Review: Heart of the City

Heart of the City (Detective Greene, #5)Heart of the City
Author: Robert Rotenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

When Detective Ari Greene was charged with the murder of the woman he loved, he stopped at nothing to clear his name and uncover the real killer. After his acquittal, Greene fled to London to get away from it all, but now he’s back. And he’s not alone—with Greene is his twenty-year-old daughter, Alison. The child he never knew he had.
Determined to leave his life as a cop behind him, Greene gets a job on a construction site for one of Toronto’s many new condos. But when Greene stumbles upon the corpse of hated developer Livingston Fox, he is plunged back into the life he tried so hard to leave behind. As the body count rises, Greene is forced into a reluctant reconciliation with his former protégé, Daniel Kennicott. The pair must delve into the tight-knit world of downtown development, navigating tangled loyalties, unexpected corruption, and family secrets, some of which are closer to home than Greene could have ever imagined.

Review

I absolutely love this mystery series. I was introduced to them a few years ago, and I quickly read them all because I was fascinated with how Canadian centered they were. Not only did we get to see how Canadian homicide detectives handled cases, we also got a healthy dose of courtroom drama centered around the Canadian legal system. The author, Robert Rotenberg, is a criminal lawyer based in Toronto, so I assume that he knows of what he speaks.

I liked this story, but not as much as previous novels. I just didn’t think the plot was as strong, and a lot of my favourite characters weren’t present in this novel. The new character introduced, Ari’s daughter, Alison, was a good character, but I didn’t see the point of introducing a random daughter into his life. It just seemed so out of the blue and highly…unnecessary? Daniel Kennicott was also not as interesting to read about this time around.

The mystery was really well done, and once again, I had no idea who the murderer was until the very end. It was a satisfying plot and a meaty mystery, but it felt a little rushed at times and there were a lot of threads that were left open. I assume they will be further fleshed out in future novels, but it was a little dissatisfying at the end of this book. There were also no courtroom scenes, which are my favourite scenes in the book.

Of course, I will continue to follow this series until the very end, but I hope the next book has the same magic the first four books in the series had.

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

 

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Review: Final Girls

Final GirlsFinal Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Genre/Themes: Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Release Date: July 11th, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Review

The final girl trope in horror movies is one of my favourite tropes. I like the idea of one strong, kickass woman taking down the killer and surviving. In fact, this trope was turned into a movie called The Final GirlsThe thing is, you never see what happens to the final girl after the murderer is dead and she begins her new life.

Enter Riley Sager. Riley Sager is a pseudonym for a (famous?) published author, which I found interesting. This book is an imagining of what happens when the final girls, the lone survivors of serial killers and mass murderers, are forced to come to terms with what happened to them. Obviously, there is a lot of psychological trauma that comes after such experiences and this book is about how different women react to horrific events.

I absolutely loved this novel. Everything about it works so well. The characterization in this novel was absolutely fantastic. The main character, Quincy, is trying so hard to be normal and live her life, but she has this hidden trauma that comes to the surface once one of the Final Girls is killed. She’s forced to examine the life she’s built and see just how much she’s lying to herself and everyone around her. I also really liked the character of Sam because she was so different from Quincy. You got to really delve into the lives of the Final Girls and see what kind of people they had become. You saw how differently tragedy can shape a person.

The plot was so fast-paced and exciting. There are so many twists in this book and it feels like a race to the conclusion. Quincy has blocked out the events of Pine Cottage, and the reader realizes things just as Quincy does. There are snippets of the past juxtaposed with the present, which I thought worked really well. I thought I knew where this book was going and I thought I knew exactly what had happened, but I wasn’t even close to guessing the truth. It was a really dark and complex story, but still quite exciting. I think this book could be turned into a really interesting movie if done correctly.

I was focused on the writing of this novel too because I was trying to guess who the author was. While the writing is good, there’s nothing very distinctive about it. It’s perfectly written for a thriller, but this isn’t a literary novel at all.

I think this book is going to be really huge this summer. It has all the markings of a big summer thriller that everyone has rave reviews for. I’m so eager to read anything else this author decides to write. I highly recommend this novel to people who like slasher movies, psychological thrillers, or fast paced thrillers in general.

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

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: 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.

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 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.

Review: Swimming Lessons

Swimming Lessons
Swimming Lessons
Author: Claire Fuller
Publisher: House of Anansi
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: January 28th, 2017
Format: Trade Paperback
Swimming Lessons

 Synopsis

In this spine-tingling tale Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but she never sends them. Instead she hides them within the thousands of books her husband has collected. After she writes her final letter, Ingrid disappears.

Twelve years later, her adult daughter, Flora comes home to look after her injured father. Secretly, Flora has never believed her mother is dead, and she starts asking questions, without realizing that the answers she’s looking for are hidden in the books that surround her.

Review

This is a beautiful, heart wrenching, infuriating, and completely incredible novel. It’s hard for me to describe how much this book made me feel, but I loved every moment of it. I knew that I’d enjoy this novel because the premise of this book is exactly what I like to read. Not only is it a book about books, it’s a contemporary novel with a missing woman that had secrets that led to her disappearance. I knew I’d be swept up in the mystery, but I wasn’t expecting to feel so many emotions along the way.

This is one of those rare novels that is both about the plot and the characters, and both are developed beautifully. This book alternates between chapters in the present and the letters that Ingrid wrote to her husband and hid, relaying the story of their marriage.  The plot is one I’ve read before, but there was such subtle hints that I still didn’t see it coming., and even after I learned the truth, I still didn’t know what sort of impact it would make for all the characters.

However, the true beauty of this novel is due to the characters and their stories. Even though Ingrid is missing, she was such an integral part of the novel and we learned so much about her and her husband, Gil, through her letters. I was furious with Gil throughout the majority of the novel, and I despised him by the end of it. Even though in the present timeline, he’s a different and broken man, I still didn’t feel any sympathy toward him. I’ve never hated a character so much in a very long time, and I think it’s a mark of a talented writer to elicit such emotions toward a fictional person.

I loved Ingrid so much, and I felt so terribly for the life she was forced to live, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her daughters, Flora and Nan as well. I felt such a deep connection to all of them even though my life doesn’t mirror theirs in any way.

This is a quiet novel, but it’s devastating all the same. It’s beautifully written – descriptive, atmospheric, and completely refreshing. I’m a huge fan of Claire Fuller, and I will be reading all her future novels.

I received this book through the Goodreads Firstreads program. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: Everything You Want Me To Be

Everything You Want Me to Be
Everything You Want Me To Be
Author: Mindy Mejia
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Genre/Themes: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Release Date: January 3rd, 2017
Format: Ebook
Everything You Want Me to Be

Synopsis

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Review

This book has one of those intriguing premises that hooks me immediately. When I see that a book is a multi-perspective novel about a murder that takes place in a small town, I’m always going to want to read it.

Since this is a mystery, there’s very little I can say without giving the story away, but I will say that I absolutely loved this book. I raced through it because I was so desperate to find out what happened to Hattie. This book alternates between Hattie and two men that are very important in her life, Del, the sheriff who is tasked with solving her murder, and Peter, her English and drama teacher. My favourite part of this novel was the incredible way each character was developed. All three of these characters were interesting to read from and I loved each of them, especially because they were flawed and they felt like real people.

Hattie was the perfect character for this book to be centered around. She was a master manipulator, a fantastic actress, and full of secrets. As a reader, you always want to be drawn in by the protagonist and even though it’s her murder that starts her novel, she was still a fully fleshed-out character and it hurt to know what was going to happen to her. She was intriguing and exciting and you wanted better for her life.

This book takes place over the course of a year, and jumps back and forth in time between the three characters. The past and present timelines come together seamlessly and while the plot of this novel is by no means unique, it’s still fast-paced and entertaining to read. It’s full of twists, but I did see a lot of them coming. However, I don’t think the main point of this novel was the murder-mystery aspect of it, but the fact that it was a really interesting character study.

The writing in this novel is also one of the best things about it. Mindy Mejia is gifted at coming up with beautiful metaphors and sentences that forced me to re-read and really think about what was being said. Using Jane Eyre and Macbeth as important literature in this novel was perfect (and the reader will fully understand why these two were chosen as they understand Hattie better).

Overall, this was a great start to my reading year in 2017. I expect this novel to do really well, and I can guarantee I’ll be reading all of Mindy Mejia’s future works.

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

Review: The Assassin Game – Kirsty McKay

The Assassin GameAt Cate’s isolated boarding school Killer is more than a game-it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “killed” during a series of thrilling pranks-and only the Game Master knows who the “killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join The Guild of Assassins, she knows it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.

But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save The Guild. But can she find the real assassin-before she’s the next target?

Unfortunately, this is a book that I had to abandon. The start of the book was pretty interesting, and I was really excited by the premise of the book. I love boarding school novels and this was a thriller, which is my favourite genre to read these days.

My biggest problem with the novel and the reason why I had to stop reading was the really juvenile writing  and the cheesy scenes. I stopped reading as soon as the male romantic lead was introduced. It was just so angsty and dramatic, and strangely written.

Perhaps the plot would have been decent, but the idea of reading 300 pages of cringe-inducing writing and a main character who was already grating on my nerves wasn’t appealing in the least.

Since this is a young adult novel that reads very juvenile, this book wasn’t for me. While I didn’t enjoy it, I think a younger audience might like it.

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

Review: The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorAnne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.
Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.
What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family–a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Whenever books are classified as the next Gone Girlor a new psychological thriller, I’m always hesitant to pick them up. I loved Gone Girl, and I’ve always felt like any other books that claim to be like it are just setting themselves up to fail. They’re never going to reach the same level of success. However, The Couple Next Door, is a very good novel and while it’s not up to Gone Girl standards, it’s the first psychological thriller I’ve read in a long time that actually kept me guessing and wasn’t fully predictable.

I’m a sucker for stories that have a mysterious premise. I think it’s important to go into this novel with as little information as possible about the plot. What I can reveal is that I didn’t see of all of the twists coming and I’m usually very good at predicting what’s going to happen next. I definitely didn’t see the end coming and while I thoughts parts of the novel were a little overkill, overall the plot was so captivating that I had a hard time putting the book down. While I was reading, I kept thinking that this is a plot that would make a fantastic movie.

The book switches narration between of all of the main characters, and while I like that plot device, I wasn’t fond of any of the characters. I didn’t really connect to any of them. The problem was that since the book switched perspectives so often, the reader never fully understood anybody. It was a superficial view of the characterization and I really disliked that.

Another place this book fell short was with the writing. The writing wasn’t bad, but I have a habit of comparing every psychological thriller to Gone Girl, and Gillian Flynn’s writing is almost perfect for me. Shari Lapena writes well, but her writing isn’t as sharp or as acerbic as Gillian Flynn’s writing. You never find yourself in awe of the writing, which is disappointing.

Overall, this is a really interesting, entertaining novel with a lot of unexpected twists. While I do recommend it to people who like mysteries with unreliable narrators, and psychological thrillers, the mediocre writing ensures that it will only be a one-time read. However, I would still be very interested in reading Shari Lapena’s future novels.

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