The Child by Fiona Barton

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

I read The Widow by Fiona Barton when it first came out and it was definitely one of my favorite books out there. I was excited to see what the author would come up with in her next novel so I was super happy to have received this ARC! Here is my review:

When an old house is demolished, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton buried for years. When journalist Kate Waters hears this, she believes this story will turn out to be a great scoop. However, she needs more answers to her questions, especially the ones surrounding the identity of the baby. As Kate begins to investigate, she discovers a connection to a crime that occurred a decade ago: a newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward and was never found, leaving the parents devastated. But there is more to the story, and Kate gets drawn into the pasts of the people who once lived in the neighbourhood being demolished. And the more secrets she discovers, the more torn she becomes on what she can and cannot reveal.

I cannot begin to describe how much I loved this book! Just like in The Widow, the novel features a journalist who is amazing at investigating and putting together the clues; in fact, she does a better job than the police! I love how kickass Kate is; for once, the woman solves things and doesn’t just get pushed to the side. Kate doesn’t make stupid mistakes. She is perfectly capable of handling the situation and doing a competent job. This is one of the many things I love about the novel. Having a journalist as the main character was really awesome to see and gave me a really cool insight into the world of investigative journalism. This book was all about motherhood and the ways in which we see mothers in the world. This book also deals with sexual violence and can be quite graphic, so consider this your trigger warning. My main attraction to this novel was its focus on multiple women and the way they handled traumatic situations in their lives. I honestly did not see the ending coming until most of the clues were given to me, and the thrill factor was definitely ramped up with this story! My one teeny complaint would be that I wished that when they talked about the court proceedings, the author had gotten into more detail; it felt a bit rushed after this amazing drawn-out story. Overall, another amazing thriller from Fiona Barton that you definitely do not want to miss out!

Happy reading ~

Who Is Rich by Matthew Klam

This novel is really out of my comfort zone. It’s a novel that is all about infidelity and family and sexual pleasure. It’s not something I have ever been comfortable reading about but I like to give new things a try and I wanted to broaden my reading range. So thank you to the First to Read program for giving me the chance to read this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Once a year, Rich Fischer goes away from his family to a week-long summer arts conference where he teaches a class on cartooning. A year ago, Rich met a student named Amy O’Donnell, a mother of 3 who is married to a Wall Street titan. That year was filled with passion and bonding on how their lives have turned out. Since then, they have exchanged hot texts and emails. And now they’re back at the arts conference. On the very first day, at the annual softball game, Amy breaks her wrist. Feeling guilty and wanting to comfort her, Rich makes an impulsive decision and buys a bracelet from a jewelry store, wiping out his family’s checking account. He then follows Amy through a near-death country-doctoring all for the sake of their intense chemistry.

This book … well, it was definitely not a favorite for me. I don’t think there was a single thing I liked about this novel. I went for it because I thought it would be an interesting perspective on adultery and lust. Instead, I was stuck with a novel that had terrible characters and self-indulgent narratives. I hated Rich for being so whiny and selfish and horrible. I hated all of the other characters for the same reason. I liked the writing style but the story itself was seriously not great and I am struggling to think of even one good thing to say about it. This book was just not for me but maybe someone else will enjoy it more.

Happy reading ~

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

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

I’ve read a ton of books by May Kubica. Ever since I read The Good Girl, I have always taken the time to seek out her newest book and give it a go. While I have yet to find one I like as much as her debut, I think that she has really created a name for herself in the thriller genre. With that being said, Every Last Lie is her latest foray in the genre and it is being released in just a couple of weeks. So here is my review of the ARC:

When Clara Solberg finds out that her husband and their 4-year-old daughter were in a car crash, time stops. She is devastated to discover that while her daughter is unharmed, her husband has died in the accident. Clara is shrouded in mystery and everyone agrees that this is just a terrible tragic accident … until Maisie starts having nightmares that make Clara question what really happened in that car. Struggling with her grief and life as a single mother, and obsessed with discovering the truth behind Nick’s death, Clara is plunged into a world of lies. Who would have wanted Nick dead and why? Clare won’t stop until she finds out – but the truth may be more than she can handle.

From the very first page, the author had me in the palm of her hands. With vivid descriptions of Clare’s first moments dealing with the news of her husband’s passing, I was reeling from the emotions that were portrayed. The effect just grew stronger as Clare’s grief became more pronounced. Even though Clare was not as strong as I would have liked, I really liked her character; she was one of the most realistic characters I have ever met (in terms of her response to tragedy). The story is told from dual perspectives, with chapters alternating from Nick’s voice to Clare’s voice. It made for a very interesting story, and I kept trying to piece all of it together. This book really does make you think about all of the lies that can crop up between two people who love each other and the way in which they can alter the relationship! Every minute of the story was fantastic … until I reached the end. The ending just took me aback. After all of the buildup, after all of the paranoia and suspicions… it ended on such a bland note. I had been eagerly waiting for that satisfaction of the final reveal but it just … flopped on me. I had become so engrossed in the story and I had had such high expectations reaching the end, but the finale was just so lackluster that it made the whole story not worth reading. If you are a big fan of Mary Kubica, I would still recommend you read this novel because maybe you might enjoy it more than I did. I will be giving this book a 3.5/5 stars; in spite of its shabby conclusion, this novel was well-written and had skillfully portrayed characters that made it an enjoyable read (for the most part).

Happy reading ~

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is a very popular author known for his haunting stories. It’s a bit embarrassing that it has taken me so long to read anything by him but I’ve finally done it! And I decided to choose his newest novel for my first foray!

Annalee Ahlberg is a sleepwalker and her affliction is a point of concern for her family. They never know where she will go or what she will do when she’s asleep at night. When she goes missing, it’s her family’s worst nightmare. The morning of her disappearance, a search party tears apart the woods. Annalee’s husband, Warren, hurries home from a business trip. Annalee’s eldest daughter, Lianna, is questioned by detectives. And youngest daughter Paige takes it upon herself to search for clues. When the police find a small swatch of fabric from a nightshirt, it seems certain that Annalee is dead. However, young detective Gavin Rikert continues to persist and keeps calling the Ahlbergs. As Lianna tries to support her family and finds herself drawn to Gavin, she tries to make sense of her mother’s disappearance. Where did Annalee go? What is it that drives her out of her bed every time her father leaves? And why is Gavin so interested in Annalee’s disappearance?

This was a very interesting story to read. I really don’t know much about sleepwalking and the many ways it manifests itself, and the author managed to explain all of its details without making it boring. The story is mainly told from Lianna’s perspective, as she struggles to keep herself and her family afloat in the aftermath of her mother’s disappearance. Interspersed between these chapters that tell us how life is continuing are excerpts from the journal of a sleepwalker; the identity of this sleepwalker remains a mystery until the very end of the book. In the beginning, this novel had hints of a mystery but seemed to be more of a character-driven story. While I didn’t like any of the characters per se, I liked their honest portrayal and how each character was unique. The story unfolds slowly but it reels you in the whole time. My one complaint is that Lianna was not strong in her ability to connect things and deduce things but the author still made everything work. The last bit of the novel moved quite quickly and the revelations, which I had pretty much guessed by that point, were delivered quite well. Overall, this has been a good experience for me and I’m looking forward to reading more books by Chris Bohjalian!

Happy reading ~

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 ~

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

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

When I received the ARC for this novel, the title was The Original Ginny Moon. I think it has since changed (slightly) but the story has, of course, stayed the same. I wanted to read this novel because of its unique protagonist. After reading this novel, I’m just so glad to have had the chance to read such an amazing story!

Ginny is an autistic 14-year-old who has spent the last 5 years in foster care, after being taken out of her unsafe home. Now, Ginny is in her 4th home that will hopefully be her Forever home. Maybe this time, her forever parents will love her. Everyone wants Ginny to feel safe and forget her past … but Ginny can’t do that. She will never stop making her Big Secret Plan of Escape. Because Ginny has a secret about something that happened a long time ago… and the only person who can make it right is her.

What an absolutely wonderful book! From the very first page, this novel had my heart. I adored Ginny. The author did such an amazing job portraying her and making her come to life. While I’m no expert in working with people with autism, from my experience interacting with them, I can say that the author’s depiction was pretty spot on! And on top of being so accurate, the author also created a very unique and interesting voice for Ginny. Her story is heartbreaking and I was tense throughout the entire book, as I saw Ginny struggle to find her place. This novel isn’t just about Ginny. This novel is about the concept of family and the different ways it can present itself: as an abusive mother, as an absent father who believes in forgiveness, as a foster family that is trying to maintain normalcy in a situation that defies normal. And it’s beautiful and tragic and amazing to see how it all works out. I can’t stop talking about how much I loved this novel and I don’t want to keep repeating myself so all I will say is that this novel will touch your heart and give you an interesting perspective on the term “family”. I hope everyone will give this novel a shot because it is absolutely worth the time and effort!

Happy reading ~

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

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

I was attracted to this novel first by its cover and then by the premise. I usually try not to be a book snob but sometimes I go by face value. And let me just say that whoever designed this book cover did a REALLY good job. Anyways, here is my review:

Lady Daniels lives in Hollywood Hills with her two sons. She is going through a trial separation with her husband, who is the true owner of the home she is living in. Trying to pursue a writing career, she decides to hire a nanny to take care of her younger son. I comes S, a young artist, who is thrilled to have the chance to live in a secluded guest house while taking care of Lady’s toddler son. While S performs her duty beautifully, it is her off-hour behaviour that is startling, especially once she becomes involved with Lady’s older teenage son. As the summer wears on, Lady and S will move closer to one another, all while threatening to harm the things they hold most dear.

I had a very weird experience with this novel, and I still don’t know what to make of it. The story is told in alternating perspectives between Lady and S. Both characters were unique and yet they were inherently the same, which was just such an interesting concept to see. I can’t say I ever liked Lady or S but they had this essence that pulled at me, that kept me interested in the story, that made me want to see exactly how far they would go to get what they wanted. The other characters were equally complex and the author did a fantastic job in creating stellar complex interactions between everyone. In fact, the author’s writing style was something I really enjoyed; it pulled me in at the very beginning and it kept me interested until the last page.

My problem was with the plot. Or lack of it. As I kept reading, I found myself confused by the sudden flashbacks that didn’t really have any purpose, the references to things that I didn’t really care about. I felt like everything was leading me up to something … but that something never showed up. Yes, Lady and S both made bad decisions that made me want to slap them. Yes, the author definitely made them complex. But there didn’t seem to be any point to anything. I mean … I guess they grew through this situation? But it wasn’t like anything really happened to make them grow or change or develop. If what I’m saying makes no sense, then you understand my experience with the plot: it made no sense. Maybe it’s because I have no background (or interest) in art; perhaps someone with a knowledge of the art world would enjoy this novel more. However, it just didn’t do anything to bolster the plot for this novel.

So while the author definitely has a talent for writing and developing strong complex characters, the plot was ultimately a disappointment. Because of the positives, I am willing to give this novel 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

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

I will admit, my reading list has been on the backburner this month. Every time I would think I had some free time, some new project or deadline would come up that took all of my time away. I FINALLY have some free time now so I will be doing my best to catch up on all of the great books I have yet to read, starting with this one!

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying life. She takes care of her children and husband, and is the bookkeeper for her family’s auto shop business. Her tragic childhood has been long pushed away, a thing in the past not worth remembering. But suddenly her mind begins to play tricks on her. The accounts don’t make sense and there is a constant murmuring that she can’t get rid of. She knows that she should try to get some help, but she’s terrified of being put in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole tries to hide her symptoms, all the while isolating herself from her family, and unwittingly sending her 11-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning behind this change in behaviour.

If you are looking for a realistic fiction novel that will tug at your heartstrings, then look no further! This novel is a heartwrenching portrayal on mental illness and family ties. Told from the perspective of the females in the family, we see how the actions of one person can lead to dramatic consequences in the lives of others. This novel also switches in timeline and gives a very strong backstory for Carole and Solange. The writing is great and the story is emotional, albeit ordinary. It took me quite a while to get into the story – it might have just been that I wasn’t in the mood for a realistic fiction, but I found the beginning to be quite slow. However, the novel quickly picked up its pace and explored the facets of characters who I soon became invested in. Overall, this is a strong realistic fiction novel that deals with mental illness and family tragedy in a superb way to deliver an emotionally-packed story.

Happy reading ~

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

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

I am a big fan of Andrew Pyper. I have absolutely adored every single book he has written because they truly scare the living pants off of me! I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of his latest novel, and I was very happy to have my request approved so here is my review:

Dr. Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating the mental state of the most dangerous psychotics in the country. But her newest client – a man with no name accused of a very twisted crime – is different from the rest, even with the two ridiculous claims he makes: first, that he is more than 200 years old and has inspired notable Gothic authors like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker; and second, that he is Lily’s father. To discover the truth about her client, her mother’s death, and herself, Lily must go on a journey that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.

This novel was not at all what I expected – and not in a good way. I’m trying to decide where to start with this book:

I really did not like the protagonist in this novel. She was just so off-putting. Her personality wasn’t likable at all and there was nothing about her that made her stand out. It felt like the author made her a distant character so that it would explain the trauma she suffered in the past, but it really didn’t work. There was nothing very unique about her, and she also did not behave or think in a very intelligent manner as befit her education and job status. To sum up, the protagonist was terrible.

There were a lot of unexplained elements in the plot. How did this monster just go from one place to another? What are all of his different powers? How can he suddenly talk to people in their heads? It was all very confusing and there was a desperate need for more detail. For every chapter, there should have been at least another one to segue the events. The author presented the story as both Lily’s journey as well as journal entries/letters by the monster that explain his past. I would have preferred if there had been actual scenes recounted rather than this format as it would have eliminated some of the holes in the story.

The interactions and relationships between various different characters was really not well done. Lily has some very weird feelings about her “father” and it made me quite uncomfortable. There were quite a few other characters that interacted with Lily and it all seemed so fake and forced that it ruined the story for me.

Finally, this novel didn’t deliver on the horror as much as I would have hoped. Instead, it took on a more psychological thriller view. While I have no problems with psychological thrillers, this novel wasn’t really a good one as it didn’t dig deep enough to back up the conclusions that it made.

Overall, this novel was a bit of a mess. It had so many different elements thrown together that it failed to maintain any semblance of cohesiveness. The protagonist was quite stupid and had no real personality, the interactions between various characters were awkward and fake, and there were gaping holes in this plot that made the whole story collapse. Unfortunately, this was a highly unsuccessful novel and I would have to rate it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

I have been most excited to read this novel. For the longest time, it wasn’t available anywhere near me so I would enviously read reviews about it. Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for providing me with this ARC!

Yeong-hye used to be the perfect devoted wife, quiet and willing to please. But when she begins to have nightmares involving blood-soaked images, Yeong-hye makes the drastic decision to renounce eating meat. This decision is in stark contrast to the ideals of society, and is seen as a sign of passive rebellion. But soon the passivity of her resistance manifests in more extreme forms, and with the emergence of a scandal and abuse, Yeong-hye is sent over the edge. Her dangerous endeavour will take Yeong-hye physically and mentally away from her former identity in the most tragic way possible.

This was by far one of the most confusing books I have ever read. The book is split into 3 sections, each written in the perspective of a different character who is affected by Yeong-hye’s actions. Each character describes the transition of Yeong-hye into the land of instability. The first character we are introduced to is Yeong-hye’s husband, and we are shown the first stage of her decline. I found this to be one of the more interesting chapters, probably because it set the stage and was easy enough to follow. It was clear to see how Yeong-hye’s behaviour is not within the bounds that dictate the norms of society in South Korea. I really liked reading about how perplexed those around her were, and the ways in which her husband tried to “fix” her. The next 2 sections are told from the perspective of Yeong-hye’s sister and brother-in-law, who each have their own reasons for helping Yeong-hye. This is when the story began to get a bit murky for me. I didn’t really understand the perspective of the brother-in-law, and it just left me wondering what exactly the author’s purpose was in creating this segment for the story. The sister’s perspective made sense because Yeong-hye was very close with her but other than that, it didn’t really do anything for me; nothing was resolved in the end and I still didn’t really understand what was going on. I had expected that the author would delve a little deeper into the nightmares that led Yeong-hye into her vegetarianism but it really was only hinted at at various points of the story, which was a bit of a disappointment. While this was an intriguing novel, it was very vague and left me with more questions than answers. My overall feeling was of confusion: what was the point of this novel? What was the author highlighting? I understand that the author is reflecting on a number of themes including the confines of society, our lack of understanding of others, and how an obsession can develop and fester …. but there was nothing more that I really gleaned from this novel, nothing new that made me have an “A-ha!” moment. If I’m to be brutally honest, this book was a bit of a let-down, especially after all of the hype it has generated. Maybe I’m the only person who feels this way, but this book only gets a 2/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~