Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

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

From the moment I read the description of this novel, I knew it was my kind of book. It sounded intense and thrilling and absolutely realistic. I’m really glad that I got approved for this book and now … here is my review:

Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, love going to the zoo near closing time to just relax and play. It’s the perfect way to end the day. But then Joan sees something as she and her son are moving toward the exit gate, something that makes her sprint back into the zoo with her son in her arms. And for the next 3 hours, she keeps running. Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and the zoo itself comes in handy in her time of need … but will it be enough to keep her safe from danger?

Just as I had expected, this novel was gripping from the start. Joan and her son are very believable characters and the situation they find themselves in is also, unfortunately, something I can realistically imagine happening. I had my heart in my throat the entire time I was reading because I could feel how dangerous the situation was and how desperate Joan was to keep her son safe. The danger is present for the entire span of the novel, which means that Joan was running for safety for that entire time…. and yet, there really wasn’t a boring moment in the story. It was one of the more enjoyable features of this story. The novel is also told from the perspectives of other people in the zoo: fellow victims and even a perpetrator. I found that interesting but I wished the author had done it more often instead of just randomly including snippets from other perspectives; it would have helped me visualize and connect to the other characters in the same way that I did with Joan. I will admit that there were certain discrepancies in the plot that bothered me. Some I was willing to ignore because I understood that it was necessary for plot development, but there were others that seemed a tad bit ridiculous. The explanations for certain behaviors exhibited in the story also weren’t the best at times. These were really the only flaws for me, and overall, I was quite satisfied with my experience with the novel. The author promised a book that would make your heart pound and she definitely delivered on that account! I would give this novel a 3.5/5 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique thriller.

Happy reading ~

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

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

After so many thrillers that focus on the wife, I thought it would be a good change to read one that focuses on the husband and child. That was my motivation for requesting this book … so here is my review:

It’s been 1 year since Billie Flanagan, a beautiful Berkeley mom, went on a solo hike and vanished. Only a hiking boot was ever found. Billie’s husband, Jonathan, and teenage daughter, Olive, do their best to  cope with her death but things have been frayed between them. When Olive starts having waking dreams that her mother is alive, she is convinced these are signs that her mother wants Olive to look for her. Jonathan worries about Olive’s health and mental frame of mind … but then he unearths a secret from Billie’s past that makes him question everything he thought he knew about his wife. Now, Olive and Jonathan have to work together to piece together the woman they loved.

It was definitely unique to read this story with a husband and daughter as the main protagonists. I was hoping that the story would be more of a father-daughter search for the truth, where both characters grow. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The father’s character and judgments were reasonable based on the secrets he was discovering about his wife, Billie. However, he didn’t really do much about anything. He discovered things and let despair take him under. In fact, his daughter was much more active in getting to the bottom of things than he was. This ended up turning this book from an adult read to a young adult/teen read, which let me down a tad bit. In the end, this was a thriller that was interesting in terms of where the plot went, but I felt like it failed in its execution and character development.

Happy reading ~

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

And here we are with another thriller with “Girl” in the title. But I decided to ignore that when it came to this book, in an attempt to not be biased in my opinion. This book has been getting a lot of attention and I’ve been recommended it multiple times. So I finally decided to give it a go! Here is my review:

Emma
After a traumatic break-in, Emma is desperate to move into a newer, safer place. But nothing seems perfect – until she comes across One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece with its minimalist design…. but it also comes with many rules. The architect who built this house retains full control of it and only his word goes. The space is meant to transform its occupant completely – and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start – and she finds it at One Folgate Street. But it isn’t just the house she’s fallen for; the seductive creator keeps coming into her mind. Once she moves in, Jane soon learns of the untimely demise of the previous tenant, a woman who resembles Jane. As Jane tries to make sense of the truth, she unwittingly begins to make the same choices and experiences the same terror as the girl before.

I’m surprised by how much I liked this novel. The story was addictive and while I didn’t like everything about it, I can’t deny that it had the thrill and the twists that I was hoping for. The two perspectives were quite interesting and the author did a really great job of making them match up and integrate. Emma’s character gave me a lot of warning signs, and it became more and more clear that she was not what I expected as I kept reading – but that’s what I loved about the book. I love that the main characters didn’t conform to my initial assessment, and I liked to see how they acted in similar situations. This book is all about depraved characters, each who have their own mental issues. They’re very twisted and I like that the author kept them true to that trait throughout the book. I wasn’t very comfortable with some of the ways that the author handled sexual consent and rape … but it worked in the context of this story because the story itself is all about individuals who don’t really conform or believe in those norms. A lot of people are saying that this novel is a bit of a combination between 50 shades of grey and Girl on the train …. I kind of agree with the first part of that. There is a lot of sexual stuff going on in this novel and even though I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, I can see where people can draw the parallels. However, this aspect didn’t make me as uncomfortable as I expected, as I still quite enjoyed the story. Overall, this was a very interesting thriller that had me hooked from the start!

Happy reading ~

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

Thank you to Penguin Random House and their First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not a big fan of historical fiction and if you go through my blog, you will see that I haven’t read very many books from this genre. I always feel a bit guilty about not widening my horizons so this time I chose a book that is not only part of the historical fiction genre but also the romance genre (which I also don’t delve into very much).

Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. However, when Kristallnacht occurs, Kristoff’s teacher disappears and it is up to Kristoff to deal with the Germans, who want him to engrave stamps for the Fuhrer and his army. With the help of his teacher’s fiery daughter, Elena, the stamps get made …. but for each stamp created for the Fuhrer comes another stamp for the Austrian resistance, along with forged papers to help Jewish Austrians escape. As Kristoff and Elena’s love for each other grows, they must find a way to keep each other safe before they get caught.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is struggling with her life, as she goes through a divorce and deals with her father’s memory loss. As she cleans up her house, she comes across her father’s beloved stamp collection. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter, Katie finds herself intrigued. As she and Benjamin try to get to the bottom of this mystery, they are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

This was a very well-written story and looked at a very different angle of the war than one I’ve previously read about. I’ve heard of Kristallnacht, of course, but this novel took an interesting perspective of it. Even though half of the story takes place during WWII, the emphasis was evenly divided between the relationship of Kristoff and Elena and the resistance effort. I also really liked the other narrative that was happening with Katie and her father’s stamp collection. I learned a lot about stamps and their significance that I was unaware of before this story, and that was a nice surprise. The romance aspect of this novel was really well done; it was believable and simple and touching. I quite enjoyed the read and got a bit emotional at the end, which is always a good sign. This is definitely a strong historical fiction novel with a well written romance angle!

Happy reading ~

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett – The Divine Cities #3

At last! The final novel in this amazing trilogy! What I love about this series is that each novel takes place a few years after the previous one, and it focuses on a different character each time; this means that you can manage to read it as a standalone if you are strapped for time – though I would recommend reading the entire series in order to really understand everything. In the first book, the protagonist was Shara Komayd. In the second, it was Mulagesh. And now, we hear from Sigrud, who was always one of my favorites. Anyways, here I go with my review:

Siigrud je Harkvaldsson is very good at one thing: revenge. So when he learns that his oldest friend, Prime Minister Shara Komad, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what he is going to do. Yet as Sigrud pursues Shara’s killers, he begins to fear that this mission may be unsuccessful. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death means taking part in a secret, decades-long war, facing down an angry young god, and unraveling the mystery of Bulikov, the city of miracles.

It was definitely a good thing that I read the previous books in the series because the magnanimity of the truths revealed in this novel was just … WOW. And you really can’t understand how amazing these are unless you read the previous novels. So while I’m sure you can enjoy and understand what is happening in this novel without reading anything else in the series, I would strongly advise against that; take the time and read the first 2 books before getting into this one, so that you can truly fall in love with this serie like I have!

Sigrud…. I love him. This book did him such justice. His personality is just so …. amazing and one cannot help but appreciate him for his kindness, his loyalty, and his ruthlessness. He comes off as simple but the more you read, the more you see his complexity. The author definitely did an amazing job when creating Sigrud! I also loved all of the other characters that were a part of this story; each one was unique and had so much depth that you felt like you truly knew them!

The story and world-building in this novel are incredible but I expected nothing less from the author of this series. I wasn’t expecting all of the mysteries to be revealed in the way it did, which was a really awesome surprise. I really can’t complain at all about anything in terms of the story, characters, or world-building.

This was a stunning conclusion to an epic series and I strongly urge anyone looking for an awesome fantasy series to read this series. You will not be disappointed!

I received this novel from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

 

The Breakdown by B.A Paris

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

B.A Paris has quite a reputation for writing great thrillers. I read Behind Closed Doors and it was a thriller I really enjoyed so I was hoping that the author would continue to wow me with this next novel. Here is my review:

When Cass is leaving a party late night, she decides to go down a winding rural road to get home quicker. As she is driving, in the middle of a downpour, she sees a woman sitting inside a car on the side of the road. Cass stops to see if she needs help, but when the woman is unresponsive, Cass hurries along home. Later, Cass learns that that very woman was killed – and she can’t help but blame herself. But since then, Cass has started having lapses in her memory. At first, it’s little things like where she left the car, and what the code is for the alarm. But as her memory gets worse and worse, Cass starts getting more and more anxious. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the one she could have saved. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Compared to Behind Closed Doors, this novel wasn’t nearly as engrossing or intriguing. It was definitely more of your traditional thriller and it was quite easy to predict. In fact, I had pretty much pieced it all together before the halfway point of the novel, just based on the few clues that the author gave. There were still a few surprises that I wasn’t expecting but there really wasn’t much of a twist anywhere in the story.

I didn’t really like Cass’s character all that much. She was a bit annoying to say the least and while I felt bad for her and her memory issues, it seemed like she never thought things through properly before saying or doing something. And that got quite tiresome. At one point, Cass took charge of her life and was in control: this was the highlight of the book for me. I loved that Cass didn’t just take things lying down, but actually went about getting justice. It was a shame that her strength was short-lived; the scene literally came up near the end of the book and the author didn’t really make it a big part of the story.

The ending itself was unexpected as I never expected so many things (and people) to become connected. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like it worked. I understand why the author wanted to make everything connect, but I just wasn’t convinced and it really didn’t fit in very well. If the novel had been extended a bit more and had had more details dropped at various points that would have made the ending more believable, I think that would have helped make sense of it all.

Overall, this novel was just okay. There wasn’t anything very special to it: the main character is your typical paranoid wife, the story is easy to figure out, and the ending is just really abrupt and forced to be believable.

Happy reading ~

 

Bright Air Black by David Vann

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Medea or Jason and the Argonauts. In fact, I did a quick Wikipedia search into the origins of these characters before delving into this book so that I could properly understand the content. Here is my review:

The story brings us aboard the ship Argo as it makes its epic journey back home across the Black Sea from Colchis – Medea’s homeland where she has fled her father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. As Medea sails along with the man she loves, she must decide whether she is a sorceress or a monster. As the journey continues and reality hits Medea, we witness Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

It definitely helped that I had a little background on the story before beginning this book because this novel starts at the point when Medea is on Jason’s ship, running away from her father. The story doesn’t really delve too much into the events that preceded this but you eventually do find out as you continue reading. Apart from that, the story is quite indepth in terms of storyline, giving a great amount of detail into the way the journey progresses. Having never read anything about Medea or Jason, I found the story fascinating. There was never a dull moment and with each page comes more violence, brutality, and treachery. If you have never heard of Medea, then you need to read this book and get to know her story!

Medea’s character….. was incredible. She is strong, ruthless, intelligent, and determined in a way that no other female protagonist I have each very read about has been. When she spoke, she voiced the thoughts of countless women over countless generations. She is the epitome of the struggles of a woman who does not fit into the mold created by men. In short, I loved her. She was violent and lacked mercy and yet shred he managed to exude femininity while acting completely unfeminine (according to our views on what a feminine person  is typically like). I cannot stress enough how well the author portrayed her and how mesmerized I was by her strength. She is definitely one badass female protagonist, even if I don’t support all of her violent actions.

At first, the writing style seemed unusual to me. It’s poetic but not in the typical way. It made me take note of every word being used, every transition being made. This was a beautifully written story and it demanded that you pay attention attention appreciate that beauty.

Happy reading ~

The Child Thief by Brom

After reading and adoring Lost Gods, I was eager to get my hands on more of Brom’s work. This novel is one that I’ve heard a ton about and I was interested to see how Brom would take the story of Peter Pan and twist it into something sinister. So here is my review:

Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and he loves to play games. When he smiles at you, he makes you his friend for life … but his promised land is not Neverland. 14-year-old Nick almost died at the hands of drug dealers but Peter saved his life. Now, Peter offers Nick a chance to escape to a secret place full of magic. Even though Nick doesn’t believe in faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, he has nothing left to lose, right?

There is always more to lose.

As Nick follows Peter, Nick finds that the beautiful paradise he was promised is everything but that. And Nick has unwittingly been recruited for a war that has raged for centuries – one where he must learn to fight among the “Devils”, Peter’s savage tribe of stolen children. And it soon becomes clear that Peter will go to any length to save the last wild magic in this dying land.

This is definitely a dark retelling of a childhood story, and Brom does not hold anything back. The author definitely transformed the Neverland of my childhood into something far wilder and I absolutely loved it! Faeries, monsters, references to Avalon…. it was definitely awesome to have this all melded together into one story. As usual, the illustrations were fantastic and really helped me imagine all of the different characters.

This novel was not nearly as dark as Lost Gods but what made it scary was how easily something that I had associated as innocent and fun could be twisted into something sinister. Peter was always just this fun guy but Brom managed to make me fear him … and fear Neverland, too.

This book was a lengthy read for me, and while engrossing, I don’t think I liked it as much as I adored Lost Gods. However, this is still a superb story with that classic artwork style Brom is known for and a dark story that will haunt you afterwards!

Happy reading ~

The Cuckoo Tree by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicles #6

This book was actually the first one I read from this series, back when I was about 9 years old. I absolutely loved it and I loved its sequel, Dido and Pa. This books is what sparked my interest in the whole series and I’m so happy to get the chance to read it now in the correct order! I wanted to know if, after reading about all of Dido’s other adventures, whether my opinion on this novel would be different or not … so here is my review:

Just as Dido Twite makes her way back on English soil, she lands in trouble. When her carriage overturns and her friend Captain Hughes is injured in it, Dido is forced to stay at Dogkennel Cottages to tend to Captain Hughes. There, she meets the odd inhabitants of Tegleaze Manor: fussy old Lady Tegleaze, her nephew Tobit, and his witchy nurse, Tante Sannie. However, there are suspicious things afoot: a priceless miniature is stolen, Tobit is framed, and a twin sister is discovered. And soon Dido discovers that she is in the midst of another Hanoverian plot! Can she get to London in time to save the king?

Once again, we are in for a wacky adventure. Every time Dido had a remark or thought about something, I couldn’t help but laugh – she is just that funny and sarcastic of a character. There’s quite a bit of witchy magic going on in this novel, which was super fun to read about. This novel was a bit darker than Dido’s time on Nantucket, but I really liked that because it gave it a bit more depth. Of course, depth doesn’t mean that this novel was more serious; if anything, the story was even wackier than any before it! We have the presence of an elephant again, which was something that I just didn’t understand, and didn’t like as much, but overall, this story was just as fun to read as every other one in the series. After rereading this book, I think it is still one of my favorite novels in this series! Now, time for the next one!

Happy reading ~

Monstress Vol. 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

GUESS WHO JUST RECEIVED HER COPY OF MONSTRESS VOLUME 2 IN THE MAIL???!?!?!?!?!

Yes, it was me. To celebrate, I read Monstress Vol. 1 before I started reading this one. Here are my thoughts:

After a harrowing escape, Master Ren, Maika, and Kippa make their way to Thyria in search of answers. While they hope to meet their friends and make some allies, there are many who seek Maika for their own personal gain.

I really can’t give a good summary of this volume without giving away major plot details so …. that’s all you’re gonna get from me!

As usual, this volume is filled with stunning artwork. Sana Takeda is a fantastic illustrator and she really makes the story come to life with her beautiful depictions. The story continues to be amazing, with even more world-building and intrigue! There were new characters involved and new truths revealed that have made me even more curious about Maika and her history. A lot of questions from Volume 1 were answered, and it was done in a very satisfactory manner, which is obviously a positive! There is more gore and violence in this volume, but it just makes the story that much more appealing! I found that this volume was a lot more dense than its predecessor, requiring some rereading at parts, but it was all part of the amazing journey that Marjorie Liu has created and it was well worth the effort. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who was a fan of Volume 1 and I would recommend this entire comic series for anyone who likes fantasy and beautiful artwork.

Happy reading ~