Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

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

I don’t often read emotional stories. But when I do, you can believe that I become a hot mess. This novel made my heart ache so many times that I didn’t know if I would be able to finish it. But I’m glad I did because it was a very thought-provoking story. Here is my review:

When Simran’s mother dies, Simran finds her world crash down around her. As she tries to make sense of the grief she feels, she sees her marriage disintegrate in front of her eyes and faces estrangement from her own daughter. As the days go by, Simran is haunted by memories and her mother’s ghost. As her life starts to fall apart, Simran must confront one of her most painful memories – when her parents sent her younger brother away. As the past starts flooding in, she wonders what could have caused her parents to send away their only son. Now, facedAs the past comes flooding back, she wonders what could compel her parents to turn their backs on their only son. Now with her mother gone, Simran must find the answers to these painful questions in order to finally put her ghosts to rest.

This book looks at grief in a multitude of ways. Not only does it focus on the actual moment of loss, it also depicts the stages and transitions one makes in the days that follow. It is a long and painful journey, and the reader feels every emotion that the main character does. As someone who has been fortunate enough to not have experienced the loss of a loved one, this was an eye-opening journey. There are so many nuances, so many elements to this state of being that I would never have thought possible. And the author allows each one to manifest itself and be understood by the reader. I really liked that the author flitted back in time and even delved into Simran’s mother’s past. This novel showed me the different ways people deal with grief, and how some accept and move on while others struggle to do so. This story is powerful even though it has a quiet voice, as it makes the reader aware of the strength it takes to carry grief in your heart and yet, continue to live life. I’m so glad that I had the chance to review this ARC and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thought-provoking story.

Happy reading ~

 

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Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

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

I keep having issues with my laptop that has caused me to be severely delayed in writing up my reviews. This time, my screen completely shattered. Luckily, I was able to get myself a replacement laptop until my old one gets fixed. Hopefully, I will be able to get in some more reviews! Anyways, this novel was released on August 22nd, but it has been on my mind for a whole lot longer. Described as a cross between Everything I Never Told You (which I adored) and Luckiest Girl Alive (which I had mixed feelings about), it is a thriller that is “unputdownable”. I decided to test that by reading it and so … here is my review:

One morning in a sleepy Colorado suburb, a horrible tragedy occurs: high school freshman Lucinda Hayes’s dead body is found in a playground. But who caused her demise? As accusations spread, 3 strangers are brought into contact. One is oddball Cameron Whitley who has always loved – and continues to love – Lucinda. While they have never talked and Cameron is considered Lucinda’s stalker, Cameron is convinced that he knows Lucinda better than anyone else. But when he finds out that she has died, he becomes completely unhinged …. and his behaviour makes him a prime suspect. Meanwhile, Jade Dixon-Burns is one of the few people who hates Lucinda. Lucinda took everything from Jade and the worst part was Lucinda’s blissful ignorance. And finally, there is officer Russ Fletcher who doesn’t know Lucinda but knows Cameron, the boy everyone suspects may have killed her. Russ must make a painful journey in order to solve this murder, while trying to keep a promise he made long ago.

Let me start by saying that this is not a thriller, even though that is how it is being marketed. This is best described as a character-driven story. It is slower paced and revolves completely around the perspectives and experiences of Russ, Cameron, and Jade. While I thought the novel was thought-provoking and interesting, I felt that there was a lack of connection with the characters, especially Lucinda. The murder faded away into the background and while this isn’t really something that bothers me at all times, I didn’t feel as if the novel or story had enough to keep me interested. I quite liked Jade and Cameron’s characters as they at least had some tangible connection to Lucinda. However, Russ was a misnomer in that he really wasn’t a necessary component of the story. In fact, he was an officer who really didn’t do much in terms of solving the murder, and that really bothered me. Overall, this was an interesting take on a murder mystery, where the story focused more on the characters. However, there was a lack of connection between me and the characters and the plot really didn’t have any movement. For those reasons, this novel gets 2.5/5 stars from me.

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 ~

 

She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

I’ve always been a fan of Joy Fielding, ever since I first read her book Heartstopper back when I was in grade 10. Granted, I haven’t read a book by her in a while, but reading this one makes up for it!

15 years ago, Caroline Shipley was looking forward to her wedding anniversary. But the celebratory trip to Mexico with her husband and friends became a disaster when her infant daughter, Samantha, was kidnapped. Now, 15 years later, there is still no trace of Samantha. Divorced and isolated, Caroline is forced to relive the horrible event every year by reporters who won’t stop calling her. But this year, when the phone rings, Caroline hears another voice – the voice of a young girl claiming to be Samantha. Taken back into a world of heartbreak and suspicion, Caroline doesn’t know who or what to believe. But when she starts to piece things together, she finds the answers are dangerously close to home.

I’m still trying to put my thoughts together on this novel so I’m going to start off by saying the things that I liked about this novel (this is basically my way of saying I’m going to ramble):

This book is emotionally charged and it does a really good job of staying that way. It shows the ways in which this kidnapping affects not only Caroline but her older daughter, Michelle, too. And while Michelle’s character might be annoying, she is arguably accurately depicted. In fact, everyone is accurately depicted, and I love that the author took the time to make realistic characters. It made the story that much more believable and emotional.

The story flits back and forth in time, to show the events leading up to and after the kidnapping, as well as showing what is happening in the present moment with the mysterious caller. It was a nice effect and kept me intrigued with the actual mystery of the story.

However, and this is the one thing that has made me feel confused in terms of my feelings about this book, I didn’t like the actual mystery aspect. For 90% of the book, the author focuses on the emotions and the events themselves, not bothering to mention how such an act could have happened. And I was fine with that. The story was gripping enough as it is and the mystery of the identity of the caller was good enough for me! But in the last few chapters, the author decides to unveil the perpetrators of the crime. And while this was necessary, it is the one thing that I don’t think was done well. There was a lack of build-up, of investigation, and it gave the effect of just being plopped down there as an afterthought. A few more chapters that focused on the whodunit aspect would have been appreciated and would have allowed for a smoother transition. I especially did not like the cliched effect of having all of the suspects in one room and having each one be hinted at as the possible kidnapper, only to finally reveal the truth. It reminded me of something out of Hercule Poirot, and it just made the whole scene really cheesy.

Another thing that felt a bit weird to me was when the mysterious caller arrives and just integrates “so well” with the family. It was a bit cheesy and made the story fall a bit, especially when compared to the previous spot-on emotional aspects of the story.

While this novel was emotionally strong, with great characters and details, it rushed parts of the ending and gave the feeling of not being satisfactorily completed. For that reason, I would give this novel a 3.5/5.

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

My favorite stories are the ones that take terrible events or crimes and look at it from a different perspective. It makes one think and connect more to the various players both in the forefront and in the background of the incident. I like these kinds of novels because they make my realize my own prejudices and they force me to open my eyes to the bigger picture. That’s the main reason I was attracted to this novel.

George Woodbury is a much-loved teacher, husband, and father. So it comes as a shock when he is arrested for sexual impropriety at the very school he teaches at. His wife, Joan, is forced into a difficult situation, as the community she loves turns against her. Their daughter, Sadie, who was once a popular over-achiever is now reduced to a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, comes into town to help his father’s defense, but finds painful memories from his teen years are still holding him back. As the family tries to keep themselves together during this difficult time, the question at the back of all of their minds is: did he do it?

While this novel wasn’t perfect, I must say that I really enjoyed it. The story switches into different perspectives throughout the novel with the exception of George, which I found really intriguing. The novel did quite a good job in portraying the difficulties that the family of the accused faces before and after a terrible scandal. The author really showed how people can go from being friends to enemies in the blink of an eye, and how hard it can be for a family to support someone that they love, even while facing the possibility that their loved one is guilty of committing an atrocious crime. In the beginning, I was more interested in finding out whether George was guilty or not but as the story progressed, I found myself empathizing with the members of his family – especially Joan. I think that while Andrew and Sadie were hard to empathize with, Joan was depicted quite nicely as the pillar of support. Her character kept me intrigued and it was with her that I felt the most connected. I wish the author had spent more time developing Sadie and Andrew, since they mostly came off as selfish and sometimes a little stupid. The story does skip around in terms of the time frame but it was necessary; it kept the pace brisk and kept me interested. While the author may not have gotten every legal aspect correct, she did shed light on the struggles that the victims themselves face during a court trial. Being painted as a liar or as someone who has done something to deserve it…. these are terrible accusations especially when the victims are pressing charges regarding a sexual encounter but these accusations really do occur in the real world; the media and even some locals can go against the victims, causing justice to not be served. It was something that the author really honed in on and I’m glad she did because I never really considered this issue before. The ending made me really sad. It highlighted the tragedy that occurs in the justice system and showed how no one really wins. Overall, this novel has a high-impact plot that will make you see things from various different perspectives. I think that the plot and the important issues that are raised by the author are strong enough to overpower the negatives, so this is a novel that I would definitely recommend!

Happy reading ~

And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

Dawn Kurtagich has made a name for herself in teen horror. I’ve always been meaning to give one of her books a go but I’ve never really had a chance to do so – until now. This novel also has an alternate title, The Creeper Man, which is the UK title.

Silla and Nori arrive in desperation to their aunt’s house, trying to escape their past and the horrors that it carries. And while their aunt Cath seems slightly off-kilter, she is nice and caring. But it soon becomes clear that all is not well in this manor. There is an endless creaking at night, and the woods that surround the manor seem to hold a dark and terrible secret. The more Silla tries to ignore the strangeness around her, the more unavoidable it becomes. Why are the trees creeping closer to the house? Who is this beautiful boy who visits them from somewhere beyond the woods? And most important of all, who is the man Nori is playing with in the basement at night?

I really wanted to like this novel. But I didn’t. At least, not as much as I had hoped. Let me begin with the positives:

  1. I liked the descriptive aspects of the story because they definitely added a creepy factor that was enjoyable. When you are reading a horror story, you are looking for that perfect creepy setting, and the author definitely delivered on that count!
  2. I liked Nori’s character. She was full of innocence and she was adorable to read about. I only wish there had been more to her. The story was told mostly in the perspective of Silla but there were a few times when Nori would speak, and I wish there were more instances of that because whatever Nori said always intrigued me!
  3. The Creeper Man stuff!!!!! I liked when Cath would talk about the creeper man and how everything went wrong. I liked how Silla could feel his presence. This was decidedly the creepiest (and best!) part of this story!

Now, let me talk about the negatives:

  1. The inclusion of diary entries. I usually love when authors do this. But in the case of this novel, it didn’t serve its purpose – unless the purpose was to be really confusing! I didn’t see the point of those entries at all, and even when everything started to make sense, they didn’t really do that much to the overall story.
  2. Silla’s character. It was really hard to connect with her or to even understand her. I’m sure the author wanted her to be an enigma of sorts but it was a bit much, and she just made me feel so bewildered. Half the time I’m wondering why she can’t just do what makes the most common sense. The other half I’m trying (and failing) to understand her reasoning behind not doing that which makes the most sense. I just didn’t like her.
  3. The romance…. it was really fake and really came out of the blue and just was not developed. It was also really cringe-worthy.
  4. The actual plot. I thought this novel would go in a more dramatic direction but it ended up just leaving me feeling cheated of a really scary experience. While the author managed to tie everything together(ish), it all felt unnecessary. Honestly, there didn’t need to be so much of a buildup for that ending.

While this novel didn’t work for me, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad one. Many people liked the story and there are loads of positive reviews. For me, this novel didn’t deliver on the creepiness and left me wanting something more … horror-y.

Happy reading ~

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

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

10 years ago, Nicolette Farrell’s best friend Corinne disappeared from Cooley Ridge. And Nic hasn’t set foot in her rural hometown since. Now she’s back at the behest of her older brother, Daniel, to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father. So it comes as a shock when Nic is thrown into a series of events that reopens Corinne’s case. Everyone who was previously involved in Corinne’s investigation has since attempted to move on. But with the disappearance of Nic’s young neighbour, Annaleise, it seems as if old wounds will have to be reopened. Told backwards from Day 15 to Day 1, from the time of Annaleise’s disappearance, Nic tries to figure out what has happened to Annaleise. No one could have predicted the shocking truths that are about to emerge.

What intrigued me about this novel was this whole idea of it being written backwards. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the story starts at the end of the investigation and moves toward the beginning. After reading this novel, I can tell you that I am not a fan of this style. The author definitely did a good job in executing this style; everything flowed and made sense. However, I found it annoying to keep the timeline straight in my head and make all of the connections. I read my books on my tablet and having to flip back and forth can be really annoying; I hated doing that for my english courses in high school and university so you can bet I didn’t enjoy doing it now! I also found the story to be bland. I had to struggle to stay interested for about 50% of the story, and even when it got interesting, it wasn’t something that made my heart pound. Apart from my personal preference about the style of writing and my lack of excitement about the plot, I really didn’t like the characters in this story. Mostly because they have no personality. There is nothing special or endearing. There is nothing to make me hate them and there is nothing to make me like them. They just … exist. And they’re really boring, especially Nic. Sometimes there would be this constant monologue going on and I just could not care less about what she was saying. I just wanted something to happen, something other than her talking or thinking or driving around. Overall, this story didn’t cut it for me. I didn’t like the pacing, the style, or the characters; it didn’t do much in terms of a thrill either (my guess about the truth was pretty spot-on). I’m sure there are loads of people who will disagree with me but this is just my honest feelings on this novel.

Thought the same? Or did you have a different opinion? Send me a message through the comments, I’d love to know!

Happy reading ~

Orange: The Complete Collection Vol 1-5 by Tanako Ichigo

When I was 12 years old, manga was all the rage. I grew up in a neighbourhood where there were many East Asian children, so I was heavily influenced by their culture and what was popular with them. At first, reading manga was just a way to fit in but very quickly, I found myself enjoying the story and the artwork. It has been a long time since I’ve read a manga book, but my boyfriend (who loves reading manga) recommended this to me, and guaranteed that I would love it. So I found it online and read it in one sitting.

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter that is apparently from herself … but from 10 years in the future. At first, she dismisses it. There’s no such thing as time travel! But as the letter’s predictions come true, down to the minutest detail, Naho realizes that this letter could very well be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a transfer student will be joining her class, a boy named Kakeru. The letter begs Naho to watch him, stating that she is the only person that can save him from a terrible fate. Who is this mystery boy and how is Naho connected to him? Better yet, can she save him from his destiny?

This graphic novel may be YA fiction because of the setting and the characters, but the feelings it evokes are strong enough for any adult! If you aren’t familiar with Japanese culture, then parts of this novel may seem a little odd or cringe-y in the beginning. But trust me, it is worth sticking through. This story is one of friendship, loss, love, and resilience. The story deals with suicide, guilt, and the difficulty in moving on from a traumatic event. I am not ashamed to admit that I was sobbing like a baby throughout the novel. Naho is a timid character, and sometimes her timidity can be exasperating. But she changes throughout the novel, realizing that she needs to become more bold and assertive in order to be there for the people she loves. Every character in this story has depth and they are just so …. loveable and amazing! I’m still not in the right frame of mind to coherently write down my thoughts, but the main point I’m saying here is that this manga has a depth to it that I have rarely seen in others in this genre, or even in regular fiction. It has its funny moments, and its cheesy moments, and it’s cute to see teen love bloom. But it shows how strong the bonds of friendship can be, and how difficult it can be to be a teenager. Maybe the story hit me as hard as it did because my teenage years were also difficult (not as difficult as in this story, though) but it is still well-written, well developed, and aesthetically beautiful. If you have never tried manga, then start with this one because it is absolutely fantastic!

Happy reading ~

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Ever since I read Room, I have been a fan of this author’s work. I have been anxiously waiting  for this novel to be released and I was lucky enough to find a copy as I was passing by my local library! I sat down and read this novel in one sitting, and if that isn’t testament to how amazing this story is then I don’t know what is!

An English nurse is called into a small Irish village on an unusual mission: she is to observe a miracle. 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell has been fasting for the lat 4 months and has been subsisting on simply water and “manna from heaven”, as she insists. In order to verify these claims, Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is sent to live in Anna’s village. The longer Lib stays there, the more she suspects that Anna’s fast may not simply be expression of faith but rather an attempt at slow murder.

This book was a compelling read that caught me from the beginning and held me all the way until the end. I don’t know much about Ireland, and I’m not familiar with its religious fervor, so that was a very interesting view to read about. I liked that Lib, who is the protagonist in this story, allows the reader to approach the religious fervor of the people with a healthy dose of cynicism. The journey begins slowly, as we get to know more about Lib and Anna, and all of the other characters. While most of the side characters don’t change throughout the story, it works well and provides the structure to keep the story in check. I love the relationship between Lib and Anna, and how it evolves as the story progresses. The first half of the book allows the reader to become well acquainted with the time period and the Irish culture, while also building up to the pivotal question of why Anna is fasting. The second half is also not as action-packed but the tension is overwhelming and undeniable; I was biting my nails and I could hear my heart beating faster with every page I read. I needed to know what Lib was going to do about Anna and I just had to know what the motive was behind the fast. I absolutely loved the ending; it was better than anything I could have hoped for and nicely wrapped up the story. This is a fantastic historical thriller, that is sure to delight everyone!

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 ~