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: 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: 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.

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: The Dark And Other Love Stories

The Dark and Other Love Stories
The Dark And Other Love Stories
Author: Deborah Willis
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Short Stories
Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Format: Ebook

Synopsis

The characters in the thirteen stories that comprise The Dark and Other Love Stories exist on the edge of danger, where landscapes melt into dreamscapes and every house is haunted. A drug dealer’s girlfriend signs up for the first manned mission to Mars. A girl falls in love with a man who wants to turn her into a bird. A teenage girl and her best friend test their relationship by breaking into suburban houses. A wife finds a gaping hole in the floor of the home she shares with her husband, a hole that only she can see.

Full of longing and strange humor, these subtle, complex stories about the love between a man and his pet crow, an alcoholic and his AA sponsor, a mute migrant and a newspaper reporter—show how love ties us to each other and to the world.

Review

These stories all revolve around the theme of love. They’re about love in all shapes, but they all have the same melancholy air. Some are rooted in our contemporary world, and some have a little tinge of magical realism. I was really excited to dive into this short story collection mostly because this is a book from a Canadian author, but I found myself extremely underwhelmed.

I only had one story that I actually liked, Last One to Leave, because it was a form of love that I could connect with. I liked both the characters and the narration style and I understood it from beginning to end. There was something resonant about the story, but I had a really hard tie with all of the others. I never fully connected with the characters or the plot, and I just didn’t like where they went.

Overall, I found myself really disappointed with this collection. There was very little substance and nothing noteworthy in the stories. I may or may not read another book by this author.

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

Review: The Valiant

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1)
The Valiant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Genre/Themes: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Format: Ebook

Synopsis

The youngest daughter of a proud Celtic king, Fallon has always lived in the shadow of her older sister Sorcha’s legendary reputation as a warrior. But when Fallon was a young child, the armies of Julius Caesar invaded the island of Britain and her beloved older sister was killed in battle.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her rightful place in her father’s royal war band. But she never gets the chance. Instead, Fallon is captured by a band of ruthless brigands who sell her to an exclusive training school for female gladiators—and its most influential patron is none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, Fallon’s worst enemy, the man who destroyed her family, might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, chilling threats and the dangerous attention of Caesar himself to survive the deadly fights that take place both in and out of the arena—and claim her place in history among the Valiant.

Review

I’ve been a huge fan of Lesley Livingston ever since I read her Wondrous Strange and Starling series. She has an innate ability of writing really vivid characters that always feel like real people. I was really excited to read this book because even though I’m not a fan of historical fiction, I knew I’d enjoy her characterization, and I was right.

The idea of this novel was really interesting and unlike anything I’d ever read before. Taking the idea of female gladiators (gladiatrices) and creating a whole school for their training was brilliant. The whole purpose of this book was sisterhood and friendship, which is a really rewarding topic to read about. The plot was interesting and fast-paced, but there were parts that I found too rushed. It felt like everything happened really fast and there was never a real climax to the novel. The stakes weren’t as important as I thought they would be, and there was no sense of real urgency to the novel.

I also had a huge problem with the romance aspect to this novel. This wasn’t insta-love by any means, but it wasn’t much slower than that. Fallon had many suitors, and jumped from one to the other and I just didn’t find it charming or realistic. The whole romance storyline seemed a little too contrived.

Where this book shines is with the characters. Fallon is such a smart, strong character, but best of all, she’s not a special snowflake who can do everything. She fails, and is then forced to work hard to achieve her goals. Her abilities are realistic and not the product of some god-given special talent. Her relationships with her fellow gladiatrices are also very well-written. She’s not best friends with all of them, but there’s a level of respect and comradeship that’s really rewarding to read about. A lot of time female friendships in books are cutting, but not in this one.

While this book is the start to the series, this novel can be read as a standalone. However, I’m such a huge fan of Lesley Livingston that I can’t wait to read Book 2. I really enjoyed this book.

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

Review: The Edge of Everything

The Edge of Everything
The Edge of Everything
Author: Jeff Giles
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre/Themes: Fantasy, Paranormal
Release Date: January 31st, 2017
Format: Ebook

Synopsis

It’s been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who’s still reeling from her father’s shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors’ mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods–only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe’s evil attacker and others like him. Forbidden to reveal himself to anyone other than his victims, X casts aside the Lowlands’ rules for Zoe. As X and Zoe learn more about their different worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for both of them.

Review

This was an enjoyable young adult fantasy novel with a lot of humour, romance, and warmth. The story was interesting and fast-paced and a lot of things about it were very unique. However, there were a few tropes included in this novel that I disliked.

I’ve seen a lot about this book on Twitter, which was why I was so intrigued by it. I liked the idea of a rogue bounty hunter, and from the synopsis, I was expecting a really dark story, but it wasn’t dark at all. Unfortunately, it fell into the trap of one of my least favourite young adult romance tropes, insta-love. I can’t stand it when someone falls in love with someone after barely speaking to them, and that was a big part of this novel.

I also have a problem with novels where the male love interest repeatedly “saves” the girl from harm. In this book, even though Zoe is strong and capable, she’s still saved by X multiple times. It’s such a common trope now, and it’s another one that really bothers me.

The story is extremely fast-paced and exciting, and the concept is really unique. The whole backstory of X and his friends from the Lowlands is something I’ve never seen done in a book before, and that’s truly the best part of this book.

The characterization and relationships in this novel (apart from the insta-love) were also spot on. Zoe’s relationship with her brother and mother was such a rewarding interaction because you could see they deeply cared for each other and were close to each other. In a lot of young adult books, the parents are absent for a lot of the time, but that wasn’t the case here. Zoe’s relationship with her family and friends is extremely important. Her relationship with her best friend was also really perfect.

I enjoyed the writing for the most part. Jeff Giles made the decision to include recent social media trends in his novel (Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram), and that’s not something I’d ever do if I wrote a book because it dates a novel, but I understand why he chose to do it and it didn’t bother me a lot. The writing is simple, but some of the descriptions were lovely.

Overall, this is a really solid start to a series. I think it will do well, but I will most likely not be continuing with the series because I never felt any strong connection to the characters or the story. However, if you’re a fan of young adult fantasy/romances and the premise sounds interesting, I definitely recommend you read it.

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