The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

And here we are with another thriller with “Girl” in the title. But I decided to ignore that when it came to this book, in an attempt to not be biased in my opinion. This book has been getting a lot of attention and I’ve been recommended it multiple times. So I finally decided to give it a go! Here is my review:

Emma
After a traumatic break-in, Emma is desperate to move into a newer, safer place. But nothing seems perfect – until she comes across One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece with its minimalist design…. but it also comes with many rules. The architect who built this house retains full control of it and only his word goes. The space is meant to transform its occupant completely – and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start – and she finds it at One Folgate Street. But it isn’t just the house she’s fallen for; the seductive creator keeps coming into her mind. Once she moves in, Jane soon learns of the untimely demise of the previous tenant, a woman who resembles Jane. As Jane tries to make sense of the truth, she unwittingly begins to make the same choices and experiences the same terror as the girl before.

I’m surprised by how much I liked this novel. The story was addictive and while I didn’t like everything about it, I can’t deny that it had the thrill and the twists that I was hoping for. The two perspectives were quite interesting and the author did a really great job of making them match up and integrate. Emma’s character gave me a lot of warning signs, and it became more and more clear that she was not what I expected as I kept reading – but that’s what I loved about the book. I love that the main characters didn’t conform to my initial assessment, and I liked to see how they acted in similar situations. This book is all about depraved characters, each who have their own mental issues. They’re very twisted and I like that the author kept them true to that trait throughout the book. I wasn’t very comfortable with some of the ways that the author handled sexual consent and rape … but it worked in the context of this story because the story itself is all about individuals who don’t really conform or believe in those norms. A lot of people are saying that this novel is a bit of a combination between 50 shades of grey and Girl on the train …. I kind of agree with the first part of that. There is a lot of sexual stuff going on in this novel and even though I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, I can see where people can draw the parallels. However, this aspect didn’t make me as uncomfortable as I expected, as I still quite enjoyed the story. Overall, this was a very interesting thriller that had me hooked from the start!

Happy reading ~

Bright Air Black by David Vann

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Medea or Jason and the Argonauts. In fact, I did a quick Wikipedia search into the origins of these characters before delving into this book so that I could properly understand the content. Here is my review:

The story brings us aboard the ship Argo as it makes its epic journey back home across the Black Sea from Colchis – Medea’s homeland where she has fled her father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. As Medea sails along with the man she loves, she must decide whether she is a sorceress or a monster. As the journey continues and reality hits Medea, we witness Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

It definitely helped that I had a little background on the story before beginning this book because this novel starts at the point when Medea is on Jason’s ship, running away from her father. The story doesn’t really delve too much into the events that preceded this but you eventually do find out as you continue reading. Apart from that, the story is quite indepth in terms of storyline, giving a great amount of detail into the way the journey progresses. Having never read anything about Medea or Jason, I found the story fascinating. There was never a dull moment and with each page comes more violence, brutality, and treachery. If you have never heard of Medea, then you need to read this book and get to know her story!

Medea’s character….. was incredible. She is strong, ruthless, intelligent, and determined in a way that no other female protagonist I have each very read about has been. When she spoke, she voiced the thoughts of countless women over countless generations. She is the epitome of the struggles of a woman who does not fit into the mold created by men. In short, I loved her. She was violent and lacked mercy and yet shred he managed to exude femininity while acting completely unfeminine (according to our views on what a feminine person  is typically like). I cannot stress enough how well the author portrayed her and how mesmerized I was by her strength. She is definitely one badass female protagonist, even if I don’t support all of her violent actions.

At first, the writing style seemed unusual to me. It’s poetic but not in the typical way. It made me take note of every word being used, every transition being made. This was a beautifully written story and it demanded that you pay attention attention appreciate that beauty.

Happy reading ~

The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel

Awhile back, I read a book called Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel. It felt like I was watching one of my historical Asian dramas, and I was happy to discover that the story was based off of a real historical figure. Not only is it based off of a historical figure, the main character was the first female Empress of China! I really enjoyed the first novel so I knew I had to read the sequel and find out what happened to her.

When the Emperor passes away, Mei’s lover, Pheasant is crowned as the the new Emperor. But a power struggle begins between Pheasant and his uncle, who insists on becoming Regent. Mei also suffers from this backlash, as Pheasant’s wife, Empress Wang, goes to extreme lengths to destroy Mei’s life. As the political game becomes more dangerous, Mei realizes that she must defeat the bloodthirsty Empress and the sly Regent to save herself and also to protect her country.

I’m going to begin my review by saying that this is not a book you can read as a standalone; you absolutely have to read The Moon in the Palace before reading this one or you won’t understand what is going on. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, I really liked this book. Just like its predecessor, the novel reads like an asian drama, full of intrigue and political mind games. The author really made history come alive through this story! I really enjoy reading about constant manipulation and power struggles, which is why this book was so wonderful for me but if you don’t like either one of those things, then this novel probably isn’t for you. While this story may not be 100% historically accurate, the author really gave some depth to Mei’s character and made her actions believable and understandable. Overall, a really interesting novel on a prominent historical figure in China!

Happy reading ~

 

The Student by Iain Fowler

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

I’ve never read a novel that falls into the noir genre. So I was really excited to give it a chance through this book. Here is my review:

It’s 1994 in Gatton, Queensland. Nate is a student who is trying to make ends meet by selling weed on the side. He hears that a girl he knew, Maya Kibby, is dead but nobody knows the identity of her killer. But Nate has bigger problems: he needs to refresh his supply, but Jesse, his friend and dealer, has gone missing. High on drugs and alone, Nate finds himself in a whole heap of trouble when major drug players hunt him down for money and drugs. And as things turn from bad to worse, Nate uncovers far more than he bargained for.

Unfortunately, this novel wasn’t for me. Maybe it was the ARC I received, but the story didn’t seem to flow very well. There were parts where the timeline of the novel changed and the transition was not marked clearly, so I had to go back and reread it to make sense of what was happening. While it was interesting to get an indepth look into the drug world, it was just so miserable-sounding that I didn’t really want to continue reading. I had no connection or feelings for any of the characters, and that was perhaps my biggest disappointment because it influenced my ability to care about the story itself. Maybe it’s just me, because there are quite a few positive reviews on Goodreads but this novel just didn’t do it for me. I would recommend this to anyone who likes books that can be classified as noir.

Happy reading ~

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo – Harry Hole #11

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

This is the first book I have read in the Harry Hole series. This made me a bit worried since I felt that I would be missing out on a lot of details but a lot of people assured me that I would still enjoy the story as a standalone. With these reassurances, I began my journey into the world of Harry Hole … and here is my review:

In the latest novel featuring Inspector Harry Hole, Harry is hunting down a serial killer who uses Tinder to find his victims. Each victim is a self-declared Tinder addict. On examination of the body, there is only one clue: fragments of rust and paint in her wounds. Harry does not want to get involved with this case; he promised himself that he would never go back into the field. But there’s something about these murders that grabs his attention. Despite his promises, and in spite of all the risks, Harry throws himself back into the chase, in search of the monster who got away.

As someone who is completely unfamiliar with this series, I felt I was at a disadvantage. There were all of these subplots and character interactions that I didn’t feel like I grasped 100%, so my experience fell a bit short. That being said, this is still a very well-written and engaging thriller. I was swept up in the chase from the beginning and could not put this book down. I really liked Harry’s character; he is so flawed yet so perfect in his role as a detective. The mystery itself was really well executed and I enjoyed watching it all come together. All of the characters were well developed and I enjoyed finding out how everyone was connected, even if my understanding was superficial compared to that of a fan of the series. This novel has definitely shown me what I am missing, and you can bet that I will be getting myself into this series as soon as I possibly can!

Happy reading ~

 

Visions by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #2

It’s been a while since I read Omens by this author but I really enjoyed that foray into urban fantasy. I hadn’t planned on waiting so long to read the sequel but … life … happens. Anyways, I finally got around to it so here is my review:

In Omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones discovers that she is the daughter of notorious serial killers. She finds an ally in Gabriel Walsh, a selfish, morally ambiguous lawyer. Together, they were able to find a devious killer and partially cleared Olivia’s parents from their crimes. Their success, however, doesn’t last long. While Olivia continues to take refuge in Cainsville, Gabriel’s past comes back to haunt both of them.

When Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed just like her, she is shocked. What makes it worse is that the body disappears before anyone else sees it. Olivia is convinced it’s another omen. But when she learns that a real young woman went missing just a few days ago, it makes Olivia question whether the body she saw was just a simple omen – or a message. Who would have left this kind of warning and why? As Olivia tries to uncover the truth, she finds herself in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces that have their own agenda and secrets.

It took me a while to get into this novel because I couldn’t really remember what had happened. But after just a chapter or two, everything started to fall into place. It helped that the author provided recaps of important events from the first book to help set the tone for this novel. Again, we are thrown into a murder mystery that has some supernatural elements to it. I liked that the novel actually managed to answer some of the underlying questions that I had had from before. She also added a whole host of new elements that led to more questions. I will say that there is a whole new level of romance seen in this book that I was not expecting so …. readers be prepared! The dynamic between Olivia and Gabriel gets better in this novel and you really start to admire their witty friendship. One of the things that made me really happy about this novel is that the supernatural elements of the story were a lot more visible, even though it still maintained its main murder mystery plot; what drew me to the series in the first place was a promise of fantasy, and the author definitely delivered on that account. Overall, this is a novel filled with intrigue, supernatural forces, and an interesting murder mystery. If you liked Omens, you will definitely enjoy Visions!

Happy reading ~

The Roses of May by Dot Hutchison – The Collectors #2

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

You might recall that I read The Butterfly Garden a while back. That novel had its fair share of criticism and praise, with some readers finding it too unbelievable and others finding it right up their alley. In the case of my opinion, I fell into the latter category. I was super excited to hear that there would be a sequel to it and I requested it as soon as I could through NetGalley! Here is my review:

It’s been 4 months since the Garden was discovered, a place where young women were abducted and kept as Butterflies. FBI agents Eddison, Hanoverian, and Ramirez are still dealing with the aftermath, trying to help the survivors adjust to life on the outside. But while the butterflies go through their recovery process, the agents have their hands full with a new case: a serial killer who leaves the dead bodies of young women in churches, throats slit and bodies surrounded by flowers. Priya Sravasti’s sister was one of the victims, and it has broken the family. Now, Priya and her mother move every few months, hoping for a brighter day. But soon Priya finds herself in the killer’s crosshairs. Priya may be the only person who can help find the killer – but at what price?

At first, I was very confused with this novel. I was under the impression that this book would be a sequel to the first book, and I wrongly assumed that the serial killer mentioned in this novel was somehow connected to the Butterfly Garden. However, that was not true; these 2 novels, while sharing the same themes, are not really connected in terms of plot. Once I realized this, the novel began to make more sense. The author still made mention of the Butterflies, but it was more in passing than anything significant.

I quite enjoyed the story here, with its similar yet unique plot. Once again, we read about a madman who hunts women, but the reasons behind his behaviour are different from the madman in the first book in the series. The novel has excerpts from his perspective, but is mostly told through the voice of Priya and FBI agent Eddison, both likable characters. I had a vested interest in Priya and could understand why Eddison and the other FBI agents wanted to protect her so much.

The plot itself wasn’t as dramatic or as dark as The Butterfly Garden. In fact, this book resembled more of the usual thrillers that you see. It was still very well written and highly engaging, which is why I couldn’t stop flipping the pages. However, it lacked some of that dark maturity that I associated with the first book, and I missed that. There were also some recurring themes that were a bit overdone; literally every page was filled with something related to the theme and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at times. The other flaw in this novel is the completely unrealistic relationship between Priya and her mother. It just … didn’t make sense. I understand that the author wanted Priya’s mother to be more like a friend; my own mother and I are very close, and we bicker and fight like best friends/sisters. However, a mother is still a mother and there are certain behaviours and actions that a mother would never approve of or do. While the relationship between Priya and the FBI agents was also quite unbelievable, I didn’t mind it as much because it worked.

Overall, this novel was a compelling read that was fast-paced and thrilling. However, it wasn’t as dark or mature as its predecessor and had certain characteristics that were a tad bit far-fetched. I would give this a 4/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone looking for a dark thriller on serial killers!

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 ~

Shadows of the Dead by Jim Eldridge – DCI Stark #2

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

London, 1921. Lord Johnny Fairfax has just been discovered dead in his study, along with another victim: an American man who was visiting Fairfax unexpectedly. For DCI Paul Stark, this case is more personal than just a heinous crime: he’s currently in a relationship with the former Lady Fairfax, Lady Amelia. And she is one of the top suspects. However, Lord Fairfax had his fair share of enemies, which means the suspect pool is large. And nobody knows who the American is and what his connection is to Lord Fairfax. As Stark digs deeper, he uncovers evidence of a shocking conspiracy that could mean doom for the British Establishment.

When I first read this novel, I was unaware that it was the second book in a series. However, that wasn’t too much of an issue as the author provided enough detail about everything that I didn’t feel like I missed out on much. This was an interesting historical mystery in that it involved more detail than many historical fiction novels I’ve read. There was a lot of name-dropping of historical figures, which at first was cool but eventually got tedious, especially since they weren’t always that important for the story. I also found that this book was more about DCI Stark’s private life than the mystery itself, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case, it made me lose interest in the story. So while the novel had an intriguing plot and was well-written, it just didn’t do it for me. I’d give this a 3/5 stars and recommend this to someone who is really interested in historical fiction (like… REALLY interested)!

Happy reading ~

A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis

It’s been a while since I’ve read a classic historical fiction crime novel. I’ve heard about this author’s work but I’ve never had the pleasure of reading anything by her, so I thought this would be a good time to accomplish both goals. Here is my review:

It’s 1919 and the village of Wenfield is still trying to recuperate from 4 terrible years of war, as it comes to terms with the loss of so many men. The last thing this place needs is the brutal murder of a young woman. When Myrtle Bligh is found stabbed to death in the woodland, with her mouth slit to accommodate a dead dove, everyone is horrified by the nature of the crime. During the war, Myrtle spent time as a volunteer nurse with Flora Winsmore, the daughter of the local daughter; along with other volunteers, the girls cared for wounded soldiers at the nearby big house, Tarney Court. After 2 more women are murdered and left in the same circumstances, the village calls in Inspector Albert Lincoln from London, a man who is also suffering from the aftermaths of war. With rumours of a ghostly soldier with a painted face being spotted near the scene of the murders, the village is thrown into a state of panic – and with the killer still on the loose, who will be the next to die at the hands of this vicious soldier?

This was definitely an interesting novel. The author did a good job of creating a realistic impression of the historical time period, replete with examples of the social issues and prejudices that were prevalent in those days. The writing style was interesting, flitting between different characters. Flora had her own designated chapters that read more like diary entries, and Albert’s chapters were in 3rd perspective. At first, I didn’t really enjoy this style but it stopped mattering as I focused more on the story. The plot was intriguing and there were many avenues of investigation that the author explored. The ending definitely took me aback, as I wasn’t suspecting this direction; however, it wasn’t satisfactory for me and felt more like the author chose to do this just to add a thrill element. In other words, it wasn’t as well thought out as it could have been. The relationship between the two main characters was also not something I enjoyed; I don’t usually like novels where infidelity is accepted and I also felt as if the romance was not too well developed. Overall, a nice historical fiction with an interesting crime twist. This novel didn’t wow me but it wasn’t terrible, so I would give this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~