Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I have been very excited to read this poetry collection. I rarely, if ever, read poetry; I think the last poetry collection I ever read was by Shel Silverstein – and it was when I was in grade 3! Needless to say, my forays into the poetic scene have been long overdue and I decided to get into it with this book by Rupi Kaur, as it has been receiving so much praise… so here is my review:

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose that speaks about surviving. It is about surviving violence, abuse, love, and loss. It is about femininity and the ways one can be ashamed of it – and be proud of it. The collection is split into 4 chatpers, with each serving a different purpose, exploring a different pain. As we journey through the most bitter moments in life, the author shows us how we can still find sweetness hidden … if you are just willing to look.

My first thought was: this is a very short collection. Seriously, I read through it all in half an hour, and that is not a testament to my reading speed. I don’t know how long poetry collections usually are but this seemed unusually small in length. But as we all know, length doesn’t matter; it’s the content that counts! What I liked was that the author was unafraid to tackle difficult material like rape and abuse. There is a strong feminist voice in these poems, one that makes you proud to be a woman. I liked that the author talked about being comfortable in one’s own skin, because it is rare to find people who are. I also liked the hand-drawn pictures in the book. However, I don’t think that there was anything really special about this collection. Of course, the more voices that preach about loving-yourself-the-way-you-are, the better. But with all the raving reviews, I expected there to be something unique about Rupi Kaur’s interpretation and message. And there really wasn’t. There was nothing that made me connect with the poems, and while I could appreciate the sentiment, it just became too repetitive. I understand: love yourself. But how many times are you going to tell me that?! Out of all of the poems, only a handful really hit hard; the others were just underwhelming. In general, I just felt disappointed, which is really a shame because I hate being mean about someone’s art. Maybe I’m just too simple for poetry? Oh well, better luck next time!

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 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 ~

You Were Here by Gian Sardar

When I first began reading this novel, it was dragging. I almost gave up on this book within the first 30 pages, but others’ reviews on this book urged me to get past the 50-page mark because “that’s where it really gets good”. So I did. And they were right. Here’s my review:

Death has always been Abby Walters’s preoccupation. She’s 33 and eager to settle down with her boyfriend, but his avoidance of a commitment is making this difficult. And now, a recurring dream from her past returns: a nightmare of being buried alive. But this time, the dream reveals a name from her family’s past, prompting Abby to return home looking for answers. For the first time in 14 years, Abby is back in Minnesota where she reconnects with her high school crush who is now a police detective on the trail of a serial rapist. When Abby tries on her grandmother’s mesmerizing ring, she discovers a cryptic note hidden beneath the box’s velvet lining. What secret was her grandmother hiding? And could this be the key to what’s haunting Abby?

Like I mentioned earlier, the first 50 pages are a drag. It’s confusing because the chapters switch perspectives so you really have no idea what is going on. But after 50 pages, the story starts to come together and make sense. In reality, this is a novel that consists of 3 stories:

1. the story of the detective and the serial rapist,

2. the story of Claire, Eva, and William (from the past)

3. the story of Abby, trying to figure out this mystery and trying to figure out her life

The author masterfully links these 3 stories to create a novel that flows beautifully and tells a complex tale about love, loss, life, and regrets. The characters were drawn up wonderfully and were each unique. The mysteries in this novel kept me on my toes and made me continue flipping pages well into the night. There were times when I felt a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of plot lines being thrown at me; I would get engrossed in one mystery only to be jerked out of it and placed into another one. However, it all resolved itself in the end and made for a satisfying novel. There were certain things that the author mentions but never really comes back to, and this would be my one criticism of the novel; I like for everything to be wrapped up nicely and having open-ended elements tend to bother me a bit. But in light of this remarkable story, I will forgive this! If you are looking for a deep and complex mystery, I would highly recommend this novel! Just make sure to give it 50 pages!

Happy reading ~

Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #2

After reading Ashfall, the first book in this unique dystopian series, I found myself eager to discover what would happen next in the lives of Darla and Alex. It took me some time to get to this next book, but once I got into the story, I finished the book in mere hours. So here is my review:

6 months after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, Alex and Darla are staying with Alex’s relatives on the farm. It’s also been 6 months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Enough time has gone by that Alex and Darla decide to venture on their own to find Alex’s parents and bring them to safety. But the landscape has changed since their last foray; things are more vicious, and settlements are more prone to violence as food becomes scarce.  As Alex and Darla try to survive, they begin to wonder if they will ever make it back at all.

Just like Ashfall, this novel is packed with adventure. There is not a boring minute in this story and I was racing through the pages as Alex and Darla find themselves in one dangerous situation after another. Like seriously. They go through a lot. To the point where I found myself overwhelmed by how terrible their journey was. While having a lot of action can be a good thing, it served to make me feel exhausted in this case. There was just a bit too much of it. I don’t need to have my main characters constantly getting in terrible situations; it’s okay for them to get a break or have some luck!

I also found that each chapter ended in a cliffhanger. I found that to be a bit irritating after a while. The story itself has so much going on for it, and I just want to get to the parts, without having this cliffhanger effect on every single chapter.

The last thing that I didn’t really like was Alex’s character. He is just a bit too good. He doesn’t want to do anything that is violent or terrible, and he has this righteous judgemental vibe going on that really bothers me. He just doesn’t seem to have adapted to the situation. It made me really not like him. Another thing I found weird was the steadiness and maturity of the relationship between Darla and Alex. And when I say weird, I don’t mean it as a bad thing, just as an unusual thing. Darla and Alex are both teenagers but their love for each other is portrayed as being very deep and very romantic and meaningful. I don’t know any teenagers who are capable of having such a strong and mature relationship with someone, but I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that they have just gone through a disaster.

While this novel had its high points, I didn’t like it as much as its predecessor. There was an overwhelming amount of action, and not enough character development for my taste. The story itself and the writing was still very good, so I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

Happy reading ~

Medalon by Jennifer Fallon – Hythrun Chronicles: Demon Child #1

The series is called Demon Child. I mean… DEMON CHILD!!! How could I NOT read it with such an insanely cool title?! Initially, I was drawn to this series because of The Lyre Thief, which just recently got released. But when I found out that Lyre Thief wasn’t the first book in the series, I knew that I would have to start from the beginning. Which brought me here to Medalon.

Medalon is a small country bordered by the nation of Karien in the north and the nations of Fardohnya and Hythria in the south. The Sisters of the Blade rule Medalon with an iron fist, with an elite army of Defenders to enforce their rules. The Sisters forbid the worship of all gods, including the Harshini, a magical race that has been long extinct. They quash all signs of heathens with the force of the Defenders. And so, there is an uneasy peace. R’shiel Tenragan and her half-brother Tarja findd themselves caught up in a political battle when their mother takes on the role of the First Sister. In order to escape from her machinations, R’shiel and Tarja flee the Citadel for safer ground. But by fleeing, they incur the wrath of the Sisters and the Defenders, who hunt them as traitors. Meanwhile, in Hythria, Brak, a Harshini outcast, is tasked with finding the demon child, the half-human child of the dead Harshini king. But what does this have to do with R’shiel and Tarja?

I can see how I’m going to get hooked to this series! I really really liked this novel! When you read a lot of teen fantasy novels or standalone fantasy novels, there is a lot of world-building that gets missed. Not the case in this novel! You can tell the author spent a great deal of time envisioning this fantasy world; everything was well thought out and intricately put together. I felt like I was living in the story myself because it was so detailed! The story is interesting from page 1 and every perspective is explored at different intervals so you read about the situation happening in every country. There are some violent parts in the story, and rape does get brought up, so consider this your trigger warning! In general, I love power struggles; it’s one of my favorite things about GoT, so I was really glad to see it expressed strongly in this novel.

I will admit, though, there were 3 things that I wasn’t so happy about:

1) R’shiel is not a very strong protagonist; I wanted her to be more fierce but she was a lot more weak and stayed in the backseat while her brother took the main stage. Not that I didn’t like Tarja, but I wanted to see some more badassery from her.

2) There is a romance element that made me feel really awkward. It should not have happened. Seriously, it just felt really weird and I have no idea why it came about that way and I really hope it somehow…. stops….

3) Brak’s character is pretty much useless. He is supposed to find the demon child and bring them to one of the Gods but he literally does nothing except observe throughout the whole novel. It made me really annoyed because he could have had a more active role.

That being said, I still thought this was a really good novel. There was tons of action and duplicity and conniving characters and intrigue. The author really immerses the reader into this fictional world, and that allowed me to have a great experience while reading this novel. I will definitely be continuing with this series!

Happy reading ~

The Book of Etta by Meg Elison – The Road to Nowhere #2

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

After reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, I was very excited to read the sequel. My experience with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife was amazing; I loved how gritty and harsh the story was, and how it really didn’t mince words. I liked the main character and the way the author portrayed every aspect of every situation, avoiding all bias or favoritism. In the end, it was a spellbinding book that is still at the top of my list in terms of dystopian novels. You can see why I was so excited to read this sequel, and read about how the author imagined the future of her dystopian society.

Etta comes from Nowhere, a village full of survivors of the plague that wiped away the old world. In Nowhere, mothers and midwives are considered sacred, and everyone reveres the teachings of the Unnamed Midwife. Etta, however, doesn’t feel the same way about the role of a midwife or a mother. She would much rather be a scavenger, who roams the territories surrounding Nowhere, salvaging useful relics and saving women and girls being sold by slave traders. When slavers capture those she loves, Etta vows to avenge them. As her mission leads her to the stronghold of the Lion, a tyrant who claims currency through a bounty of weapons and women, Etta will have to risk her body and spirit to not only save lives but also to discover her own destiny.

Let me begin by saying that it is imperative that you read the first book in this trilogy or else the concepts and impact of this story really won’t make sense. That being said, this novel takes on the issue of gender in a completely different way than The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. While in the first book the focus was on struggling to be a woman, this novel is all about gender fluidity. As usual, the author conveys her story in that gritty, no-holds-bar style that I love and she really doesn’t shy away from disturbing content. There are graphic depictions of rape and abuse, so consider this a warning for those wary of this kind of content. Unlike the first story which centered on the survival of a whole gender, this novel is much more of an identity quest where Etta/Eddy discovers who he/she really is amidst a society that doesn’t really support lesbian/gay relations or even the concept of being transgendered. This novel pulled me in but I found myself more drawn to the internal struggles rather than the actual action parts of the story. While it felt like this novel moved slower than its predecessor, I didn’t mind because it gave me the time to really think deeply on the ideas that the author is presenting. I still think the first book in this series was the better of the two, but this novel is by no means bad. Overall, another gripping story that tackles difficult issues in a dystopian setting. I can’t wait to see what the author will publish next in this fascinating series!

Happy reading ~

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

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

After reading I Let You Go by Mackintosh, I was excited to get my hands on a copy of another one of her books. I Let You Go had been a tear-jerker…. but also had a major twist that absolutely blew me away. I couldn’t wait to see what new tricks this author would have up her sleeve!

Zoe Walker is a simple woman. She takes the exact same route everyday to go to work and returns home to her family, where she takes care of her two children and spends time with her loving boyfriend. Her life is incredibly ordinary – and she is happy that way. One day, she is reading her regular London newspaper while riding the tube when she chances upon an advert in the classifieds section. The strange thing is the advert is using a photograph of her. There is no explanation for this advert either: simply a website, her grainy image, and a phone number. When Zoe takes it home to her family, they laugh it off and think it’s just a picture of someone who looks similar to Zoe. But the next day, the exact same advert shows up with the photo of a different woman. And Zoe soon discovers a horrible connection between the pictures of these women and their fate afterwards. What started off as mere coincidence soon begins to appear as the work of a stalker, someone who is keeping track of every move being made by these women – and by Zoe.

Just as before, Mackintosh creates a story that seems unbelievably real. And the reason that this author is able to achieve this is through the way she creates such realistic characters. Every single person in this book has just the right amount of flaws and positives to make them come alive; I could easily see these people existing in my world. This is the author’s strength and she uses it to full advantage to make this story come alive. And the story really got under my skin. It is all about the vulnerability of women to stalkers and predation in public areas, and the experiences that these women go through is something I myself have experienced; many times, when riding the subway to go to school or home, I would see someone staring at me, sometimes see them following me. And I felt completely helpless. I thought that if I said something, people would look at me as if I was crazy, because there was no way I would be able to prove that this was actually happening to me. The author did a great job of highlighting this issue, racking up the tension and making my heart pound with every encounter. I could understand Zoe’s paranoia and her reckless desire to get to the bottom of this. The ending of this story was definitely a twist, but it wasn’t as strong as it could have been; after having read I  Let You Go, I was expecting something a bit more sensational. However, the novel as a whole was really engrossing and I definitely enjoyed the thrills it brought. Overall, another strong story from a rising thriller writer!

Happy reading ~

The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt

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

I’ve been super excited for this novel and I was super happy to get it from NetGalley and the publishers. I always try to wait to read the book as close to the publishing date as possible, but this novel was the hardest to wait for! Anyways, here is my review:

Dahlia Waller’s childhood is full of memories of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and lies. She traveled the country with her eccentric mother, not knowing why they were always on the run. Now that she is older, Dahlia has done everything in her power to move away from that life. But there’s one thing stopping her from moving on: her questions about her past. And in order to get the answers to her questions, Dahlia must go back to her mother, a woman now on the brink of madness. But after she discovers 3 grave-like mounds on a neighbouring farm, she’ll learn that some questions are better left unanswered.

For all the hype this novel received, it was highly disappointing. I had expected the novel to be fast-paced but it was quite slow. I didn’t mind that, in all honesty, as it allowed the author to build up the tension. However, there were so many useless things that were thrown into this story. There was a girl whom Dahlia found in the woods, and why this event was even a part of the story is something I’m still wondering. I liked the different perspectives of the story, but it was fairly easy to predict and so, I started to lose some interest. I didn’t really like Dahlia’s character at all; there were so many different ways that she could have approached her problems and she just …. didn’t. Her mother was definitely more interesting – I’m pretty sure her character is the reason why I continued with the story. Overall, this story wasn’t anything special. There was nothing wrong with the pacing but the way the story was presented as well as the predictability of the “truth” just made it lose marks for me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the hype.

Happy reading ~

 

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

When I read the premise of this novel, it immediately reminded me of Room by Emma Donoghue, one of my favorite novels of all time. Like Room, this novel deals with a woman who was kidnapped and kept hidden by her abductor. But that’s all that is similar between these two novels, as the author here took an entirely different approach.

For 8 years, Lily has been held captive in a basement cellar, and has gone from being a naive teenager to a scarred adult. Her daughter, Sky, has never set foot outside of this cellar and calls their captor Daddy. But one day, their captor makes a mistake: he leaves the door open. What happens next will change the lives of everyone – Lily, Sky, Lily’s twin sister, and the man who caused this mess in the first place. 

At first, I was intrigued by this novel. In Room, we only get a brief glimpse of what life is like for Bree and her son after they escape. This novel solely focuses on life after captivity. The first few chapters were interesting enough and I became excited for how the rest of the novel wold shape up. Unfortunately, it didn’t continue as strongly as it began. Quite often, I felt like I was reading something from a soap opera scene, rather than reading about the aftermath of a terrible event. Lily didn’t seem as disturbed as I would have expected for a victim, and the focus on relationships and affairs seemed to take the seriousness out of the story. I thought it would be grittier, more heart breaking. Instead, it just felt a bit blah. There was some excitement at times but not enough to make this novel a winner for me. So while the initial premise was good, the overall story let me down.

Happy reading ~