The Roses of May by Dot Hutchison – The Collectors #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You might recall that I read The Butterfly Garden a while back. That novel had its fair share of criticism and praise, with some readers finding it too unbelievable and others finding it right up their alley. In the case of my opinion, I fell into the latter category. I was super excited to hear that there would be a sequel to it and I requested it as soon as I could through NetGalley! Here is my review:

It’s been 4 months since the Garden was discovered, a place where young women were abducted and kept as Butterflies. FBI agents Eddison, Hanoverian, and Ramirez are still dealing with the aftermath, trying to help the survivors adjust to life on the outside. But while the butterflies go through their recovery process, the agents have their hands full with a new case: a serial killer who leaves the dead bodies of young women in churches, throats slit and bodies surrounded by flowers. Priya Sravasti’s sister was one of the victims, and it has broken the family. Now, Priya and her mother move every few months, hoping for a brighter day. But soon Priya finds herself in the killer’s crosshairs. Priya may be the only person who can help find the killer – but at what price?

At first, I was very confused with this novel. I was under the impression that this book would be a sequel to the first book, and I wrongly assumed that the serial killer mentioned in this novel was somehow connected to the Butterfly Garden. However, that was not true; these 2 novels, while sharing the same themes, are not really connected in terms of plot. Once I realized this, the novel began to make more sense. The author still made mention of the Butterflies, but it was more in passing than anything significant.

I quite enjoyed the story here, with its similar yet unique plot. Once again, we read about a madman who hunts women, but the reasons behind his behaviour are different from the madman in the first book in the series. The novel has excerpts from his perspective, but is mostly told through the voice of Priya and FBI agent Eddison, both likable characters. I had a vested interest in Priya and could understand why Eddison and the other FBI agents wanted to protect her so much.

The plot itself wasn’t as dramatic or as dark as The Butterfly Garden. In fact, this book resembled more of the usual thrillers that you see. It was still very well written and highly engaging, which is why I couldn’t stop flipping the pages. However, it lacked some of that dark maturity that I associated with the first book, and I missed that. There were also some recurring themes that were a bit overdone; literally every page was filled with something related to the theme and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at times. The other flaw in this novel is the completely unrealistic relationship between Priya and her mother. It just … didn’t make sense. I understand that the author wanted Priya’s mother to be more like a friend; my own mother and I are very close, and we bicker and fight like best friends/sisters. However, a mother is still a mother and there are certain behaviours and actions that a mother would never approve of or do. While the relationship between Priya and the FBI agents was also quite unbelievable, I didn’t mind it as much because it worked.

Overall, this novel was a compelling read that was fast-paced and thrilling. However, it wasn’t as dark or mature as its predecessor and had certain characteristics that were a tad bit far-fetched. I would give this a 4/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone looking for a dark thriller on serial killers!

Happy reading ~

The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What drew me to this novel was the long title. It made me curious (ha-ha) as to what this novel would be like.

For several years, Miss Lane served as a collaborator and friend to Miss X, a member of the Psychical Societs – only to discover that Miss X was a fraud. Upset by this betrayal, Miss Lane leaves to go find new employment, and she does so with Mr. Jasper Jesperson, a consulting detective. While she is much happier in her current position as assistant detective, the cases aren’t plentiful and money is a bit tight. They need a breakthrough case, something that will give them a reputation – and some cash. Then they get one: it involves a somnambulist, the disappearance of several mediums, and a cat stuck up a tree. And Jesperson and Lane are the perfect people to solve this case! 

Sometimes a novel just doesn’t work for a reader. This is one of those times. I’m going to go through the list of things that caused this novel to not work for me, but keep in mind that it may just be a case of personal preference.

When I began reading this novel, I was startled by the pacing of the book. The focus was more on recounting events rather than showing the true passage of time and the full events, which was a bit disappointing; I would have preferred to have read the scenes in real time.

I was also taken aback by the similarities between Jesperson and Sherlock Holmes. The author did allude to Sherlock Holmes in the very beginning so I knew that there would be comparisons between these detectives and him. However, I wasn’t expecting the author to create characters and relationships so strikingly similar. While I love Sherlock Holmes, I don’t like seeing characters that try to emulate him.

I didn’t like the main characters in the story, which is unfortunate because it led me to not like the story. Jesperson was quite whiny and I didn’t like his ideologies; he believed himself to be the next Sherlock, and showed a great deal of selfishness and arrogance in his decisions. Miss Lane was a bit annoying, and that made it hard to get through the story, which is pretty much told through her perspective.

My favorite thing about this story is the Victorian Era setting for this novel. The author really did a good job in staying true to this time period and I just love reading novels set in Victorian England. I also quite liked the mystery itself, as it had a lot of funny and interesting aspects to it.

Overall, this was an interesting story but the characters didn’t work for me, and that is why I didn’t really enjoy this novel as much as I could have. While I give this novel a 2.5/5 stars, I’m sure there are others that would rate this novel higher!

Happy reading ~

 

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I am a big fan of Andrew Pyper. I have absolutely adored every single book he has written because they truly scare the living pants off of me! I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of his latest novel, and I was very happy to have my request approved so here is my review:

Dr. Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating the mental state of the most dangerous psychotics in the country. But her newest client – a man with no name accused of a very twisted crime – is different from the rest, even with the two ridiculous claims he makes: first, that he is more than 200 years old and has inspired notable Gothic authors like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker; and second, that he is Lily’s father. To discover the truth about her client, her mother’s death, and herself, Lily must go on a journey that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.

This novel was not at all what I expected – and not in a good way. I’m trying to decide where to start with this book:

I really did not like the protagonist in this novel. She was just so off-putting. Her personality wasn’t likable at all and there was nothing about her that made her stand out. It felt like the author made her a distant character so that it would explain the trauma she suffered in the past, but it really didn’t work. There was nothing very unique about her, and she also did not behave or think in a very intelligent manner as befit her education and job status. To sum up, the protagonist was terrible.

There were a lot of unexplained elements in the plot. How did this monster just go from one place to another? What are all of his different powers? How can he suddenly talk to people in their heads? It was all very confusing and there was a desperate need for more detail. For every chapter, there should have been at least another one to segue the events. The author presented the story as both Lily’s journey as well as journal entries/letters by the monster that explain his past. I would have preferred if there had been actual scenes recounted rather than this format as it would have eliminated some of the holes in the story.

The interactions and relationships between various different characters was really not well done. Lily has some very weird feelings about her “father” and it made me quite uncomfortable. There were quite a few other characters that interacted with Lily and it all seemed so fake and forced that it ruined the story for me.

Finally, this novel didn’t deliver on the horror as much as I would have hoped. Instead, it took on a more psychological thriller view. While I have no problems with psychological thrillers, this novel wasn’t really a good one as it didn’t dig deep enough to back up the conclusions that it made.

Overall, this novel was a bit of a mess. It had so many different elements thrown together that it failed to maintain any semblance of cohesiveness. The protagonist was quite stupid and had no real personality, the interactions between various characters were awkward and fake, and there were gaping holes in this plot that made the whole story collapse. Unfortunately, this was a highly unsuccessful novel and I would have to rate it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – Hogarth Shakespeare

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I first requested this novel, it was because I really enjoyed reading Tracy Chevalier’s earlier work. Imagine my delight when I discovered that this novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series! So far, I’ve loved every book that has been part of the Hogarth concept, so I was very excited to give this novel a shot!

Osei Kokote has not had it easy. The son of a diplomat, it is his first day at his fifth new school in as many years. He knows that in order to survive his first day, he needs to find an ally, and he is lucky enough to find a friend in Dee, the most popular girl in school. For her part, Dee genuinely seems to like Osei and soon their budding relationship takes flight. But there is one person who is not happy to see this and is determined to wreak havoc on this friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. BBy the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The Shakespeare play that served as inspiration for this novel is Othello, which is one of the few works by Shakespeare that I actually don’t like too much. I’ve never been a fan of tragedies, especially ones that deal with the whole concept of misunderstandings. I was quite impressed by the originality of this novel, in taking a serious adult tragedy like Othello and transplanting it into a Washington school playground. It reminded me of my cringe-worthy days in elementary school, struggling to fit in with my peers, facing the social hierarchy that was constantly shifting, and dealing with betrayals and crushes. The author did a great job of giving each character a unique voice and exploring the playground politics in a serious tone that went beyond the surface. This novel speaks at length on the issue of race in an unusual setting that is really just a microcosm of our own society; it both surprised and delighted me to see this concept work out as well as it did! Was this novel a complete success? No. It had its flaws and the ending, while tragic, was a bit too dramatic for the setting the author was trying to maintain. However, this is still a powerful rendition of Othello, and I appreciate its uniqueness. Overall, an interesting novel!

Happy reading ~

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

I read the debut novel by Ruth Ware In A Dark Dark Wood when it first came out, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped, and I chalked it up to the fact that it had been compared to Gone Girl. This new novel has received a lot of positive reviews, so I decided to give it a real shot without any prejudices.

Lo Blacklock is a travel journalist who has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on an intimate luxury cruise. This is the perfect break for her, especially since she had just been a victim of a burglary. At first, Lo’s stay is pleasant: the cabins are beautiful, the dinner parties are extravagant, and the guests are all very posh. But as the week goes by, things begin to fray at the seams. When Lo witnesses a woman being thrown overboard, she is beside herself and reports the incident right away. The only problem is, all the passengers on board are accounted for. As the ship sails on unperturbed, Lo cannot shake off the feeling that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

In the beginning, I was intrigued by the way the author started with the story. Unlike other novels where we are just told that the main character has gone through something traumatic, the author lets us be a part of that traumatic experience. I appreciated this, and liked how it segued into the rest of the story. However, once Lo got onto that cruise ship, the story began to falter for me. I didn’t really like the other characters, and never felt like I got a good understanding of any of them. I also found Lo to be quite annoying and stereotypical, with her excessive drinking. The idea that her memory is not to be trusted because she takes medication and drinks a lot is a story line that I’ve seen many times, so I didn’t really care much for it. I also didn’t care for the ending, which felt rushed and not well planned; I really had to stretch my imagination to allow for things to play out in the manner that they did and I prefer having at least a little bit of realism. The one thing that I did enjoy was that at random points in the story, we would see how Lo was herself in danger through newspaper articles and messages on social media; that was a really cool aspect and the author did a great job of integrating it into the story. Overall, this was an okay thriller with nothing that lends it praise but nothing that causes me to hate it. I give this a 3/5 stars and would recommend it to people who like Ware’s style of storytelling.

Happy reading ~

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Yes!!!!!!!!! A new Neil Gaiman that I haven’t read!!!! I was so excited when I heard about this book’s release, but I waited to read it at a time when I knew I could afford to do no work and just focus on the book – because Neil Gaiman deserves it! Anyways, here is my review:

Norse Mythology is a collection of stories that begins with the creation of the nine worlds, delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants, and concludes in Ragnarok, a time of death and rebirth. We are introduced to Odin, the all-father; Thor, Odin’s son, known for his brawn but not for his wisdom; and Loki, son of giants, a trickster who constantly shifts between good and evil.

Yes, that is a very short summary of the novel. But I really cannot get into any more detail than that; in fact, giving the summary was pointless in itself. Anyways, as I mentioned, this is a collection of stories, arranged chronologically to a point. What makes this book so wonderful is that it takes the original stories and delivers them in a more straight-forward way, making it more accessible to readers. Gaiman takes away a great deal of flowery language that is usually seen in these types of stories and reimagines the gods in a more modern and interesting way. He highlights each god’s strengths and weaknesses, and makes the conversations easier to follow while not losing any subtle nuance. It goes to show why Gaiman is considered a master storyteller! This was a short read, mainly because a lot of the less important jargon was removed, but also because the stories itself were presented in a more interesting manner. If you have read other works by Gaiman, you can see how Norse mythology has inspired him in other original works by him! All in all, this was just a fresh take on classic mythology and it was highly entertaining and worth reading!

Happy reading ~

Shadows of the Dead by Jim Eldridge – DCI Stark #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

London, 1921. Lord Johnny Fairfax has just been discovered dead in his study, along with another victim: an American man who was visiting Fairfax unexpectedly. For DCI Paul Stark, this case is more personal than just a heinous crime: he’s currently in a relationship with the former Lady Fairfax, Lady Amelia. And she is one of the top suspects. However, Lord Fairfax had his fair share of enemies, which means the suspect pool is large. And nobody knows who the American is and what his connection is to Lord Fairfax. As Stark digs deeper, he uncovers evidence of a shocking conspiracy that could mean doom for the British Establishment.

When I first read this novel, I was unaware that it was the second book in a series. However, that wasn’t too much of an issue as the author provided enough detail about everything that I didn’t feel like I missed out on much. This was an interesting historical mystery in that it involved more detail than many historical fiction novels I’ve read. There was a lot of name-dropping of historical figures, which at first was cool but eventually got tedious, especially since they weren’t always that important for the story. I also found that this book was more about DCI Stark’s private life than the mystery itself, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case, it made me lose interest in the story. So while the novel had an intriguing plot and was well-written, it just didn’t do it for me. I’d give this a 3/5 stars and recommend this to someone who is really interested in historical fiction (like… REALLY interested)!

Happy reading ~

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

I have been most excited to read this novel. For the longest time, it wasn’t available anywhere near me so I would enviously read reviews about it. Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for providing me with this ARC!

Yeong-hye used to be the perfect devoted wife, quiet and willing to please. But when she begins to have nightmares involving blood-soaked images, Yeong-hye makes the drastic decision to renounce eating meat. This decision is in stark contrast to the ideals of society, and is seen as a sign of passive rebellion. But soon the passivity of her resistance manifests in more extreme forms, and with the emergence of a scandal and abuse, Yeong-hye is sent over the edge. Her dangerous endeavour will take Yeong-hye physically and mentally away from her former identity in the most tragic way possible.

This was by far one of the most confusing books I have ever read. The book is split into 3 sections, each written in the perspective of a different character who is affected by Yeong-hye’s actions. Each character describes the transition of Yeong-hye into the land of instability. The first character we are introduced to is Yeong-hye’s husband, and we are shown the first stage of her decline. I found this to be one of the more interesting chapters, probably because it set the stage and was easy enough to follow. It was clear to see how Yeong-hye’s behaviour is not within the bounds that dictate the norms of society in South Korea. I really liked reading about how perplexed those around her were, and the ways in which her husband tried to “fix” her. The next 2 sections are told from the perspective of Yeong-hye’s sister and brother-in-law, who each have their own reasons for helping Yeong-hye. This is when the story began to get a bit murky for me. I didn’t really understand the perspective of the brother-in-law, and it just left me wondering what exactly the author’s purpose was in creating this segment for the story. The sister’s perspective made sense because Yeong-hye was very close with her but other than that, it didn’t really do anything for me; nothing was resolved in the end and I still didn’t really understand what was going on. I had expected that the author would delve a little deeper into the nightmares that led Yeong-hye into her vegetarianism but it really was only hinted at at various points of the story, which was a bit of a disappointment. While this was an intriguing novel, it was very vague and left me with more questions than answers. My overall feeling was of confusion: what was the point of this novel? What was the author highlighting? I understand that the author is reflecting on a number of themes including the confines of society, our lack of understanding of others, and how an obsession can develop and fester …. but there was nothing more that I really gleaned from this novel, nothing new that made me have an “A-ha!” moment. If I’m to be brutally honest, this book was a bit of a let-down, especially after all of the hype it has generated. Maybe I’m the only person who feels this way, but this book only gets a 2/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I love books with unusual characters. Actually, I love almost anything that has to do with unusual people. Sometimes it is the thing that can take a decent story and make it absolutely fabulous. From the blurb about this book, I gleaned that Eleanor would be a very different protagonist than what I’m used to so I decided to give it a go. Thank you to the First To Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC!

Eleanor Oliphant lives a solitary life and she is perfectly happy with that. She finds it difficult to maintain or even initiate social interactions, as she has a tendency to say exactly what she thinks. Her personality, combined with her unusual appearance, means that Eleanor has always been a loner. Her weekends are spent alone in her apartment, with just pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy for company. But this little bubble of isolation is broken when Eleanor meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond save an elderly gentleman named Sammy, the three become friends who help each other get past the loneliness that dominates their lives. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor repair her own damaged one.

This novel is not your average chick-lit. While it is funny and uplifting, it also deals with some deep emotional elements that I wasn’t really expecting but was glad to read about. I quite enjoyed this novel because it had more depth to it than a usual chick lit but it didn’t bog me down with a sob story. I was also pleased to see that the author stuck true to her words and created a quirky personality that remained quirky throughout the novel; sometimes, you find that the interesting bit is only true in the beginning and the author forgets to maintain it as the focus shifts more to plot, but that definitely didn’t happen here! I loved Eleanor and she is definitely a character I have never read about! The best part about this novel is how it maintains the initial concepts and characteristics, even as they change and evolve throughout the story. I never had a moment where I felt that the story wasn’t quirky. I never had a moment where I felt that the plot was moving in a completely different direction with a markedly different tone and mood. Everything made sense and the story was just so enjoyable! Overall, I really liked this novel and would recommend this to anyone looking for a chick lit with a little more depth and quirkiness than the norm!

Happy reading ~

A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis

It’s been a while since I’ve read a classic historical fiction crime novel. I’ve heard about this author’s work but I’ve never had the pleasure of reading anything by her, so I thought this would be a good time to accomplish both goals. Here is my review:

It’s 1919 and the village of Wenfield is still trying to recuperate from 4 terrible years of war, as it comes to terms with the loss of so many men. The last thing this place needs is the brutal murder of a young woman. When Myrtle Bligh is found stabbed to death in the woodland, with her mouth slit to accommodate a dead dove, everyone is horrified by the nature of the crime. During the war, Myrtle spent time as a volunteer nurse with Flora Winsmore, the daughter of the local daughter; along with other volunteers, the girls cared for wounded soldiers at the nearby big house, Tarney Court. After 2 more women are murdered and left in the same circumstances, the village calls in Inspector Albert Lincoln from London, a man who is also suffering from the aftermaths of war. With rumours of a ghostly soldier with a painted face being spotted near the scene of the murders, the village is thrown into a state of panic – and with the killer still on the loose, who will be the next to die at the hands of this vicious soldier?

This was definitely an interesting novel. The author did a good job of creating a realistic impression of the historical time period, replete with examples of the social issues and prejudices that were prevalent in those days. The writing style was interesting, flitting between different characters. Flora had her own designated chapters that read more like diary entries, and Albert’s chapters were in 3rd perspective. At first, I didn’t really enjoy this style but it stopped mattering as I focused more on the story. The plot was intriguing and there were many avenues of investigation that the author explored. The ending definitely took me aback, as I wasn’t suspecting this direction; however, it wasn’t satisfactory for me and felt more like the author chose to do this just to add a thrill element. In other words, it wasn’t as well thought out as it could have been. The relationship between the two main characters was also not something I enjoyed; I don’t usually like novels where infidelity is accepted and I also felt as if the romance was not too well developed. Overall, a nice historical fiction with an interesting crime twist. This novel didn’t wow me but it wasn’t terrible, so I would give this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~