Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

I love weird stories. The wackier, the better. It’s one of the reasons I love Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles series. While I’ve never heard of this author before this book, I read that she had a reputation for coming up with wild stories. So I decided to get started with this one. Here is my review:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention that Miles every made came from the mind of Thomas Edison: a machine that lets you talk to the dead. The bluepritns for this machine has been passed down to Miles and he’s been using it to protect his family. But one night, when a fierce storm is raging and there is the threat of a flood, the machine comes to life and delivers a single message: you’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows, she is waking up by the river and only her mother is there. Her father and brother are dead, the house is gone, and there is an evil man out to get them. Eva changes her name to Necco and tries to forget about her past as she and her mother live life off the grid. But when her mother dies and her boyfriend is murdered, Necco is convinced that her past is catching up to her. What really happened that night? As Necco tries to discover the truth, she connects with 2 other women who are on their own desperate quests. And as the trio follow the clues, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

Before this novel, I would never have thought that so many mismatched parts could come together to create a cohesive and interesting story. But they did. And I loved every minute of it. There is a paranormal aspect, with visions and psychic abilities and machines that let you communicate with the dead. There is a mystery element where people keep dying but you don’t know why. There’s a thriller aspect where the main character is being hunted by a man wearing a chicken skin mask. In all, it’s a crazy mess. But it worked on so many levels. There was not a single boring moment in this story. And the author managed to run so many different storylines at the same time! There are 3 main female characters and they each got their moment in the spotlight, which I really loved. The way it all got tied in was unexpected but it worked with the weirdness of the premise. I’m still shocked by how everything was put together … but I definitely enjoyed this read! This is not a traditional book in any way so I would recommend this to people who enjoy crazy stories with super interesting and zany plots! I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Hapyp 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 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 ~

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

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

This novel was recommended for fans of The Missing Girls and In A Dark, Dark Wood, so I thought this might be the right fit for me. Here is my review:

Angela is brought into the police station and held in an interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Novak suspects Angela of knowing something relevant, even though Angela insists that she isn’t involved. Angela decides to tell the detective the entire story from the very beginning, going back 10 years to when Angela first fell in love with her highschool friend, H.P. But as the story continues, it is clear that something is being concealed. Is Angela the perpetrator of a crime or is she merely caught in a web of lies?

There are a lot of positive reviews on GoodReads; almost everyone has given this book a 4 or 5 star rating. After reading this novel, I’m confused: did I read a completely different book from everyone else? After seeing the positive reviews, I even read this book again and I still didn’t get it. Anyways, here are my thoughts on this book:

Angela’s character and personality really did not work for me. I understand that not all characters are likeable; I’ve read many Gillian Flynn novels and hated the characters but loved the books so I don’t really consider likeability to be an issue. The problem was that I really didn’t understand or connect with Angela. The novel was told completely from her perspective but I had a hard time making sense of her voice and personality; for some reason, it just didn’t seem believable and I couldn’t accept it. Angela is a very entitled character and it bugged me so much. Just like the Detective, I had no patience or sympathy for her because she literally has everything but still is dissatisfied. I’m sure that was the author’s intent but it just made me hate Angela so much.

The story itself was quite interesting and I quickly became engrossed in watching how the relationships unfolded. However, I found there were loads of things that made me roll my eyes. I’m not going to say any of them because I don’t want to ruin the story but there were things that were so far-fetched; they made no sense but were there for the sole purpose of making the facts all work out.

The ending was supposed to be a twist. There was no twist. I’m pretty sure that I had predicted things before the halfway point of the novel. When I am being told that I am reading a psychological thriller, I expect it to really change my perspective and be completely unexpected. That didn’t happen here so I was quite disappointed.

Overall, this thriller did not work for me. The main character was not likeable or easy to connect with, the plot had elements to it that didn’t really make sense, and the ending was a disappointment. Obviously, many people thought otherwise so maybe I’m just that one person for whom this novel didn’t work so if you like thrillers, consider giving it a shot!

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 ~

 

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

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

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

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

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

Happy reading ~

Based on A True Story by Delpine de Vigan

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

What would you do if your closest friend tried to steal your life?

Today I know that L. is the sole reason for my powerlessness. And that the two years that we were friends almost made me stop writing for ever.

When Delphine’s latest novel ends up a huge success, she finds herself overwhelmed and unable to write her next book. And then she meets L. L is the kind of woman who has always fascinated Delphine, a woman with perfect nails and hair, and who knows just what to say at all times. Delphine can’t help but be drawn to her, and their friendship evolves slowly yet surely. But soon L begins to dress like Delphine, and, when Delphine admits that she is unable to write, L even offers to answer her emails. As L becomes more involved in Delphine’s life, Delphine begins to discover that L has had complete control this entire time …. and refuses to let go.

This is one of those cases where the novel and reader just weren’t compatible. I thought that the story had definite promise and the premise was very intriguing. However, it was a very slow buildup and I quickly lost attention. By the time the story got good, I realized that I wasn’t very invested in it and didn’t really care too much about the outcome. I will say that I quite enjoyed the writing style of the author; it flowed very nicely and you can tell the author took the time to carefully choose her words. I think that this novel would be best suited for someone looking for a slow, deep character-based book rather than something thrilling.

Happy reading ~

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

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

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

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

Happy reading ~

The Dry by Jane Harper

I know that I’ve been a lot slower in reading books and posting books, and I can assure you that it isn’t due to a lack of reading material (I am up to my eyeballs in books!) But there is a lot going on in my lab and in terms of course work so my reading has taken a bit of a back seat. However, I am planning on making up for it by reading a lot more this weekend so hopefully it all works out. Anyways, enough excuses, here is my review!

20 years ago, Aaron Falk and his family were driven out of their hometown of Kiewarra. Aaron moved to Melbourne and eventually got a job as a Federal Police investigator, hoping to never have a reason to visit that vicious place. But then he discovers that his childhood friend, Luke, is dead. What’s more, Luke is said to have killed his wife and son before committing suicide, leaving behind only his infant daughter. With this shocking news comes a cryptic letter from Luke’s father saying “You lied. Luke lied. Come to the funeral.” Aaron arrives but only plans to stay for one day. But his investigative skills are called on by Luke’s parents – and that’s when he realizes that the murder-suicide charge may not fit the bill. As Falk probes deeper into the murders, old wounds begin to reveal themselves. Because Falk and Luke shared a secret, one that they thought was long-buried but has finally been brought to the surface…

I wasn’t expecting to like this novel as much as I did; in fact, when I first began to read, I thought that this novel would be just like every other thriller. But that impression soon changed. This book had my attention after just one chapter and I raced through it (surreptitiously, of course, so that my supervisor wouldn’t see me reading!) in just a few hours. What an excellent novel! It was thought-provoking, had great pacing, a really polished writing style, and wonderfully fleshed-out characters. Everything about this novel worked. This is not a fast-paced thriller. This is a novel that takes its time to draw out the tension, reveal all of the different characters and their motives, show how inner secrets can fester and become an obsession. It makes the story very believable and emotionally-packed. It makes the reader WANT to invest the time to engage with the novel – and this novel is definitely engaging! I cannot (and will not!) stop raving about the way the author developed each character, made them stand out in your mind, and made them important to the reader and to the story itself. I never found myself forgetting about who a character was, or wondering why a character was mentioned. It all made sense. The plot was also amazing in that it flowed logically and came to a very satisfying conclusion; there are few things I value more than that in a book! This novel is best described as an experience, because it makes the reader feel like a part of the story. When the author describes the heat, I find myself sweating. As the author depicts certain interactions between different characters, I feel like I am physically present. I can go on and on about this book, but I think it’s best if you read and judge for yourself. Overall, a masterful book with perfect flow, deep characters, and a satisfying story.

Happy reading ~

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

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

This is a collection of short stories that all revolve around the idea of technology and the ways in which we use it to communicate and make our lives simpler. The stories in this book take place in the near future and show the good – and the bad – side of technology. I found the premise interesting enough to follow it up with a request, so thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for this ARC!

Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, immersive virtual reality games, and intuitive robots.
In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, but he soon begins to struggle differentiating what is real from his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and it is only when he is gone that the family realizes how real of a son he was.  Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and our ever-growing dependence on new technologies.

The idea behind every story is brilliant. There are memories that you can order and implant, virtual worlds that you can live in, instant messages that you can send through technology implanted in your eye…. the possibilities are endless. But each story is disquieting in the way it peels back the layers and shows the flip side to the zealous use of technology. The author shows irony at its finest in this short story collection. However, while the concept and the ideas themselves are brilliant, the characters are not. In every story, it felt like there was just a lack of emotion. Every character fell flat and seemed lifeless. There was no connection between the reader and the characters, which resulted in apathy towards the fate of said characters. Most of my time was spent musing on the interesting scenarios that the author presented rather than focusing on the lives of these characters and the difficulties they faced as a result of technology. Overall, while the concept was interesting, the characters were not, and this is why I would give this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~