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 ~

A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

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

I’m just going to say that I love this novel. A lot. It was an absolutely amazing read and I could not put it down for a second. Here is my review:

The village of Saint-Ferdinand might look like a peaceful place with its farmhouses stretching all the way down one street, its small police precinct, and its quaint coffee shops and diners. But it also has something unusual: a large over-used cemetery, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand killer, who has eluded the police for nearly 2 decades. When Inspector Stephen Crowley finally manages to capture the killer, it seems as if the nightmare is about to end. However, this is when the REAL nightmare begins.
When a dark spirit reveals itself to Venus McKenzie, one of Saint-Ferdinand’s teenage residents, she learns that this creature’s power has a long history with her town—and that the serial murders merely scratch the surface of a past burdened by evil secrets.

This is by far one of the best horror novels I have ever read. It hit the mark on all counts and kept the suspense, magic, and gore coming throughout the story.

First of all, the story itself is ridiculously good. There is so much depth, so many different elements that come together to give an intricate backstory that makes the reader want more. The author does a great job of keeping you in the dark until the right moment while also delivering a story that you can follow along. Every so often, you get clues that make you question what you previously knew…. and the author also provides the perfect opportunities for you to remember those clues and link the story together. It almost made me feel like a detective, and it was just so much fun to read this book! I loved the gore and the horror and the magical elements incorporated into this story; it was truly dark and I was definitely creeped out! The author had multiple POVs going, but he did such a fantastic job of keeping each one unique and fresh and interesting for the reader! The author also managed to show internal (and external) changes in character personalities and roles, which is not an easy feat by any means! There was so much going on in this novel and yet, it never felt overwhelming. Everything made sense, everything had depth, and everything made me want to flip the page and read on. The writing style was also amazing and easy to follow. I don’t want to keep on praising and praising so just do yourself a favor and give this book a shot, because it will definitely be worth your time!

Happy reading ~

The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel

Awhile back, I read a book called Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel. It felt like I was watching one of my historical Asian dramas, and I was happy to discover that the story was based off of a real historical figure. Not only is it based off of a historical figure, the main character was the first female Empress of China! I really enjoyed the first novel so I knew I had to read the sequel and find out what happened to her.

When the Emperor passes away, Mei’s lover, Pheasant is crowned as the the new Emperor. But a power struggle begins between Pheasant and his uncle, who insists on becoming Regent. Mei also suffers from this backlash, as Pheasant’s wife, Empress Wang, goes to extreme lengths to destroy Mei’s life. As the political game becomes more dangerous, Mei realizes that she must defeat the bloodthirsty Empress and the sly Regent to save herself and also to protect her country.

I’m going to begin my review by saying that this is not a book you can read as a standalone; you absolutely have to read The Moon in the Palace before reading this one or you won’t understand what is going on. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, I really liked this book. Just like its predecessor, the novel reads like an asian drama, full of intrigue and political mind games. The author really made history come alive through this story! I really enjoy reading about constant manipulation and power struggles, which is why this book was so wonderful for me but if you don’t like either one of those things, then this novel probably isn’t for you. While this story may not be 100% historically accurate, the author really gave some depth to Mei’s character and made her actions believable and understandable. Overall, a really interesting novel on a prominent historical figure in China!

Happy reading ~

 

The Student by Iain Fowler

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

I’ve never read a novel that falls into the noir genre. So I was really excited to give it a chance through this book. Here is my review:

It’s 1994 in Gatton, Queensland. Nate is a student who is trying to make ends meet by selling weed on the side. He hears that a girl he knew, Maya Kibby, is dead but nobody knows the identity of her killer. But Nate has bigger problems: he needs to refresh his supply, but Jesse, his friend and dealer, has gone missing. High on drugs and alone, Nate finds himself in a whole heap of trouble when major drug players hunt him down for money and drugs. And as things turn from bad to worse, Nate uncovers far more than he bargained for.

Unfortunately, this novel wasn’t for me. Maybe it was the ARC I received, but the story didn’t seem to flow very well. There were parts where the timeline of the novel changed and the transition was not marked clearly, so I had to go back and reread it to make sense of what was happening. While it was interesting to get an indepth look into the drug world, it was just so miserable-sounding that I didn’t really want to continue reading. I had no connection or feelings for any of the characters, and that was perhaps my biggest disappointment because it influenced my ability to care about the story itself. Maybe it’s just me, because there are quite a few positive reviews on Goodreads but this novel just didn’t do it for me. I would recommend this to anyone who likes books that can be classified as noir.

Happy reading ~

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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

I’m not going to preface this review with much. I have too many opinions and thoughts going on and I know if I start writing something now, I will literally ramble and never stop. So with that being said, let’s begin:

When Merrick Tremayne becomes crippled after an injury, he thinks his life of adventure as an East India Company smuggler is gone. Well, he’s wrong. When the India Office contacts Merrick to go on an expedition in Peru for quinine, which is essential for treating malaria, Merrick is hesitant. Even able-bodied expeditionaries have struggled to survive, and he can barely walk. But so desperate is he to escape his trapped life at home, that he sets off against his better judgement. He arrives at a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon, where a salt line separates the town from a forest that is forbidden. Anyone who tries to breach the forest is killed by something – but beyond the salt are the quinine woods and there is no other way to get to them. Surrounded by local lore on cursed woods and lost time, Merrick must separate truth from fantasy in order to find out the history behind this place – and the mystery behind its people.

Let me tell you right now: I was really excited to read this novel. There is this historical aspect mixed with magical realism and so much adventure … I was looking forward to going on an amazing journey.

When I first started to read, I was a little bored. I wondered where exactly the story was going and what the personality of the narrator, Merrick, would be like. Within the first couple chapters, the magical elements started surfacing and I began to pay interest. I started putting the pieces together and making sense of all of the different characters being introduced.

However, there were quite a few things that made me feel … off. For one thing, Merrick is described as a young-ish man, around 30 years old. However, he talks like someone much older than his age. It was very hard at times to put these two things together and imagine a realistic character. He was very good at describing the things that were happening, and I really must say that the author did a fabulous job with her depictions of Peru… but I didn’t feel like Merrick really had a voice or personality. Merrick reminds me of the narrator from The Great Gatsby; an observer who is along for the ride but who really doesn’t have much input. I was much more intrigued by Raphael’s character and that of Merrick’s friend. However, I would have liked to have been invested in the main character, as he is the one who is supposed to pull the reader into the story.

The magical realism in this novel is really done quite well. There were loads of interesting facts, mixed with incidents of magical/supernatural happenings that kept me interested in the story. In fact, had those elements not been there, I would probably have given up on this novel a while ago. To be fair, at times it felt like there really wasn’t a plot. Many things were brought up and the timeline was constantly shifting as the author went backwards and forwards into the lives of the different characters. There were many occasions during which I wondered where exactly the author was going, and it made me feel a little disappointed with the story.

Truth is, I really wanted to like this novel but I didn’t feel like it led to anything significant in terms of plot or theme. It was really well-written, with beautiful descriptions and tons of supernatural/magical elements. However, the plot wasn’t focused and the characters lacked that spark to make me care about them. For those reasons, I’m giving this book a 2.5/5 stars rounded to 3.

Happy reading ~

The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde

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

I have always been intrigued by the Vikings and I was super excited when I heard that this book would be a Viking fantasy novel. I had no idea what that meant but I was eager to try it and see what it would be like!

When Bera journeys to protect her village from disease, an ensuing battle kills her childhood friend, Bjorn. The shame of her defeat causes her fatehr to wed her to the chieftain of a rival clan. But Bera soon realizes that her new husband’s second-in-command is responsible for her friend’s death. Though she must now take on the role of wife and stepmother, Bera vows to take revenge and begins her journey to power by honing her skills in the rough clan into which she has been sold. As her gifts continue to grow, she receives visions of looming disaster that will finally lead to the ultimate choice: revenge or safety for all?

This novel was a mess from beginning to end. And the entire blame falls on the main character, Bera. She is by far the most hated protagonist I have ever read about. Bera is an impulsive character that is very inconsistent in her behaviour and thought processes. For instance, before Bjorn died, she acted like she couldn’t stand him. But as soon as he died, he was suddenly the most kind person and she adored him. It made no sense, and this trend continues throughout the book. She vacillates between childishness and acting like a grown woman and it makes it hard to get a sense of who she is. Bera is also an extremely immature and annoying character. Perhaps her vicious behavior was supposed to emphasize her “Viking-ness” but all it did was make me not want to read this book. She literally has no redeeming qualities and it was a mission to get through this book. Suffice to say, I hated her every second.

The other problem with this book was that there wasn’t a proper buildup for certain events. Bjorn’s death, for example, was a bit out of the blue and it wasn’t presented in a way that felt complete. This was how I felt for most of the novel. There were also loads of things that just defied logic and made no sense whatsoever… but I won’t say what since I don’t like spoiling things.

In all, this was a very disappointing Viking-based story and I would probably not recommend this to anyone.

Happy reading ~