protagonist. She was strong, smart, brave, and willing to do what was right even at the cost of her safety. She did have some insipid moments when she was thinking more about her love interest than the problems at hand, and she was a little moon-eyed sometimes, but it was never so distracting that I disliked her. She also never seemed to make the classic mistakes that a young-adult female protagonist usually makes, and she was never a damsel in distress. She always saved herself. I found her to be fierce, cunning, and pretty remarkable.

Her love interest, René Hassard, was also surprisingly well-written. He was highly intelligent and a pretty good match for Sophia. Their relationship was a little drawn out, and there was a love triangle, which I always find odious, but the resolution was unexpected. At least it wasn’t boring.

The book does have its flaws. The beginning was extremely slow and it took at least 50 pages for me to understand the world and the characters’ motivations. I also disliked the weird religion of Fate and Luck. I found it to be really strange. There were also weird shifts from one character’s perspective to another and it was often done very clumsily. It seemed like an unnecessary writing tactic. While the plot was enjoyable, it dragged sometimes and did become a little dull and repetitive toward the middle. However, I still really liked the blend of history with dystopia, and I found all the characters to be very dynamic.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel. It’ll take a while to get going, but I think it’s worth the slow start.

Weekend in Weighton – Terry Murphy Review

Weekend in Weighton First-time private investigator Eddie Greene is having a bad weekend. It’s about to get worse …

When he finds the slab-cold body of his first client, he knows something’s up – he only spoke to her fifteen minutes earlier.

Free-wheeling, swash-buckling, trash-talking Eddie is not just out of place in a humdrum northern town. He’s out of depth on his first case, out of funds from a now deceased client and out of favour with Weighton’s big society.

As Friday night slides into Saturday morning, each twist in the case turns a bad situation worse. The police want him for murder, the local crime boss wants him dead, the mayor wants him out of town and his girlfriend wants him out of her life.

Increasingly desperate, Eddie takes on all-comers in a barnstorming bid to crack the case and clear his name. And somewhere between all the froth and fury, his affections are reclaimed by the girl who got away – but will she abide ‘til Monday?

There’s a lot to like about this book. The main character, Eddie, is outspoken, sarcastic and loves making jokes about everything. He’s endearing and you’re rooting for him the entire way. Reading about him and the colorful cast of supporting characters was really fun and enjoyable. The plot is strong and I loved the way Eddie slowly manages to piece everything together. There were a lot of false leads and dead ends so that the conclusion was really surprising to me.

However, at times, Eddie’s sarcasm and one-liners bordered on grating and because I’m not English, I didn’t get all the references and know what he was talking about. However, it’s a solid mystery novel. It’s a quick, fun read and I think others will really enjoy it.

Connor Jones – Scott Soloff Review

Connor Jones - A Picker/Connor Mystery

Connor Jones
Scott Soloff

con man – n informal
More formal term: confidence man
a person who swindles another by means of a confidence trick

I’m not exactly sure how to categorize what I do for a living. Hell, that’s not true. I’m a con man.

But not just any con man. I only go after the wealthy. That’s not entirely true either. My ‘marks’ are godless people. Those monsters that prey on the weak and vulnerable. After a successful ‘job’, a portion of the proceeds goes into an account in order to draw salaries, pay overhead and fund future endeavors. Just like any business enterprise. The rest is distributed to those that are less fortunate. Poor people.

My father was an extremely successful international con man who was murdered by the son of his arch nemesis in a car explosion. My mother is a great beauty devoted to humane causes. As a result, my shrink says that I suffer from a skewed moral perspective. In lay terms, my doctor claims that I have a Robin Hood Complex.

Come join me, my half brother Picker and an assorted cast of colorful characters as we battle our arch enemy, the evil Terry England.

This was another good novel by Scott Soloff. This is the sequel to his other works #37 and Three Strikes, though I don’t think it’s necessary to have read those before starting this book. This book is centered around Picker’s brother Connor. Though Connor is suave, debonair, and a world-class con man, I didn’t enjoy him as a protagonist as  much as I enjoyed Picker. Connor seemed larger than life since he always had everything completely planned out, while Picker occasionally messed up and was more flawed. I also missed the characters in Picker’s life and found the ones in Connor’s to be really one-dimensional. In fact, I would have to say my favourite scenes in this novel were the ones involving Picker and Kelly.

Though I missed antiquing and art, I really did like the caper in this book. Soloff has a knack for writing these types of books. They all have complex plots, multiple storylines, and he is talented at combining them all at the end. In fact, it was quite rewarding to see how they came together.

Once again, there were small grammar and spelling mistakes, but I will still be reading any of his future works.

Beyond Billicombe – Sherry Chiger Review

Beyond Billicombe Suzanne has come to Billicombe, a faded English resort town on the Bristol Channel, for one simple reason: to find her adored older brother. A recovering addict, Jax had moved to Billicombe after completing rehab, but it’s been six months since Suzanne last heard from him. Her search, however, turns out to be anything but simple. For one thing, Suzanne is a former child actress, well known for her role on a long-running TV series, and she needs to avoid being recognized while exploring Billicombe’s seamy underside. For another, Richard, a local man Suzanne turns to for help, has problems of his own stemming from a car accident that cost him much of his memory. Suzanne’s quest for Jax and Richard’s attempt to put his life back together collide in ways neither could have expected.

There was something very heartbreaking about this book. I don’t know if it was the subject matter or just how bleak Billicombe seemed, but whatever it was moved me deeply. Though drugs have never been an issue I’ve personally faced or had a loved one face, Chiger really drew me into Suzanne’s story and I found myself sympathizing with her deeply.

This is a fairly short read, but the characters were very well-developed. Suzanne and Richard were by no means perfect, but you couldn’t help but want the best for them. As Suzanne tried to figure out what happened to Jax, I thought Chiger painted a really vivid picture of the underbelly of Billicombe.

The plot moved at a great pace as well, though the ending was a little predictable. However, it didn’t matter because the atmosphere was very vivid and the story was more about the characters than the plot. A good first novel.

Blue Fall – B.B. Griffith Review

Blue Fall
B.B. Griffith

There was a time, long ago, when wars were won and lost based on the outcomes of single battles between heroes. Entire countries were moved. Empires rose and fell.

In Blue Fall, that time has come again.

A routine investigation throws a hapless insurance agent down the rabbit hole, into a world where the rich and powerful place wagers on the greatest game on earth. They call it the Tournament. It offers competition without limits. It is beholden to no man, constrained by no law, and it is extremely dangerous. But where does the true power lie in this World Cup of Warfare? With those who place the bets, or with the deadly players themselves? And how much longer can it possibly remain a secret?

There aren’t many unique ideas for film, T.V. or literature these days, but Griffith managed to create a brilliant novel with an entirely new premise.  The Tournament can be described as a competition between eight countries where three of their best people battle against each other.  There are no rules, no laws, and the possibility of injury is high.

Blue Fall takes us to a very primitive place. Each team truly consists of warriors and there are some amazing battles between them.  Griffith really made us invested in each team and you can’t help but pick favourites.  Others have said the beginning is slow, but it’s only because the main players of each team need to be introduced.  Some were more interesting to read about than others, but at the end of their introductions, we knew their characters and to a certain extent, how they fit into their team.

Reading about some of the battles and their after effects was sometimes a bit brutal (France vs. Russia).  It really drove home the fact that casualties and collateral damage were expected.  It also drove home how savage the Tournament would be.  In fact, reading about the brutality of the fights sometimes made my stomach turn because the teams didn’t have an ounce of compassion for each other.  Instead of it being a game, it was a war.  That being said, reading the fights was complete heart-pumping action and I was anxious for the well-being of (some) of the teams.

The end was incredibly shocking and such an interesting direction to take the series.  It leaves off on a cliffhanger and Griffith has me completely hooked.  I can’t wait for the next installment!

The Clockwork Prince – Cassandra Clare

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

I loved the Mortal Instrument series, but I don’t find myself as invested in the Infernal Device series. I think it’s because the era is so ancient! I can’t relate to Will, Jem, or Tessa at all. Also, I found Will’s storyline to be very contrived. It seemed like Clare just wanted an excuse to keep Will and Tessa apart to make the series a little more angsty. I found myself making a lot of comparisons between the two series (i.e. a lot of re-used plot points and character descriptions), but all of the things that made the Mortal Instrument series great aren’t here.

This book is just so boring. I don’t care about any of the main characters and I just wasn’t emotionally drawn in at all. Tessa is such a typical Victorian girl and I can’t see any of the strength and independence that made Clary such an admirable heroine. I find it hard to take that young girls never go for the generous, kind, stable boys and always go for the broody, dark, mysterious jerks. Will treated Tessa horribly and said some utterly cruel things to her, but she still finds herself drawn to him because he’s good looking? COME ON! Is this what we want to teach teenage girls? We can’t promote the idea that a man’s cruelty is for a deeper reason and he’s actually in love with you. That’s just promoting delusion. But I digress.

Back to the plot. Not only was it dull and slow, it seemed like such an afterthought. At every event there was just so much angst and drama. The love triangle is the premiere plot point…and speaking of the love triangle, how is it appropriate for Tessa to be making out with two different guys on subsequent nights? Once again, another thing we don’t want to be promoting in young girls! Additionally, at every step, there seemed to be so many misunderstandings…it was as if nobody had clear communication skills. I also wasn’t fond of the whole Nate and Jessamine storyline. Once again, it stresses a woman’s obsession with a man and her delusion that he loves her when he obviously doesn’t. I didn’t like the way the girls were portrayed in this novel. They were either shown to be weak and needy like Jessamine, or confused and promiscuous like Tessa.

However, there were some redeeming qualities of this novel. No matter how confused Tessa was, she did stand by her decision to be with the man she chose. She was selfless in her desire to keep Will and Jem’s friendship intact and sacrificed her own heart in the process. It’s very noble of her and I’m curious as to how it’s going to play out to make all three of them happy (though I do have my suspicions how things will end). I also adored Sophie’s character. She fell in love in spite of herself, she is kind, compassionate, and a great friend to Tessa. I really hope she manages to find happiness as well.

This book does leave off on a slight cliffhanger and I’m wondering how this storyline will be developed. I think I will finish this series, but not happily. This is not Cassandra Clare’s best work.

The Woman in Black

Yesterday, a few of my friends and I went to see The Woman in Black. Honestly, most of us were just going to see what Daniel Radcliffe was going to do after Harry Potter.

All right, it’s a REALLY good movie. I’m a huge fan of horror movies in general, but I really hate the trend of unnecessary gore.  The Woman in Black goes back to the classic, creepy horror movie. In a dark movie theatre, the atmosphere is frightening as anything and I think all of us jumped tons.

Now the funny part. Since the movie takes place in England (and in the Victorian era), it seemed very Harry Potter-ish.  I have to admit, my friends and I were cracking Harry Potter jokes throughout the entire movie…i.e. “Alohamora!” when he was rattling the closed doorknob, “He needs a wand!” when he grabbed his hatchet to go upstairs, and “THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED” when he was peeling the wallpaper off the room and saw the red ink. Trust me, when you watch the movie, you’ll see what I mean.

I totally recommend it though. I hope Daniel Radcliffe starts to shy away from the periodic pieces though…maybe work on his American accent a little and get different roles.