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 ~



Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

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

From the moment I read the description of this novel, I knew it was my kind of book. It sounded intense and thrilling and absolutely realistic. I’m really glad that I got approved for this book and now … here is my review:

Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, love going to the zoo near closing time to just relax and play. It’s the perfect way to end the day. But then Joan sees something as she and her son are moving toward the exit gate, something that makes her sprint back into the zoo with her son in her arms. And for the next 3 hours, she keeps running. Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and the zoo itself comes in handy in her time of need … but will it be enough to keep her safe from danger?

Just as I had expected, this novel was gripping from the start. Joan and her son are very believable characters and the situation they find themselves in is also, unfortunately, something I can realistically imagine happening. I had my heart in my throat the entire time I was reading because I could feel how dangerous the situation was and how desperate Joan was to keep her son safe. The danger is present for the entire span of the novel, which means that Joan was running for safety for that entire time…. and yet, there really wasn’t a boring moment in the story. It was one of the more enjoyable features of this story. The novel is also told from the perspectives of other people in the zoo: fellow victims and even a perpetrator. I found that interesting but I wished the author had done it more often instead of just randomly including snippets from other perspectives; it would have helped me visualize and connect to the other characters in the same way that I did with Joan. I will admit that there were certain discrepancies in the plot that bothered me. Some I was willing to ignore because I understood that it was necessary for plot development, but there were others that seemed a tad bit ridiculous. The explanations for certain behaviors exhibited in the story also weren’t the best at times. These were really the only flaws for me, and overall, I was quite satisfied with my experience with the novel. The author promised a book that would make your heart pound and she definitely delivered on that account! I would give this novel a 3.5/5 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique thriller.

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 ~

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 ~

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

On my quest to find really good horror stories, I have been disappointed many times. The beginning may start off well but most often, something lets me down. All I’m going to say about this novel is: it didn’t let me down.

There is something out there. If you look at it, you will be driven to deadly violence. No one knows that it is or where it came from. Every country, every part of the world has faced this. Now, 5 years since it began, there are only a handful of scattered survivors, including Malorie and her 2 young children. They live alone in an abandoned house near the river. Malorie has done whatever she can to keep her children safe: she has trained them to rely on their sense of hearing over their eyes, and has repeatedly blindfolded them so that they have never glimpsed the outside world. All Malorie longs for is to be able to escape from this house and go somewhere safe. Now that the children are grown up, she finally thinks they can make the treacherous journey 20 miles downriver in a rowboat. They will have to do this blindfolded; there is still no clue as to whether the terrible creatures are out there or not. They have nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. But were they ever truly safe in the first place?

The scariest part of this novel is the fact that you never find out what exactly it is that people see that causes them to become suicidal. The author leaves the “creature” to the reader’s imagination, so we can each create our own perfectly scary horror monster. The story goes between different periods of time, and I really felt that the author did a great job with that. There is a part in the story when it becomes unclear what is the present and what is the past, and it was such a cool effect that it made me like this novel even more (that’s all the details you get!). The concept for this novel was really good and it was executed well, so I was very pleased with this story. A word of warning: this is a very open-ended story; the author doesn’t give too much and a lot of the descriptions are things your imagination has to put in. While I enjoyed that aspect, I know there may be readers who would prefer more details. Overall, a great horror story that really did justice to the genre!

Happy reading ~

Stranger by David Bergen

I’ve never read anything by David Bergen but apparently, he’s a big deal. He’s won the Giller Prize, as well as numerous awards for his novels, all of which have been heavily praised. After reading this novel, I can definitely see why he is so acclaimed!

Íso is a young Guatemalan woman who works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel. Many rich northern women visit the clinic in the hopes that the waters of the nearby lake will make them more fertile. It is Íso’s task to take care of them and help them through this process, regardless of the outcome. When she meets the resident American doctor, Eric Mann, she cannot help but fall for his charm. Soon Íso is his secret lover, and she enjoys the stolen moments they spend together. However, their tryst cannot last. Dr. Mann has to return to the US. When a freak accident befalls Dr. Mann, the couple’s time is cut even shorter. Before Íso can tell Dr. Mann that she is pregnant, he is gone. After she gives birth, Íso’s baby is taken away from her. All she knows is that her child has been taken to America. Determined to get her child back,  Íso makes the journey to illegally cross into the United States, which has been divided into military zones. Now, Íso must descend into a dangerous world, with the possibility that she will lose her daughter forever.

This was such a mesmerizing story, told with such simple and delicate language. I think that is what really captured my attention and kept me interested in this story. We read this story through Íso, and we watch how she simply, yet aptly, portrays the world around her. She makes no excuses, she doesn’t blame the world for her problems. She simply is. And as such, she enjoys what time she has, and assumes responsibility for the risks that come along with it. When she makes the decision to go for her daughter, it is with that same simple strength that she has kept with her throughout the story. That is what entranced me and left me in awe. How did this author manage to create such a simple character, and yet bring all of this complexity to the forefront? Somehow, he did, and the story is better for it. The summary that is provided here, as well as any summary you find of this novel, will tell you everything about the plot of the story; there are no surprises here. It is more about the journey that Íso (and you, as the reader) will go through in this quest. I was surprised that the author decided to make America a military environment, and I really don’t think it added much to the story, but that is really my only criticism here. This novel introduces many complex issues, things like infidelity and the bond between a mother and her child, as well as the desperation that comes with infertility. Everything was given its due importance and it was all seen through a unique perspective. The situation that Íso finds herself in is not a unique one; it happens to women from poor countries all the time. Reading about this situation from the perspective of someone like Íso was fascinating; I always knew that losing a child in this way is terrible but actually reading about it with this depth of emotion brought a whole new meaning to it all. As you can probably tell from this review, I loved this book. It was insightful, powerful, and mesmerizing. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story that revolves around an emotionally-charged journey that will change how you think and feel.

Happy reading ~

Secrets of Greenoak Woods by Brenda Davies

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

I don’t read many romance novels. It’s a genre that I have actively distanced myself from because …. well, I’ve had a lot of preconceived notions about it. I never really believed that romance novels tell a story on their own; it’s all about “passion” and situations that have no realism to them. But as part of my New Years resolution, I am trying to broaden my horizons and so, I chose to read this historical romance (yes, I know I’m cheating with the historical aspect but still… baby steps!) I’m very glad I requested this novel because it has definitely opened my mind up to the genre and I had a great time reading it!

Cornwall 1816

Benjamin is a young farm labourer, shunned by the villagers of St. Merryn for his horrible disfigurement and the childhood trauma that torments him. As he lives his solitary life, he watches over and soon falls in love with Mary, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. However, Mary is in love with Samuel – a man who Benjamin despises with all his heart.

When Mary’s mother passed away, she made a promise that she would always protect her younger sister, Elizabeth. But this  promise leads Mary to commit an unspeakable act, one that would deliver both sisters to the gallows if discovered. Benjamin is the only witness, and he offers Mary the protection she needs … for a price. How far will Mary go to keep her secret safe?

From the very beginning, I was hooked. The crime that Mary committed is revealed within the first 100 pages or so, and it was what reeled me in. The author did a masterful job of exploring the hidden turmoil of the characters, especially Mary, and the rich details just added to the beauty of the prose and story. I could feel the struggle that Mary was going through and the difficulty in making the choices she did. This story had great pacing and I didn’t feel bored for an instant. While I had already guessed all of the twists and turns, it didn’t take away from the story. This novel isn’t just a romance; it is a deep story that explores the bonds of sisterhood, the embracing of one’s identity, and the betrayals that can occur from those you love the most. The historical setting was fantastic, and allowed for the emotions to really be brought to the forefront. All in all, a compelling story about love, loss, and strength. I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Happy reading ~

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

This novel was one that I had attempted to read previously but had been unable to finish because I was just too depressed to focus on anything. Now that I am working on getting through my depression, it felt only right to return to this novel and give it the fair shot it deserves. So here is my review:

Abby Bernacki is adjusting to motherhood as smoothly as is possible. But soon, she begins to experience odd sensations around the house and in the presence of her baby daughter. When she starts to dig a bit further into the history of her home to try to answer some of her questions, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years ago and was institutionalized at Northampton Lunatic Hospital. The diary itself seems simple enough but soon reveals a more disturbing story at play. And the more Abby learns about Frances Barnett, the more she wonders about the potential presence of a negative supernatural influence in her home. Who was Frances Barnett and what drove her to madness? And more importantly, is Abby the next person who will lose her mind? 

I will admit that when I began this novel for the second time, I had high hopes for it. The buildup was slow yet enticing and I was eager to see how the story would unfold. Unfortunately, this novel let me down big time. The more I read, the more I felt like Abby was simply delusional. Most of the time, nothing was even happening to her and she created the “eerie” situation through her own actions. Just as the novel begins to pick up the pace, it starts to go in a weird direction that just seems rushed and abruptly ends. While everything makes sense, it wasn’t written out very well and just left me feeling startled. The ending had absolutely nothing to do with the premise and it seemed quite pointless by the end of it. All in all, not a good attempt and I will definitely not be recommending this book to anyone!

Happy reading ~

Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonder by Julianna Baggott

So I know it may seem like I haven’t been reading but I promise you that I have! I’ve just not had the time to sit down and write about it in this blog. And I feel terrible about it, I really do. But it has been such a mission to just finish reading all of these amazing novels that I have really just been too exhausted to write! Anyways, I’m catching up now and will write as many as I possibly can today!

Harriet Wolf is a reclusive authoress who has made her mark in literature through her Wonder series while also playing the role of family matriarch. However, it is only after she dies that her family comes together to solve one of the biggest mysteries of all time – Harriet, herself. Will it be revealed in her rumored final book, one that no one has seen or heard of? Or is the truth lost forever? The story progresses in the voice of the four Wolf women: Harriet herself; her fiery and overprotective daughter Eleanor; and Eleanor’s two children – Ruth, the impulsive soul-seeker, and Tilton, the naive yet loveable glue that holds everyone together. Through each of their perspectives, the women circle closer and closer to the truth behind Harriet – and the legacy that they carry.

This novel was amazing. Rich and evocative, it brought out so much emotion; I was literally trying to hold back tears while reading on the subway (I’m sure I scared a lot of people who were commuting along with me). This book had me laughing, crying, and gasping in suspense with every turn of the page. I loved every single female character in this novel – each was unique yet the same and it made for such a beautiful connection. This was a story about family and all of the craziness, pain, and happiness that comes from motherhood, sisterhood, and daughterhood (yes, I just made up a word. BUT IT FITS). This novel both broke my heart and pieced it together all at the same time. This is DEFINITELY on my TO BUY list and I recommend it to anyone looking for a lovely realistic fiction novel on family that highlights strong female characters. I really hope this author produces more books because she is fantastic. I also really hope that loads of people read this novel because you would honestly be MISSING OUT if you didn’t!

Happy reading ~