The River At Night by Erika Ferencik

I’ve been looking for an interesting thriller to read and this one has been on my TBR list for a while. Now that I’m on vacation, I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up and reduce that list as much as I possibly can. So here is my review:

Wini likes to play things safe, but when her friends decide to celebrate their middle-aged life by doing something drastic, she decides to take the plunge. Wini and her friends decide to go to Maine to do some white water rafting, something that none of them have any experience with. A fun trip quickly turns into a horrific nightmare as the women find themselves trapped in the wilderness with no way out.

I recently read another novel that deals with survival, a YA fiction called Feel Me Fall. Compared to that, this one was a softie. This novel had a lot of positive aspects to it: it had a great premise, and an interesting friendship group. But with all of that potential, I felt that the action was lacking. The beginning started off great, and I found myself intrigued with where the story was going. However, as the story continued, I found that there needed to be more action happening. That kind of made the story fall for me a bit. Overall, this was an interesting story but it needed way more action to carry it through until the end.

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 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 ~

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

This book has been recommended to me multiple times by many people and I have just been pushing it off. I finally decided to read it and see what the hype was all about. Here is my review:

Adam Blake is one of those people who is always positive. Sure, he has his difficulties what with his ADHD, but he’s always able to look at the bright side of things. When his senior year elective is to serve as an aide to the school psychologist, Adam is sure that it will be an easy one. The psychologist asks him to track down a troubled freshman who keeps evading his sessions, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian, the foster brother he hasn’t seen in 5 years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited with Julian. But Julian isn’t the same anymore. He is quieter, more insecure, and he keeps a lot of secrets – like about what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help Julian, but his involvement could endanger both their lives.

Holy, did this book make me an emotional wreck! I did not expect it to tug at my heart the way it did but I was bawling from the halfway point until the end. I don’t even know where to start with this book.

The story is told from 2 perspectives: Julian and Adam. Each boy has his own voice and personality and the author does a great job of making them complement each other. Adam is this super positive guy, and you may think that this is overkill, but I love how the author really tried to explain why he does things and thinks things in the way that he does. He has ADHD, but he doesn’t fall into the stereotypical portrayal of it and that made me really happy. Julian’s simplicity and kindness is perfectly captured; the author definitely did not overdo it! I found it very easy to imagine the different personalities and relationships between the different characters and that made this an enjoyable read.

This novel deals with a lot of difficult issues. Not only does it address the stigma associated with mental health and illness, it talks about loss, guilt, and abuse. Each one has its role to play in the novel and the author addressed each one with the care and tact it deserved. I love how the story tied in all of these elements to make something beautiful and raw. This novel makes you think about life and the power of friendship, and it is sure to move you. I genuinely cannot express how strongly I feel for this novel but I really want every single individual to read this book because it is just that fantastic.

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 ~

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 Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici

I was looking forward to this novel because of all of the advance praise it has received. I was excited to hear that this novel has been sold in 38 territories in the world, and decided that I had to give it a shot and see what all the hype was about. Here is my review:

When literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript called The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued. The author of this manuscript, Richard Flynn, has chosen to write about his time in Princeton in the late 80s. He writes about his relationship with the famous Professor Wieder, who was brutally murdered in his home in 1987. The case was never solved. Peter Katz becomes obsessed with getting to the bottom of this mystery and believes that the complete manuscript will provide him with the answers. But the recollections of others is a dangerous thing… and this might be one memory worth keeping secret.

I’m going to be blunt here: I did not like this novel. I was bored the entire time I read it. After I finished, I kept wondering what it was that put me off of this novel. Was it the story? Was it the plot? Eventually, I realized that the feature that I disliked the most were the characters. There was not a single character that I liked or even cared for. The story is told from 3 different perspectives: Peter Katz, the literary agent; John Keller, a journalist hired to do research on the manuscript; and Roy Freeman, an ex-cop who was responsible for the case and still wants to solve it. None of them were interesting, and their voices were so similar that it was hard for me to distinguish them as unique entities. Apart from the characters, I felt that there was nothing special about the novel. The author didn’t really build up any tension, and the story just read flat. I mainly felt apathy throughout the entire novel and completed it for the sake of finishing it. Overall, this novel was nothing special and it left me quite disappointed. 2/5 stars for me!

Happy reading ~

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

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

I will admit, my reading list has been on the backburner this month. Every time I would think I had some free time, some new project or deadline would come up that took all of my time away. I FINALLY have some free time now so I will be doing my best to catch up on all of the great books I have yet to read, starting with this one!

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying life. She takes care of her children and husband, and is the bookkeeper for her family’s auto shop business. Her tragic childhood has been long pushed away, a thing in the past not worth remembering. But suddenly her mind begins to play tricks on her. The accounts don’t make sense and there is a constant murmuring that she can’t get rid of. She knows that she should try to get some help, but she’s terrified of being put in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole tries to hide her symptoms, all the while isolating herself from her family, and unwittingly sending her 11-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning behind this change in behaviour.

If you are looking for a realistic fiction novel that will tug at your heartstrings, then look no further! This novel is a heartwrenching portrayal on mental illness and family ties. Told from the perspective of the females in the family, we see how the actions of one person can lead to dramatic consequences in the lives of others. This novel also switches in timeline and gives a very strong backstory for Carole and Solange. The writing is great and the story is emotional, albeit ordinary. It took me quite a while to get into the story – it might have just been that I wasn’t in the mood for a realistic fiction, but I found the beginning to be quite slow. However, the novel quickly picked up its pace and explored the facets of characters who I soon became invested in. Overall, this is a strong realistic fiction novel that deals with mental illness and family tragedy in a superb way to deliver an emotionally-packed story.

Happy reading ~

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – Hogarth Shakespeare

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

When I first requested this novel, it was because I really enjoyed reading Tracy Chevalier’s earlier work. Imagine my delight when I discovered that this novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series! So far, I’ve loved every book that has been part of the Hogarth concept, so I was very excited to give this novel a shot!

Osei Kokote has not had it easy. The son of a diplomat, it is his first day at his fifth new school in as many years. He knows that in order to survive his first day, he needs to find an ally, and he is lucky enough to find a friend in Dee, the most popular girl in school. For her part, Dee genuinely seems to like Osei and soon their budding relationship takes flight. But there is one person who is not happy to see this and is determined to wreak havoc on this friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. BBy the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The Shakespeare play that served as inspiration for this novel is Othello, which is one of the few works by Shakespeare that I actually don’t like too much. I’ve never been a fan of tragedies, especially ones that deal with the whole concept of misunderstandings. I was quite impressed by the originality of this novel, in taking a serious adult tragedy like Othello and transplanting it into a Washington school playground. It reminded me of my cringe-worthy days in elementary school, struggling to fit in with my peers, facing the social hierarchy that was constantly shifting, and dealing with betrayals and crushes. The author did a great job of giving each character a unique voice and exploring the playground politics in a serious tone that went beyond the surface. This novel speaks at length on the issue of race in an unusual setting that is really just a microcosm of our own society; it both surprised and delighted me to see this concept work out as well as it did! Was this novel a complete success? No. It had its flaws and the ending, while tragic, was a bit too dramatic for the setting the author was trying to maintain. However, this is still a powerful rendition of Othello, and I appreciate its uniqueness. Overall, an interesting novel!

Happy reading ~