Grief Cottage by Gail Goodwin

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

The premise of this novel was just too much to resist. I love a good ghost story and I was fully expecting to get loads of shivers and chills and supernatural goings-on. After reading this novel, I can honestly say that my predictions were way off. Here is my review:

When his mother dies unexpectedly, 11-year-old Marcus is sent to live with his great aunt, a reclusive painter who lives on a small South Carolina island. As he gets accustomed to his new surroundings, he is shown a ruined cottage that the islanders call Grief cottage, after a tragic incident where a boy and his parents disappeared during a hurricane 50 years ago. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has remained empty ever since. While Aunt Charlotte stays locked up in her studio painting, Marcus visits the cottage, building up the courage to face the ghost of the dead boy who used to live there. Full of curiosity and lonely, Marcus befriends the ghost boy, never knowing whether the ghost is friendly or has a more insidious nature.

There are a lot of things that caused me to not like this novel. The main thing is that it led me astray. Everything about the blurb screamed thriller ghost story. However, it would be more apt to describe this book as a literary fiction. Now, I have no problem with the literary fiction genre; I have read quite a few books that fit into this category and have quite enjoyed them. However, I do not like to be misled so blatantly. I felt like I was cheated out of the ghost story experience that was promised. Yes, the novel fixated on death and loss and grief, but there really was no need to brand the story as anything supernatural/involving ghosts. As you can tell, I’m quite upset by this. To make it worse, I didn’t really feel like this novel was a very good literary fiction. Even though literary fiction focuses on a certain theme and character growth/development, there is still a plot line; this novel missed the mark on that. I really liked Marcus’s character – he is a genuine sweetheart who tries so hard to please others. However, I didn’t really think he developed or grew in any real way; nothing that happened to him on his beach adventures really seemed to have the kind of impact I associate with literary fiction novels. In fact, the last portion of the novel completely threw me off because suddenly, the author takes us into the future and compresses together a decade of activity in Marcus’s life that just … made the story even more choppy than it already was. It was just weird and unnecessary. Another thing that I found a bit weird about this story was the writing style used for Marcus’s voice. The whole novel is like a monologue of the internal thoughts and feelings of Marcus but his voice sounds like that of a well-educated adult rather than an 11-year-old child. I’m not saying that children cannot have great vocabulary and think beyond their years, but the author never really showed Marcus as being so extraordinarily gifted and it just seemed so at odds with the personality and character of Marcus. It made it hard for me to believe in the story and feel connected to Marcus (even though, as mentioned previously, I liked him). The last little thing that bothered me was the way the author kept harping on the pronunciation of a specific character in the book, Lash. Every time Lash talked, the author just had to take a specific word and in brackets, write it out phonetically. It was cool at first because it helped me hear the voice in my head as I was reading but it got tedious really quick.

So overall, I really didn’t have a good experience with this book. I didn’t like how misleading the premise was, I didn’t like that the writing style was choppy, I didn’t think there was really any plot, and Marcus’s voice just really didn’t fit with his character. For those reasons, this novel gets a 1.5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

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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 ~

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

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

When I was little, I wanted to be a twin. I am not ashamed to admit that I went through a Mary Kate-and-Ashley phase. While I resigned myself to my fate of never having a twin, it hasn’t stopped me from getting excited about any novel that features them! That, along with the interesting premise, caught my eye with this book. Anyways, here I go with my review:

Ava Antipova has many reasons for leaving her hometown and running away to Paris: a failing winery business, a romantic betrayal, a manipulative and crazy sister, an absent father, and a mother suffering from dementia and alcoholism. In Paris, Ava can finally shed her past and be free. But after a mere 2 years, she is called back home. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead. All Ava knows is that Zelda was staying at home and taking care of the family vineyard and mother, when she was allegedly burned alive in the barn because of an accident. But knowing her sister, Ava suspects that there is more to this story. Everything is too neat, too perfect, too Zelda. And when she receives a cryptic message from her dead sister, Ava knows she was correct. This is one more game to Zelda, and this time she has outdone herself. Through a series of clues that Zelda leaves behind specifically for her, Ava follows the trail and uncovers Zelda’s life and all of the drama she is involved in. Along the way, Zelda makes her twin confront their messed-up past. But why is Zelda doing this and what is at stake in this final game?

This was definitely an interesting read. I was sucked in from the beginning, with its rich prose and intriguing premise. Let me warn you all right now: this is not a thriller. There is no crazy action plot, no scary hidden secret. This is all about dysfunction and family. And damn, this is a dysfunctional family! The author did not hold anything back when she created her characters, for they are all deeply flawed and messed up. While I usually enjoy seeing characters that aren’t “picture perfect”, this novel took it a bit too far; I ended up feeling no connection or emotion to any of the characters. This made me feel really disconnected with the story itself, which is quite a shame because I’m sure my experience with this novel would have been even better if this had happened. I enjoyed the intrigue of finding the clues and putting it together, but there were times when I felt like the author was really stretching the limits in order to make everything tie in – that’s where it became more messy and less cohesive. I really really really liked the prose; the author has great vocabulary and she knows how to use her words! The prose also helped form the character’s personality, which was nice to see. What I mean by that is that the words Ava used were very eloquent and perfect-sounding, which is the image that she strives to maintain even as she falls apart. There were loads of positives with this story from the way the author described everything to the richness of the relationships between characters to the essential question of what Zelda’s endgame is. There were a few negatives as well with the lack of connection to the characters and the sometimes-messy intrigue of putting the past together. A lot of thought and work went into this novel and for a debut, I’m quite happy with what I read! I think that this author definitely knows her stuff and knows how to create a story that will capture the reader’s interest and keep them in the novel! I’m excited to know what she will come up with next.

Happy reading ~

My Girl by Jack Jordan

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

When I received this novel from NetGalley, I had forgotten what the premise of the story was. It had been a long time since I had requested and received it. So, I went on Goodreads to get a sense of the synopsis and also see what the consensus was for this novel. Intrigued by the amount of positive reviews as well as the plot, I jumped right in, eager to get a glimpse of this psychological thriller. Here is my review:

Paige Dawson is an alcoholic and drug abuser who can’t seem to find a reason to live ever since her daughter was murdered and her husband committed suicide. Barely managing to get through the day, she discovers a handgun hidden in her husband’s study. Why did he need a gun? Was it perhaps in connection to their daughter’s death? Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to investigate further. But she has no idea who she is up against and the extent they will go to make her lose complete control.

I usually receive very good novels from NetGalley. But this was not one of them. The story had no flow and it absolutely made no sense. I despised Paige’s character. Although I could understand that she was in grief, the extent to which it was manifested and the lengths she would go to in order to stay in her condition were quite ridiculous. The story itself seemed to jump all over the place. I constantly felt like there were a few chapters or key points missing. While I could see how the first half could lead to something interesting given enough time, the second half completely threw me off. It made absolutely no sense. I have no clue how the author came up with the random storyline but it really did not work; it seemed as if the author decided to pursue that path just to try and make the story seem shocking. It definitely shocked but I wouldn’t say it was in a good way. There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end, and overall I was extremely disappointed with this novel. If you are looking for a new thriller, even a fluff one, maybe skip this one.

Happy reading ~

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

I’ve decided to go with a brand new look for my blog to reflect my brand new outlook towards life. Hopefully, you all find it user-friendly. If you like it or don’t like it or have any suggestions, PLEASE PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I’m always looking for ways to make my blog more interesting and I would be happy to try to do so!  Anyways, let’s get started with this book review!

Alex Dale used to be a well-off journalist with a happy marriage. But when her destructive habits took it all away, she is left only with a newfound desire for routine and a few freelance writing gigs. Every day is a hassle to get through… until she meets Amy Stevenson. Amy is a remnant from Alex’s childhood, a girl who was found unconscious after a merciless assault and has been a coma for fifteen years. Everyone else in this world seems to have forgotten about her. But Alex remembers her now. And she is determined to find out what really happened to Amy and give this girl the justice she deserves. But has everyone really forgotten? Or are there people waiting for someone to go sniffing around, people who are afraid of the past and will do anything to keep it buried?

I quite enjoyed this book. I liked the protagonist a lot. Alex is someone you want to feel sympathy and pity for. But you also want to shake her and tell her to snap out of this mess and grow up. And I feel like she does, throughout the course of her interesting forays into the past. At times, it felt like the story wasn’t really about Amy or the mystery at all but rather about Alex and her inability to cope with life. Now, the actual mystery of Amy’s assault is not too hard to figure out and is quite sad, in all honesty. In light of the hundreds of stories of assault and crime we see in the news, hers is not too unique and is every bit as depressing and sad. I think the strength of this novel comes from its realistic perspective. Of course, Amy’s situation of being in a coma but still being conscious is unique and there were areas where the author took liberties. But the emotions throughout the novel and the plot all the way to the end…. it was realistic and believable and it sold the story. So, if you are looking for a good mystery novel with a protagonist like the one from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, you should check this novel out!

Happy reading!