The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett

I have been super excited to read this novel because it had such a unique dystopian presence. I like the idea of space travel and thought it would be an interesting element to this dystopian novel. Thank you to the First to Read program by Penguin Randomhouse for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space, so much so that she willingly left Earth and moved to a more isolated planet. It is the perfect way for her to escape the sadness of her dissolving relationship. And then the virus hit. Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone. But a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that there may be survivors. When she finds some of them, their ragtag group will travel through vast stretches of space to try to start a new life on Earth. But their dream becomes harder and harder to reach as they face off against those trying to maintain the old ways of life.

If you are looking for a sci-fi heavy novel, then this one is not for you. This novel turned out to be a lot more philosophical as the physical journey the survivors take gives way to their inner journey. It was a novel that had enough suspense to keep you going, and didn’t drag you down with too many words. It never tried to impose any ideas on you, and allowed the reader to come to their own conclusions about each of the characters. I quite enjoyed the writing style and the revelations of the different characters. However, the main character was hard for me to empathize with. She was constantly whining, and rarely helpful. She became an irritating character who didn’t really do much to redeem herself. Overall, this novel is a very nicely written philosophical novel that takes place in a dystopian universe. However, the main character is hard to connect with at times, and the novel doesn’t have a heavy sci-fi connection (even though that is what it was portrayed to be). For all these reasons, I would give this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

I read the premise of this novel months ago, but it was not available anywhere in Canada for a while. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this novel, which has been hailed as a YA version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which is one of my favorite series!

Lumikki Andersson is a loner and she likes it that way. She knows all too well the trouble you can get in if you don’t mind your own business. But Lumikki’s rule is put to the test when she discovers thousands of washed Euro notes in her school’s darkroom – and 3 classmates with blood literally on their hands. With people now determined to get the money back, Lumikki finds herself on the run. At the center of all this chaos is Polar Bear, a mysterious drug lord with a notorious reputation for getting what he wants. If Lumikki hopes to make it out alive, she’ll have to uncover the entire operation before it’s too late.

This was a book that I had high hopes for but it ended up letting me down. To be frank, it was boring. In the beginning of the novel, the author alluded to a fairy-tale; however, the reference soon became obsolete as it literally did not have anything to do with the actual story. The plot itself was quite simple and the main character kept putting herself in situations that she could have easily avoided. While I understand that this is needed for there to be an actual story, the author should have at least included strong motivating factors that led to such decisions. I can see where the author was trying to go with a Lisbeth Salander vibe with the main character but it didn’t really work too well; instead of being intrigued by Lumikki, I just couldn’t care less. The other characters were nothing special, and this added to my indifference towards this book. At the end of the day, this story started off with a premise full of promise but it delivered on nothing. Perhaps I’m being unfair. I must mention here that I read a translated version; maybe the original is better! However, since I will probably not be in a position to read the original work, I’m going to have to pass on this series.

Happy reading ~

The Millionaire’s Wife by Shalini Boland

I have read quite a few thrillers by this author, starting with The Girl From The Sea, which was a novel that I really enjoyed. The author was kind enough to offer me this ARC, so here is my review:

Anna is married to a wonderful man, Will. She has everything she could ever have wanted. But one day, she hears that a woman was killed in a speedboat accident on the other side of the world. This news, and one text message, is enough to bring Anna’s past back to the surface. Her greatest fear is about to come true. And she might be next on the hit list.

This was a decent thriller that had a few twists and turns, but it wasn’t my favorite. The novel is told completely from Anna’s perspective, and has passages that switch between past and present. This made the story more cohesive, and helped to prolong the release of the secrets. However, there was a lot of dithering about in this book. Anna spends half of the book confused and reluctant to do anything, which was a bit boring to read. The action parts were hastily written up and didn’t have that excitement or buildup that I would have liked. This novel would have been more enjoyable had the author put in more details and drawn out the story; it would have allowed for the creation of more complex characters and a more twisted plot line. The end result was that everything felt rushed and underdeveloped, so the thriller itself wasn’t as … thrilling as one might have wanted. Overall, an interesting plot line that could use some more detail and buildup to breathe some life into it.

Happy reading ~

She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

I’ve always been a fan of Joy Fielding, ever since I first read her book Heartstopper back when I was in grade 10. Granted, I haven’t read a book by her in a while, but reading this one makes up for it!

15 years ago, Caroline Shipley was looking forward to her wedding anniversary. But the celebratory trip to Mexico with her husband and friends became a disaster when her infant daughter, Samantha, was kidnapped. Now, 15 years later, there is still no trace of Samantha. Divorced and isolated, Caroline is forced to relive the horrible event every year by reporters who won’t stop calling her. But this year, when the phone rings, Caroline hears another voice – the voice of a young girl claiming to be Samantha. Taken back into a world of heartbreak and suspicion, Caroline doesn’t know who or what to believe. But when she starts to piece things together, she finds the answers are dangerously close to home.

I’m still trying to put my thoughts together on this novel so I’m going to start off by saying the things that I liked about this novel (this is basically my way of saying I’m going to ramble):

This book is emotionally charged and it does a really good job of staying that way. It shows the ways in which this kidnapping affects not only Caroline but her older daughter, Michelle, too. And while Michelle’s character might be annoying, she is arguably accurately depicted. In fact, everyone is accurately depicted, and I love that the author took the time to make realistic characters. It made the story that much more believable and emotional.

The story flits back and forth in time, to show the events leading up to and after the kidnapping, as well as showing what is happening in the present moment with the mysterious caller. It was a nice effect and kept me intrigued with the actual mystery of the story.

However, and this is the one thing that has made me feel confused in terms of my feelings about this book, I didn’t like the actual mystery aspect. For 90% of the book, the author focuses on the emotions and the events themselves, not bothering to mention how such an act could have happened. And I was fine with that. The story was gripping enough as it is and the mystery of the identity of the caller was good enough for me! But in the last few chapters, the author decides to unveil the perpetrators of the crime. And while this was necessary, it is the one thing that I don’t think was done well. There was a lack of build-up, of investigation, and it gave the effect of just being plopped down there as an afterthought. A few more chapters that focused on the whodunit aspect would have been appreciated and would have allowed for a smoother transition. I especially did not like the cliched effect of having all of the suspects in one room and having each one be hinted at as the possible kidnapper, only to finally reveal the truth. It reminded me of something out of Hercule Poirot, and it just made the whole scene really cheesy.

Another thing that felt a bit weird to me was when the mysterious caller arrives and just integrates “so well” with the family. It was a bit cheesy and made the story fall a bit, especially when compared to the previous spot-on emotional aspects of the story.

While this novel was emotionally strong, with great characters and details, it rushed parts of the ending and gave the feeling of not being satisfactorily completed. For that reason, I would give this novel a 3.5/5.

Kill the Next One by Federico Axat

This book has been making the rounds in the literary circles so I decided to pick it up and see what all the hype was about. Before I get going, I want to let you know that I read a translated version, and the translator was David Frye.

Ted McKay has the perfect life: a beautiful wife, 2 loving daughters, and a great job. But after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, he finds himself holding a gun to his temple, ready to pull the trigger. And that’s when the doorbell rings. A stranger offers him a deal: why not kill 2 deserving men before dying? The first target is a criminal who has escaped the justice system, and the second is a man who also has terminal cancer and wants to die. After executing these kills, someone will come along and kill Ted. There is a logic to this that Ted appreciates: it would be easier for his family to deal with his murder than his suicide. However, after killing his targets, Ted realizes that something is not right with this plan. And thus, his reality begins to unravel.

This book is a whirlwind story. From page one, it had me. And I got caught up in trying to make sense of every twist and confusing turn that this novel takes. Believe me, there are a lot. At first, I was wondering what was going on. Every page I turned made me question if what I was reading was true or not. But eventually, the pieces started to come together to create this unbelievable story and journey. This is a book that makes you work. Every time you think you’ve figured it out, the author throws something else at you that makes you rethink the entire story. While I’m still unable to put all my thoughts together when it comes to this book, I will say that I really enjoyed this novel and all of its twists and turns. It’s complicated, and confusing, but so worth all the effort. Definitely one of my favorite psychological thrillers!

Happy reading ~

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

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

What made me want to request this novel was that another author, M.R. Carey had positive words for it. M.R. Carey wrote the book The Girl With All the Gifts, which I absolutely adored. So if an author who wrote one of my favorite books has a good thing to say about another novel, you can bet that I’m going to read it!

Lalla has been fortunate enough to have grown up sheltered from the chaos that rules over London. But things are getting more dangerous. People are killing each other for bare essentials, and the police are getting rid of anyone without an identification card. When Lalla turns 16, her father decides that the time has come for them to escape – and escape comes in the form of a ship he has built to save a mere 500 people. But the utopia that her father has created isn’t all that it seems. There’s more food than anyone can imagine, but nothing grows; more clothes than anyone can wear but no way to fix them or make new ones … and no one knows where they are going.

I so desperately wanted to like this novel that I felt disappointed in myself for not enjoying this book. It had such an interesting concept but it was just not written in a style that worked for me. The main character, Lalla, is by far the most annoying character I have ever met. She is spoilt, and naive, and just seems to miss the point. Every single person on the ship is trying to explain everything to her but she chooses to ignore their words constantly. While I think she raises valid points, she just doesn’t get them across in the right way, and ended up frustrating me (and the actual passengers on the ship) to no end. There was this really awkwardly created love story put in, and while I understand why the author chose to put it in, it didn’t really work for me, either. The author’s writing style was also terribly convoluted and confusing, making me wonder what was the point of half of the words used. It’s like the author was trying to take a concept and present it in a very impressive way. But by overdoing it, she lost the message. In the end, this novel just did not work for me.

Happy reading ~

The Undying by Ethan Reid

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

What drew me to this novel was the comparison that was made between this story and The Passage. Although I haven’t written a blog post about it yet, The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of my favorite books of all time. So, it makes sense that with a claim like this, I kind of HAVE to read this book and see if it lives up to my expectations.

Jeanie and Ben are just looking for a fun time when they arrive in Paris to celebrate the coming of the New Year with their friends. Everything is festive and fun – until all the lights go out at midnight. By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. There are fireballs raining down from the sky, buildings destroyed, people running around screaming. Whatever has happened in Paris, no one has any idea how far its effects have spread. As Jeanie, Ben, and their friends try to flee the burning city, they are worried of what is yet to come. So far, only Jeanie has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to have a strong hold on her whenever she sees them. These cunning beings soon become known as les moribund – the undying – and their numbers increase drastically. When fate puts a newborn baby in Jeanie’s care, she will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris – even if it means leaving everyone else behind.

I’m struggling as to where I should begin. I did not enjoy this book. I really did not. It did not live up to the expectations I had and it in no way is comparable to The Passage. So what made it fail?

For one thing, the characters. They were so stereotypical. You need your whiner/pessimist, your comedic relief character, and the determined, courageous, selfless lead. The author didn’t really do anything to make them unique as they acted just like these descriptions I gave you. I sort-of liked Jeanie because she had guts and was a go-getter, but I had no emotional connection to her. The way the characters spoke and interacted was stilted and emotionless, making it really hard to visualize. The whole baby idea sounded interesting in the premise but it was poorly executed; Jeanie is just handed this baby and within 2 seconds, she is all gaga about this child and having flashbacks and talking about how therapeutic holding a baby is. Seriously? There is a disaster going on, so you need to hustle and maybe you should be having some doubts about taking on this baby instead of just smiling and cooing at it. While that bothered me, what annoyed me even more was that as the story progressed, the baby became more of an object than an important part of the story. I mean, this story could have still worked without this infant thrown into it.

I did not like the writing style employed here. The prologue that was in the beginning was confusing, and turned out to be linked to the ending of the book. When I was reading the novel, I was unaware of this, so the prologue just made me confused, not intrigued. I also hated that the story kept flitting back between French and English; while I understand French (thank you to my french teachers all through high school!), it was frustrating to switch back and forth in the book and also to have Jeanie feel confused about what was being said as she translated things in her head. There were also too many pointless flashbacks. Literally every paragraph was followed by some mini-flashback to a tragic event in Jeanie’s life. I get it, it is a sad thing, boohoo, now let’s move on to the action! There are zombies and mutinies going on outside, and I really don’t want to be spending my time reading about how sad Jeanie is that her father passed away. There were also short chapters that were flashbacks thrown right in at random points that did nothing to add to the plot and were a complete waste of time to read.

I really don’t want to continue to bash this book. I know that the author must have put a lot of effort into writing this story, and I do acknowledge that. Suffice to say, it did not work for me on many different levels. It is part of a series, however based on my experience with this novel, I have no plans on continuing to read on.

Happy reading ~

The Children by Ann Leary

Charlotte Maynard is a recluse, rarely leaving her family home in Connecticut, a lake house that has been in the family for generations. Technically, Charlotte and her sister, Sally, are not part of the “family”; their stepbrothers are true Whitmans, and they are the owners of the house. Charlotte and her mother, Joan, however, continue to live there by the grace of the boys – and a provision in the family trust. When Spin, the youngest and favorite brother, brings his fiancée home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued by her. Laurel Atwood is beautiful and accomplished and perfect in every way. But as the wedding date looms closer, the family’s polite veneer begins to chip and an array of resentments and unsettling truths are exposed.

When I first heard the premise of this book, it reminded me of The Nest, which I really did not like at all. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I quite enjoyed this novel. The writing style was really great, and kept me engaged throughout the story. It wasn’t filled with useless details, and everything was connected. I loved the characters. They were all so eccentric and funny and just lovable. The story was told from Charlotte’s perspective, and she doesn’t shy away from any of the craziness that surrounds her. But through her account, we see the different facets of each child’s personality that come together to make them the way they are. The story began to really pick up pace at the midpoint of the novel and it moved quickly until the end. It isn’t a happy ending, but it is one that I feel is realistic and genuine. I wasn’t expecting this novel to win me over but it did. It really really did. And in order to appreciate this novel for its worth, you just have to read it!

Happy reading ~

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer L. Ryan

What intrigued me about this book is that it was projected to be an uplifting novel that is set in the time of WWII. You don’t come across that often. Most historical fiction novels set during this time period are distressing, and focused on the horrors inflicted on people by the Nazis. While this novel doesn’t ignore these issues, it also doesn’t dampen the spirits and seeks to show that love and courage can be found in all forms. That was enough to get me interested in reading this novel!

As England enters WWII’s dark period, a spirited music professor named Primrose Trent arrives to the village of Chilbury. There, she decides to set up an all-women’s choir, which goes against the edict of the Vicar. Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury’s Ladies’ Choir”, the women of this small village use their voices and songs to bring hope to themselves and their community, as the war tears through their lives.

This was an enjoyable read that lived up to its reputation of being inspiring and uplifting. It is told from the perspective of many people in the village, through a medium of journals and letters and announcements. I quite liked that the author chose to do it this way rather than having a single narrator; it produced such a well-rounded story with a great deal of depth and charm. The author introduces us to a whole host of characters, each unique and equipped with different skills to deal with the changes that are happening in their lives because of the war. Each character was beautifully created with a perfect balance of skills and imperfections; it was a delight to watch them grow and change throughout the course of the novel and its events. Spoiled children mature and become selfless, righteous women learn to let go of prejudices, and ugly personalities reveal themselves. Each character has their own little subplot going on, and yet the author manages to tie everything together beautifully – and I can imagine that this must have been a very difficult task to orchestrate! The effect was wonderful, with a poignant, cohesive, charming story emerging. If my previous remarks haven’t been obvious enough, this novel is a character-driven story and it is done remarkably well. At various different time points, I felt a kinship with almost all of the characters. This is definitely one of my favorite books on WWII, and it shows the strength that women can have in uniting a community, facing their own internal fears, and being a source of comfort to those around them during times of distress.

Thank you to NetGalley, Blogging for Books, and Crown Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

Sunrise by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #3

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

As soon as I finished the second novel in this series, I immediately began reading the final installment in this series. I just wanted to know how everything would end, because this is a really addictive book series. It also helps that all of the books are out and I know I don’t have to wait to read the next one.

The Yellowstone supervolcano had devastating effects on people everywhere. Now, after a year, the survivors are barely able to live. Communities are waging wars against each other, there are gangs of cannibals, and every force of authority has collapsed.  Only sickness, cold, and starvation remain. When it becomes clear that home is no longer safe and the adults are not coping with the harsh reality of this new world, Alex and Darla must forge a new community that can survive this disaster. If they fail, it could spell the end for the remaining survivors, their loved ones – and themselves.

This last novel redeemed the previous book and made me love the series all over again. It was well-written, well-paced, and well thought out. It was just done so well! Everything that I consider as marks of a good book were in this novel: there was great character development, a good writing style, a perfect balance of adventure and romance and suspense, and just an overall strong plot. I loved how kickass Darla was, I loved that Alex became a strong leader and developed skills of his own, I loved the various characters that were introduced and developed in this story. Every conflict that was introduced was an interesting one that raised a powerful issue, and it was dealt with effectively by the characters. While this novel may not have been as action-packed as its predecessors, it was still interesting and riveting. All in all, this was a series well worth reading, and I’m glad that this last book did not disappoint! If you are looking for a unique dystopian novel, then definitely consider giving this one a shot!

Happy reading ~