The Sorceress and the Postgraduate by Clive Heritage-Tilley

I saw the premise of this novel and immediately wanted to read it. First of all, anything with witches and magic will sound appealing to me. The second is that this novel is tied to historical events and figures, which made it even more interesting. It had everything I wanted to read about so I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Synopsis (Goodreads): When an Oxford University student decides to steal an intriguing object from the Pitt Rivers Museum to further his studies, he gets more than he bargained for.

It’s 1497 and Albrecht Durer produces the four witches engraving. But there were really five women, not four, and they were sorceresses. All five were condemned to death, but it was decided that the youngest English girl, Constance, should be saved and the four sorceresses cast a spell to suspend her in time.

What ensues is a captivating story as the student with the help of his new assistant embark on an adventure of magic and mystery, in search for secrets locked in the history of time.

Review: Well, this book did not live up to my expectations in any way. This novel could really have been a great read but it ended up really letting me down.

One thing that was really disappointing was that there was not much focus on the historical aspect. There were maybe just a handful or less references to historical figures or time points, and while this was definitely appreciated by me, it just wasn’t enough. If you are going to brand a story by saying it is historical fiction, it needs to be a lot more historical than this!

One of my biggest issues was with the lack of proper development with the story. Things are pretty much just told to the reader rather than shown. We are told what happened to lead to the 4 sorceresses saving Constance. We are told by Constance about her relationship with Albrecht Durer. We are told what led the Oxford student to steal the object. All of these things (and many more) could have been shown if the author had lengthened the story to include the relevant events. It was also disconcerting how quickly Constance adjusted to the modern day. For someone trapped in a bottle, she adapted way too quickly to her surroundings. There was no trace of an antiquated style of speaking, no shock from seeing all the new inventions around, just the enthusiasm that a tourist would show when traveling to a new country. Even the thoughts and feelings of the Oxford student who discovered her lacked strong development, and seemed to be very … childish.

The writing style of this novel was really not up to my standards. It read like the musings of a teenager rather than work that has been shown to an editor. It was all very childish and if I had been a preteen, I would have enjoyed this. But there was no indication that this book was meant for a younger audience, and if I’m to judge it as an adult book, it falls way off the mark there.

Believe me when I say that I really wanted to enjoy this book. However, the childish writing and lack of proper development of the story was something I could not get past. I have to give this a 1/5 stars.

I received this advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~


Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamud

I’m going to start this review by giving a trigger warning: this novel deals with uncomfortable topics like incest and child abuse. Please keep that in mind if you are choosing to read this novel. With that, I’m going to start my review:

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, 10 men took their families and colonized an island off the coast. This new society consisted of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers, chosen male descendants of the original 10, could cross to the wastelands and scavenge for useful items. The daughters of those in the colony are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face a Summer of Fruition, a season that takes them from adolescence into matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly, fighting over food and shelter, free of their fathers’ roaming hands, and their mothers’ silences. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others. With this information, Janey Solomon emerges as a leader seeking the truth. At 17, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman that she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

Is it weird that I am drawn to dark stories? Because I was drawn to this one and I could not stop myself from reading all of this in one sitting. How do I begin to describe my experience with this book? Gather the Daughters does not really introduce any new concepts: there are plenty of dystopian novels that give men the power over women, and control breeding and number of offspring. The idea of knowledge being restricted is also not unique. However, there was something about this story that pulled me in and kept me interested. For one thing, this is not a novel you can read quickly; it has a slower pace and to enjoy it, you need to take your time with it. The story is told only from the perspectives of the daughters; there are no adults telling this tale. This is something I really liked because it gave a different outlook to the events. It actually made me more uncomfortable to read it from the voice of these girls who have never known a life outside of this one, who only have their laws to define things as “right” or “wrong”, and who still are able to recognize when something being done to them is not okay. It’s hard to read about their suffering, which only seems to grow as the story continues. Even though the concepts mentioned here are nothing new, this novel manages to pack a powerful punch. This is not an easy read by any standards, but it is a good one nevertheless. This novel is gripping, disturbing, and emotionally-charged. There is so much more I want to say about this novel, but I don’t think I have the words. My final verdict? I’m giving this a 5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Once, in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, but I’ve been putting it off every time in lieu of some other urgent reading task. But I decided to make time for it now, so here is my review:

Ana grew up in a tiny Mennonite colongy in Bolivia. Her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now, as a teenager, Ana and her father have also run away from the community, but Ana doesn’t know why. All she knows is that things were not right for her and her father and they needed to leave in a hurry. Now, they’ve arrived in Toronto and Ana must fend for herself in an alien country, completely disconnected from everything she knew. She has no idea where to begin with fitting in. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the hierarchy that is present and all the unspoken rules and codes that govern teenage life. She goes to the library, the mall, and even parties. And all the while, she is desperate to find her mother who left her so long ago, and understand her father who has always been a stranger to her.

This is definitely a character-driven story, and it is quite well done at that. The story is told from Ana’s perspective, in third perspective when she is in Toronto and in first perspective when she is describing her past in the Mennonite colony. I really liked that the author made that differentiation, as I’ve never seen an author do that before and it added a unique touch to the story. I really liked Ana’s character and the author did a really great job in expressing the emotions she was going through; as a reader, I found it very easy to connect with and understand Ana. I didn’t know much about the Mennonite community before this novel, but it is clear that the author did due diligence in researching and presenting the information about this community in a non-judgemental way. This novel is definitely more of a slow-burner and it’s really just about how Ana adjusts to Toronto after leaving Colony Felicidad so if you are expecting something more fast-paced or with action, then this is not the novel for you. However, it is a well-written YA novel that is all about growing up, fitting in, and finding your identity. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

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 Last Girl by Joe Hart – Dominion Trilogy #1

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

I try to vary the content of my novels. I don’t want to read too many novels from the same genre in succession because it makes me bored, and I feel like I’m unable to judge each book based on its merits. That’s why I waited some time before I read this dystopian fiction. Anyways, here is my review:

A mysterious virus reduces the birthrate of female infants to less than 1 percent. Medical science and governments around the world scramble in an effort to solve the problem, but even after 25 years, there is no cure. An entire generation grows up with a population of less than a 1000 women. Zoey and the surviving young women are housed in a research compound that is dedicated towards finding a cure. For 2 decades, she’s been kept away from her family, treated as a test subject. All she knows is that the virus has wiped out the rest of the world’s population. But Zoey is determined to escape before the next set of tests, a program from which no woman has ever returned. Finding her way to freedom will take brutality, strength, and cunning —but Zoey is ready for war.

If I have to describe this novel with only one word, it would be ordinary. I didn’t hate this novel. There was nothing terribly wrong with it. Did it have some holes in its logic? Yes, but I’ve read other dystopian novels that also raised some questions. Did it have action? Yes, more so towards the middle and end of the novel. What this novel didn’t have is a unique component, something that makes it stand out in mind from everything else in the genre. I didn’t really care much about the characters because there just wasn’t anything to draw me to them. The beginning of the book sounded like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – only not as well-written. Right now, I’m trying to come up with something interesting to write about this novel but I’ve got nothing. It’s not a terrible novel by any means but it has nothing new to offer and for that reason, it is unmemorable. Maybe it’s my own boredom from reading about the same crisis of not-enough-women-to-populate-the-planet, but I struggled to get through this book. It just didn’t work for me.

Happy reading ~

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

I am always talking about how I find Gillian Flynn fantastic. She is by far my favorite author when it comes to the thriller fiction category and I am always excited to read something that she has written or has recommended. I have been waiting a couple of months to get my hands on this novel and when I finally got it, I was surprised by how thin it was. I mean, it couldn’t have been more than 45 pages in total! Anyways, I was still willing to give it a shot so here is my review:

This story is told from the viewpoint of an unnamed female narrator who is smart enough to find ways to survive. She is known for giving the best hand jobs and has quite a few regular clientele who come by to see her. But as she begins to experience wrist pain, she knows she must switch into a different career path. And so, she becomes a clairvoyant, a psychic, who claims to be able to see auras. She knows she’s a fraud. But she’s good at what she does. That is, until Susan Burke gives her a visit. Susan is a rich yet unhappy woman who is terrified of her own home and begs our narrator to come and “cleanse” her house. And once she sees the house, she no longer needs to pretend to believe in ghosts. The house is eerie … but Susan’s stepson is even more disturbing. And when all three are caught in a battle of minds, one will wonder … where is the true evil hiding?

I quite liked the novel and the way in which it was set up. It was short and funny, yet it made me shiver a bit here and there. It isn’t as shocking or as chilling as Flynn’s other novels but it carries the same psychological manipulation as in her other works; by the end of the novel, you really don’t know who to trust. I don’t have much more to say about this novel because it is something to be discovered and enjoyed on your own so if you are looking for a short yet engrossing read that will make you think in many many different ways, then give this novel a shot! Fans of Gillian Flynn will find themselves enjoying this novel in a very different way than Gone Girl or Dark Places!

Happy reading

Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag

Before this novel, I had never heard of Tami Hoag. I had no idea that she was a bestselling author or that she had published more than 30 books. All I knew was that this novel was on many recommendation lists and that I had to make some time to read it. In all honesty, I hadn’t been anticipating it or been looking forward to it. I thought it would be a bit like some of Joy Fielding’s work (and I really do love her stuff!) so it wouldn’t be anything unexpected. All I can say is, I’m glad I gave it a shot!

Dana Nolan was a promising news reporter on TV before she was kidnapped, raped, and almost murdered by a serial killer. Nearly a year after her miraculous escape, Dana has moved back home to Shelby Mills. But the torment of post-traumatic stress disorder and the severe brain damage she endured has changed her forever. Returning to her hometown was supposed to be a reprieve; instead, it leads to more trauma as both the police and media take interest in an unresolved case – the disappearance of Dana’s childhood friend, Casey. Terrified of the secrets from her past, Dana tentatively begins to search for the truth. But it may be more than she can handle.

One of the reasons why I enjoyed this novel so much was because of the attention it gave to PTSD and head trauma injuries. Most of the time, novels don’t depict this accurately; somehow the victim or protagonist mysteriously “gets better” and “goes back to normal”. Having a novel disprove that and show what it really is like was quite refreshing. I really liked Dana Nolan; her plight as a victim was depicted very skillfully but there was also more to her personality than just her ordeal. The story line was very good, too, and I liked how the story was told in the voices of other characters. The ending was a bit predictable, especially as the clues came through but I think that was the point; the reader, who presumably does not suffer from any brain injuries, should be able to solve this case faster than Dana, who doesn’t have all the resources she needs to reach the same conclusions. All in all, this story was gripping and well-written and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good murder mystery/thriller!

Happy reading ~

The Well by Catherine Chanter

When I first read the teaser about this book, I thought it would be about ghosts and spirits and the like. It certainly had a lot of elements to it that sounded like something supernatural was about to happen. I was planning on reading it in eBook version but I found it in the public library on a whim and decided to borrow it right then and there. Given my current stressful life, I thought I would have a better chance of reading it if I had a physical hard copy of it as a daily reminder to get through it! Anyways, I’m done now so here is my review:

Ruth and Mark Ardingly need a break from their life in the city, especially after Mark was under investigation for pedophilia. So when they see the listing for the Well, they rush to put in an offer. This farming area in the countryside is exactly the break they need. And when they arrive there, everything is perfect. Everything is in full bloom, their crops are growing well, and Mark and Ruth are filled with optimism. When their daughter Angie and grandson Lucien come to visit, they couldn’t be happier. But when the drought hits, everything changes, especially when they discover that The Well is the only place unaffected. Suddenly, they are the envy of their neighbours and the government is putting pressure on them. When a fanatic religious order called the Sisters of the Rose arrive, the situation gets worse, culminating in a shocking crime that threatens to rip this family apart.

Although this novel wasn’t a ghost story, it certainly was a thriller and it definitely gave me chills. The story is told in Ruth’s voice and it switches from past to present beautifully, connecting the story and giving lots of clues to the reader. It is more than just a who-done-it mystery; it deals with issues like mob mentalities, public vs private life, and fanaticism at its core. I was able to guess the ending about halfway through the novel but it was still a delightful read and got me really thinking hard. I really enjoyed this novel and I look forward to reading more by this author in the future!

Happy reading ~

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

I don’t know what I was expecting from this novel but it certainly wasn’t what I got! I’m so excited to write this review that I’m not going to bother giving any introduction for it!

Henry Hayden has made it big in the literary world. His five novels have all been bestsellers and he is living in the lap of luxury. He’s got the nice car, the nice house, everything he could ever have asked for. He is a quiet man himself and lives a quiet life with his wife who is equally quiet and private. All in all, Henry is happy. Except for one secret: he didn’t write a single word. In fact, it is his wife who writes his novels, a secret they both work very hard to hide. The arrangement seems to be working well for both of them. But then disaster strikes when Henry’s mistress becomes pregnant with his child. As Henry tries to rectify the solution, he makes a terrible  mistake, one that could cost him everything he holds dear.

I loved this novel. From the first page, I was hooked. The story shifts so quickly from one character to the other that you are forced to give it your full attention. I loved the portrayal of each character and the attention given to detail. The way that Henry’s mind works is remarkable so much so that I had chills at some points in the story. The ending was quite unexpected and that just made the experience that much more enjoyable. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone looking for something dark – or for anyone looking for a great read!

Happy reading ~

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

This book has been on the bestseller list for quite a while and I’ve been waiting to read it for almost a month. I’m happy to say that this novel did not disappoint! I’ve been going around recommending it to everyone I know because it is just THAT good! Anyways, with our further ado, here is my review!

Katharyn “Kitty” Miller is a single woman, which is quite a strange situation for a woman to be in in Denver in 1962. However, she is living quite happily. She runs a small bookstore with her friend Frieda and makes ends meet. But when she goes to sleep, her dreams are filled with a completely different life. Here, she goes by Katharyn and is married to a wonderful husband named Lars. She has a beautiful house and wonderful children. Although Kitty loves these late night forays, she is starting to have a hard time distinguishing between her dreams and her reality. And not everything is as perfect as it seems in this dream world of hers…

What can I say about this book except that it is an amazing debut novel? It is rich in detail and the character transformation between the dreams and the real world is seamlessly done. All of the pain that Kitty goes through is powerfully felt by the reader and the way everything gets put together by the end of the novel is just amazing. There are so many surprises in this novel that elevate this book from being a simple emotional story. I never thought that I would love this book so much but from the first page, I was hooked. I highly recommend this book to everyone because I can’t imagine anyone not liking it!

Happy reading ~