The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I love dystopian novels and anything that is really full of creepy crawlies. This novel seemed like the perfect fit for me so I was super excited to read it! Here is my review:

In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line, which is a ring of scorched earth to protect citizens from ticks that carry disease. Those that live within the zone are safe but are controlled by this common fear. Few have any real reason to leave the safe zone … except for the adrenaline junkies who are willing to pay a hefty price in order to enjoy what is left of nature. Among the latest expedition are a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; tech giant, Wes; and Marta, a simple housewife. Once they leave the safe zone, the group are at the mercy of deadly ticks – and in the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors. As alliances and friendships shift, the hostages must decide how far they are willing to go to get back to safety.

I really wanted to like this novel but I found I couldn’t get into it at all, and I had to add it to my DNF pile. While the story seemed interesting in its premise, I just couldn’t get interested enough to pursue this novel. The pacing was quite slow and that made it a bit harder for me to read because I really wanted to get to the good bits as fast as possible. I also didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters; they just didn’t have enough for me to feel that emotional tug. I don’t really want to write too much on this review since I haven’t fully read the novel and others who have finished it would have a better idea on it, but for me, this novel gets a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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The Visitors by Catherine Burns

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

If you follow my blog, then you know I love dark, messed up stories. It’s not just about it being a murder mystery or a psychological thriller; I am in love with stories that freak you out and make you cringe in horror because they are just that insane and diabolical. That was what I hoped to get from this book. And I did. Here is my review:

Marion Zetland is a timid spinster in her fifties who lives with her domineering older brother, John, in an old and decaying townhouse. Her only friends are her teddy bears and the imaginary relationships she makes up at night. These are the only things that help her shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar. As long as she never has to go down to the cellar, Marion can live with the slight twinge of unease that comes from knowing about John’s secret. But when John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down there, she has no choice but to face the gruesome truth. And as questions are asked and secrets begin to reveal themselves, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side …

This novel was advertised as a cross between Room and Grey Gardens. While I’ve never read Grey Gardens, I can definitely say that this is not at all like Room and making that comparison is a misnomer. In fact, it led me astray in terms of my expectations. However, that does not in any way mean that I didn’t like this novel. In fact, I loved it! This was a slow burning, tension-building story that seriously creeped me out by the end. If anything, I would describe this novel as more of a character study of Marion and John, told from Marion’s perspective. She talks about her life and how people view her as timid and plain. She talks about how much she depends on her brother, John, and how she never feels like she is good enough. She wishes for a great deal and in the beginning, she seems to have a simplistic mindset … but it becomes clear near the middle/end that she is much smarter than one might have thought. While there is never any doubt in the reader’s mind that John is the main villain, this story makes the reader question the responsibility and culpability of a “bystander” like Marion. The premise of the story reveals most of what this book about, but for once, that doesn’t bother me because the plot isn’t the real interesting aspect about this book; it is watching how Marion evolves and changes that is of real interest to the reader. To be quite honest, I think this is a really fantastic and dark read that looks at a horrendous situation in a very different light. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a slow but creepy book, and who is not wary of gruesome content.

Happy reading ~

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler

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

I love books where the main detective is female. Most of the books I read have male detectives, and while I have nothing against that, it is refreshing to have a change every now and then. I was super amped to get this ARC, especially from such a well known author so here I go with my review:

Officer Miranda Rader of the Hammond PD has worked hard to get to where she is now and she has done a lot to move away from her past. Miranda comes from Jasper, a town just south of Hammond, but she was notorious for her antics. Now that Miranda has earned respect in her position as an officer, she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the girl she used to be. However, when Miranda is called to investigate the murder of a beloved college professor, she finds a chilling piece of evidence: a faded newspaper article about a terrible night from her long-buried past. When another man turns up dead, one who is also linked to her past, Miranda finds herself a suspect in her own investigation. The most damning evidence against her is when her fingerprints turn up at the scene of the first murder. Now Miranda must try to win back the trust of her colleagues, all while trying to figure out who could be behind these brutal killings – before it’s too late.

When I was reading this novel, I kept getting the feeling that I was missing out on something. It felt like there might have been a prequel to this story, as the author kept hinting at close connections between the different characters in a way that made me feel as if there was more than what was being said in this book. However, it turns out that this is actually a standalone novel. This threw me off a tad bit because I kept feeling as if some of the relationships between Miranda and other characters was not explained as well as it could have been. The story itself was quite obvious; I had figured out the plot and the suspect very early on in the game. In spite of that, I kept reading because the author writes in a very engaging way and I found it appealing. Was this my favorite thriller in the world? No. But it was definitely not a terrible one. It had a good pace, a very good main character, and a few twists and turns to keep readers happy. There is a high chance that I will check out more books by this author in the future!

Happy reading ~

 

Penhale Wood by Julia Thomas

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

I’ve been in the mood for a really good detective mystery this holiday, and this one seemed right up my alley. I don’t want to babble for too long so let’s jump into my review:

On a cold December night in Cornwall, nanny Karen Peterson disappears with 3-year-old Sophie Flynn… and the body of the child is discovered in Penhale Wood the next day. However, there are no traces of the nanny; it’s like she disappeared. One year later, Sophie’s mother, Iris, appears on the doorstep of officer Rob McIntyre, desperate for him to reopen the case. Ambushed by the mother and battling his own demons, Rob reluctantly agrees. Following the slimmest of leads, they soon find themselves facing a chameleon-like killer who will do anything to stay hidden.

This may not be the most well thought out mystery novel…. but this was one of my favorite mysteries to read! There is something about this author’s style of writing that is just absolutely addictive and I really could not stop myself from finishing the story, even as I questioned discrepancies and problems with the plot. The first problem was with Inspector Rob McIntyre. His character was very bland and just made up of mismatched cliches; it made for a very disjointed and unlikeable character. The other characters were a lot more interesting, and the author really kept the interest of the reader by switching up perspectives throughout the story. The plot, however, really lacked credibility on all fronts. For one thing, why did the mother wait one year before pursuing this with such eagerness? It made no sense. From the beginning, the author told us who the suspect was… so then why did the police have absolutely nothing in terms of leads? The way Iris and McIntyre went about looking for clues really didn’t add up and the final solving of the mystery was just very lackluster. However, despite all of these drawbacks, I couldn’t pull myself away from this story. That’s why I’m willing to read more by this author and why I am giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Bring Her Home by David Bell

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

I absolutely loved the cover art for this novel; it is what drew me to it in the first place. I was also excited to read a thriller from a male perspective, as that has been quite rare in this genre! I’ve never read anything by this author but considering that his previous 2 novels were bestsellers, I definitely had high expectations!

It’s been little more than a year after the tragic death of Bill’s wife. Things have been rough for him and his 15-year-old daughter, Summer. Bill has tried to give his daughter space but she grows more and more rebellious each day. One night, Summer and her best friend, Haley disappear. Then, days later, the girls are discovered in a city park. Haley is found dead at the scene, while Summer is left beaten beyond recognition, barely alive. As Bill stays by Summer’s side, the only sound he hears from the girl is one word: No. And the more time Bill spends with Summer, the more he wonders what happened to her. When troubling information about Summer’s life surfaces, Bill is not ready to handle the aftershocks. He’s about to discover that both the living and the dead have secrets…. one that can haunt you forever.

This is one of those scenarios where the cover deceived me. This was definitely not the highly enjoyable read I was anticipating.

The premise was interesting enough: father finds badly beaten daughter and wants to find out what happened to her. Perfectly reasonable, perfectly intriguing. But then, the story actually begins and I stopped caring almost immediately. And the major reason is Bill. He is an absolutely terrible character. I don’t even know where to start by describing him. His thought process makes no sense, as he flits from one thing to another in his pursuit for the “truth”… and he was absolutely terrible at it. He stays dogged about one thing and really never shifts from that perspective until the very end. I don’t like his impulsive and violent nature; it seemed almost comical because of how ridiculously it was portrayed. He was also constantly repeating everything that everyone says, to the point where I got super annoyed. The “clues” just happened to fall in his lap; everyone was just SO eager to confess and tell him their dirty little secrets. It was all just such a mess. I really thought that this novel would hit it home for me but in the end, it just didn’t work for me in any way whatsoever. Only 1.5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

 

 

The Cuckoo Tree by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicles #6

This book was actually the first one I read from this series, back when I was about 9 years old. I absolutely loved it and I loved its sequel, Dido and Pa. This books is what sparked my interest in the whole series and I’m so happy to get the chance to read it now in the correct order! I wanted to know if, after reading about all of Dido’s other adventures, whether my opinion on this novel would be different or not … so here is my review:

Just as Dido Twite makes her way back on English soil, she lands in trouble. When her carriage overturns and her friend Captain Hughes is injured in it, Dido is forced to stay at Dogkennel Cottages to tend to Captain Hughes. There, she meets the odd inhabitants of Tegleaze Manor: fussy old Lady Tegleaze, her nephew Tobit, and his witchy nurse, Tante Sannie. However, there are suspicious things afoot: a priceless miniature is stolen, Tobit is framed, and a twin sister is discovered. And soon Dido discovers that she is in the midst of another Hanoverian plot! Can she get to London in time to save the king?

Once again, we are in for a wacky adventure. Every time Dido had a remark or thought about something, I couldn’t help but laugh – she is just that funny and sarcastic of a character. There’s quite a bit of witchy magic going on in this novel, which was super fun to read about. This novel was a bit darker than Dido’s time on Nantucket, but I really liked that because it gave it a bit more depth. Of course, depth doesn’t mean that this novel was more serious; if anything, the story was even wackier than any before it! We have the presence of an elephant again, which was something that I just didn’t understand, and didn’t like as much, but overall, this story was just as fun to read as every other one in the series. After rereading this book, I think it is still one of my favorite novels in this series! Now, time for the next one!

Happy reading ~

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 ~

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 ~

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.

Nightbirds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicle #3

So far, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping up with this series! I have to admit that I may have bitten off more than I can chew when it comes to the number of books I’ve borrowed as well as the number of ARCs I’ve received, especially considering my current workload in my Masters. But I’m determined to do it all – even if it means many sleepless nights! Anyways, I like reading the books in this series because they are fairly short and full of so much adventure that the story just whizzes by!

Dido Twite wakes up to find herself on board a ship. While she’s grateful for having been saved, all she really wants is to go home to England. However, Captain Casket decides to land in Nantucket, and leaves Dido and his daughter, Dutiful Penitence, behind in the care of Dutiful’s sinister Aunt Tribulation. Life is unbearable at Aunt Tribulation’s farmhouse with all of the chores that the girls are made to do. When mysterious men begin to lurk about, Dido takes it upon herself to rally against their shenanigans with the help of Dutiful, a cabin boy named Nate, and a pink whale. 

I’m happy I got to read more about Dido, as she is my favorite heroine of all times! I love her plucky attitude, and her “brattiness” that was seen in the previous novel is all but gone! I will admit that I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I had hoped; it felt a bit too disjointed for me. While I’m used to reading about ridiculous and funny characters in this series, Captain Casket was a bit too ridiculous, and I found his obsession with the pink whale to be perplexing. If I’m honest, I didn’t really get the point of the pink whale for most of the story, and when the author DID tie it all in, I still felt as if it was a bit lackluster. I know this may sound hypocritical coming from me, especially since what I love about Joan Aiken and this series is the complete weirdness of it all, but in the case of this novel, it just didn’t work for me. However, the overall story was funny and interesting with more Hanoverian plots thrown in! I am going to continue to read the next book in the series and see what else Dido is going to do!

Happy reading ~