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 ~

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 Lauras by Sara Taylor

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

After one more fight between her mother and father, Alex wakes up to find that Alex and Alex’s mother are going on a trip. No explanations are given to anyone, as they make their trek across the country. As they travel, Alex’s mother reveals the story of her life piece-by-piece. Together, they trace back through a life full of struggle and adventure to put to rest unfinished business, heal old wounds, and seek out old friends.

When I began reading this novel, I was very intrigued as to see where this story would go. A 13-year-old child is woken up from bed and whisked away on a road trip. That is one heck of an intro! I really liked the author’s writing style, as it had a good flow and gave a great description of the setting. The main character in the story, Alex, was also intriguing in that Alex ascribes to no gender. Never in the story is it revealed whether Alex is male or female – and this intrigued me both because of the fact that this is a unique character and because the author so successfully hid the gender identity throughout the story. I liked the way little bits of Ma’s life were revealed as the story progressed, and how they reflected the trials and random events that can occur in life as well as the way these experiences shape you. However, by the time I got to the end of the story, I felt a bit disappointed and confused as to what the point of the whole story was. Granted, it is a coming-of-age story, one that shows how life leaves one with many memories that can be good and bad…. but that’s about it. After that whole road trip, I kind of expected a bit more. So while there were definitely some positive things about this novel, the overall plot seemed to have no real purpose and left me disappointed. I didn’t love this novel but I didn’t hate it either.

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 ~

 

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

There was a point in time when I was a huge fan of Kate Morton. I still like her work, but I used to be obsessed with every one of her books, and I would always be on the lookout for one of her new releases. The premise of this novel reminded me of the type of story Kate Morton concocts, so I knew it would be worth giving a shot. Here is my review:

In 1935 at a remote vacation home in Minnesota, 6-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her bedroom. Her disappearance tears the family apart, and Emily’s mother, along with her two older sisters, spend the rest of their lives in that lake house, hoping that Emily will return to them. 60 years later, Lucy, the middle sister, is the only one still alive. But before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she bequeaths to her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, hearing the news of her great-aunt passing is sad. But she is relieved to have the chance to return to the lake house, and escape her manipulative boyfriend. With her two daughters, she travels to the house hoping that it will become a sanctuary for them. However, the house is no longer what it used to be. It is cold, run-down, and their only source of human contact is an old man. And the problems don’t end there. Justine’s eldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, Justine’s mother arrives with plans to get her hands on the inheritance, and her manipulative boyfriend tries to come back into her life with a dangerous plan. In a house marked by tragedy, Justine must face her worst fears to save herself and her family.

The synopsis that I have provided here does not do this novel justice, but anything more that I say would just ruin the story. This book moves in a slow yet intriguing way, switching between the voice of Lucy and that of Justine. Both of these women are so similar in their thinking and way of behaving, and yet they retain their separate identities. The story itself is tragic and unfolds beautifully, capturing one’s attention from the very beginning and holding it until the very end. While the disappearance of the child is what brought me to this book in the first place, it was the tale of growing up, learning to love, and exploring life itself that kept me here. If you are looking for a good historical fiction that explores the lives of 5 generations of women, then this would be a great place to start!

Happy reading ~

The Girls by Emma Cline

I’ve only read one book about a cult, and it was more about the aftermath of it and the resurrection of it. This novel focused on the perspective of one girl who joins a cult, and how that experience changed her. Going into this novel, I had no idea what to make of it, and I didn’t know what kind of tone the author would use. I started reading it on my 2-hour bus ride back to my university residence, and by the end of the journey, I had finished the book. So let me just leave it at that and begin my review.

Evie Boyd is a lonely teenager living in California during the end of the 1960s. With her father out of the picture, and her mother fixated on changing herself, Evie has nowhere she belongs. But then she sees a group of girls at the park and is immediately drawn to their carefree behaviour, and their freedom. A mesmerizing older girl named Suzanne smiles at Evie, and that is all it takes to make Evie want to join this group. She is invited to join the circle of a soon-to-be-infamous cult with its charismatic leader. As Evie spends more time away from her home and her regular life, and as her obsession with Suzanne and the cult intensifies, Evie feels like she finally belongs. But she could never have imagined how close she is to unthinkable violence, and how it will change their lives forever.

This book was a very interesting read to me. Evie is more of a narrator than a protagonist, as she recounts the terrible events that took place within that cult. The true main character seems to be Suzanne, who Evie admires and loves. However, the magnetism that Suzanne apparently embodies isn’t really that evident to the reader, and I was left wondering why Evie was so fixated on her. However, I still found it interesting to see how their friendship evolved. The other characters weren’t that important, and they stayed on the sidelines for the most part, which was fine by me. I just wanted to get to the juicy creepy stuff! That was the other interesting thing about this story – the author already tells you how it is going to end. Right away, you know that the cult is involved in the brutal killing of innocent people. The story took quite a long while to get to that point, perhaps because it was told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is more focused on fitting in and having a friend than in reading the turbulent situation around her. That put me off a bit because it made the crime seem completely random, when in reality it had been building up to this crime. I wish that there had been more of an emphasis on the cult scene; the author had a couple of parts where she mentioned ritualistic practices but for the most part, the cult appeared to be a place for runaways to just do drugs, have sex, and shirk all responsibility. That was a bit of a disappointment for me, because I really wanted to feel the eerie essence of it all, and the mass euphoria that is usually attributed to cults. One thing that I really did not enjoy about this novel was how the ending was described. Evie was not a participant in the violent killings, so every sentence that describes it begins with “I imagine” or “I believe”, or something else that just shows that she is just as clueless as the reader. I don’t want to read about what she “supposes” had happened, I want to ACTUALLY know! That was the only major flaw I found.

I know I seem to only have negative comments to say, but overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was slow-paced, but not painfully slow, and the perspective of Evie was an interesting one, that highlighted our innate desire to belong to someone or something, regardless of how dangerous or stupid it might be. It depicted the flaws of teenage thinking, where teenagers believe they are invincible, always right, and that no one understand them. It explores the world of sex and drugs and the need to believe in something bigger than yourself. And most importantly, this novel was about friendship, and all of the different types of love that someone can feel for another person. I hope that you will all give it a shot, and come up with your own opinions about this book.

Happy reading ~

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

I deliberately chose to read this novel because it is outside of my usual scope. This isn’t a fantasy story or a mystery/thriller. This is a  story that deals with love in its many forms, as well as ambition. It takes you on a journey to see how exactly the main character grows up. I usually don’t give novels like this a shot, not because I don’t think they are good, but because I feel like I am completely out of my depth when reading these stories. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot, so here is my review:

When she arrives in London, all this 18-year-old Irish girl wants is to start her life as a young actress. So she enrolls as a drama student, and tries to make a name for herself. At first she struggles to fit in in this new landscape, with its big city and its sophisticated people. But soon she finds herself making friends and finding a place to live. Then she meets an older man, an established actor 20 years her senior. And as their relationship ensues, it will change her life – and her – forever.

I found that I was unable to get through this novel. I barely got to glimpse the story itself, and the reason was solely because of the language style that the author chose. It was awkward and threw me off right from the start. I wasn’t able to follow along and I had to struggle a great deal just to understand what the author was trying to say. No matter how hard I tried to push past it, I simply could not get over it and so, I wasn’t able to get to the heart of the story. For that reason, I’m going to have to give this novel a pass.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman – Magicians Trilogy #1

So I finally read The Magicians. Why did it take me so long, when there has been so much hype about it, especially once it became a show on the SyFy channel? Well, it was because of all of the hype that I didn’t read it. Sometimes, people keep boosting a novel to the point where your own expectations for the story increases to the point of no return. And then when you actually read the novel, it ends up disappointing you. I was scared that this exact scenario (which has happened to me countless times) would happen again. But I’ve finally risen to the challenge and given this book a chance. And here is my review:

Quentin Coldwater has always loved the idea of magic, even though he knows it doesn’t really exist. On his way to applying to Princeton, he finds himself admitted to a secret school of magic in upstate New York. And like every university, it gives him the opportunity to learn about life – friendship, sex, booze – while receiving a rigorous education in magic and sorcery. But magic isn’t all happy endings, as Quentin is soon about to find out. After graduation, he begins an adventure with his friends, one he could never have imagined. It has the potential to fulfill Quentin’s yearning for something more …. but it can also lead to the destruction of the world as he knows it.

When I first began reading this novel, I was confused. I had no idea where the author was going with the story. I was intrigued by all of the side plots and the anecdotes and the glimpses of normal life in a magical school. I had expected it to be a bit like Harry Potter (which is a series I ADORE) but it was anything but. The Magicians is graphic and deals with mature content. It explores in depth various aspects of college life, the exact same feelings and experiences that we ourselves have gone through … except with spells and magic and more rigorous studying protocols. At times, I felt like there had been too much detail. But as the story developed and as the cast of characters grew up, everything began to fit. The storyline started to take shape and all of the little details that I had thought were completely random began to make sense and add to the nuance of the story. By the end, I was devouring every morsel of information I could.

The Magicians is a unique novel in that it takes place in an environment that is both distinct and relatable all at the same time. Every character has flaws and the author takes the time to take apart the ridiculousness or “cheesiness” that often prevails in fantasy novels. While not expecting to think deeply, you find yourself reflecting on everything you have read constantly. Even now, I have no idea what to make of it, but I can say one thing for sure: I am in love with this novel. I am so glad that I took the plunge and decided to read it. For those of you who like fantasy novels and are looking for something different, perhaps something akin to All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders, then this is the novel for you.

Happy reading ~

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

I’ve decided to go with a brand new look for my blog to reflect my brand new outlook towards life. Hopefully, you all find it user-friendly. If you like it or don’t like it or have any suggestions, PLEASE PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I’m always looking for ways to make my blog more interesting and I would be happy to try to do so!  Anyways, let’s get started with this book review!

Alex Dale used to be a well-off journalist with a happy marriage. But when her destructive habits took it all away, she is left only with a newfound desire for routine and a few freelance writing gigs. Every day is a hassle to get through… until she meets Amy Stevenson. Amy is a remnant from Alex’s childhood, a girl who was found unconscious after a merciless assault and has been a coma for fifteen years. Everyone else in this world seems to have forgotten about her. But Alex remembers her now. And she is determined to find out what really happened to Amy and give this girl the justice she deserves. But has everyone really forgotten? Or are there people waiting for someone to go sniffing around, people who are afraid of the past and will do anything to keep it buried?

I quite enjoyed this book. I liked the protagonist a lot. Alex is someone you want to feel sympathy and pity for. But you also want to shake her and tell her to snap out of this mess and grow up. And I feel like she does, throughout the course of her interesting forays into the past. At times, it felt like the story wasn’t really about Amy or the mystery at all but rather about Alex and her inability to cope with life. Now, the actual mystery of Amy’s assault is not too hard to figure out and is quite sad, in all honesty. In light of the hundreds of stories of assault and crime we see in the news, hers is not too unique and is every bit as depressing and sad. I think the strength of this novel comes from its realistic perspective. Of course, Amy’s situation of being in a coma but still being conscious is unique and there were areas where the author took liberties. But the emotions throughout the novel and the plot all the way to the end…. it was realistic and believable and it sold the story. So, if you are looking for a good mystery novel with a protagonist like the one from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, you should check this novel out!

Happy reading!

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

A good friend of mine recently pointed out that all I ever read are the newest novels. He said that I’m always looking on the bestseller list for new books to read and review about. And he’s right. I like to read whatever is most current, not only because I find that most of the novels are to my taste but also because I want to write about novels that are currently making it big. Don’t get me wrong, I will read ANY novel that I find interesting, but I enjoy reviewing novels that seem the most … relevant and “in”, and those usually tend to be bestsellers. But I have decided to start branching out more and reading novels that aren’t directly in the spotlight. However, this novel is DEFINITELY garnering attention and I was lucky enough to get my hand on a physical copy. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read and review it! So, here is my review:

When Richard Chapman agrees to host his brother’s bachelor party at his home, he doesn’t expect it to be anything crazy. Richard’s wife, Kristin, and daughter are spending the weekend with his mother-in-law, and everything should be back to normal by the time they arrive home. What wasn’t expected was that the night of drunkenness and revelry would lead to Richard sharing an intimate moment  with the hired entertainment and the stabbing of two Russian bodyguards by two women, who then flee into the night. Suddenly, life is all out of control. The police are crawling all over the home, which is now a crime scene; Richard’s investment firm puts him on indefinite leave; and Kristin is unsure about whether this marriage can still work or not. But the women from the party face a more imminent danger as they run from the police they believe will imprison them, and the gangsters who they know will kill them.

This novel gave a jarring glimpse into the world of sex trafficking as it followed the story of Alexandra and her journey from Moscow to America. It was powerful in the way that it reflected the lives of all of those who were involved in this event. Every voice had something unique to contribute, and they allowed one to glimpse the different experiences a person could have to an unthinkable situation like this. My heart ached for Alexandra, felt sympathy for Kristin, and had hatred for a bunch of other people who I won’t name because then it would ruin the novel. I definitely wasn’t expecting the conclusion to be the way it was but it worked and I can understand why the author wanted to write it this way. This is my first time reading something by Chris Bohjalian and I really enjoyed the intensity of his writing. I am definitely going to be adding more of his works to my to-read list. If you like thrillers and shocking crimes, then this novel is for you..you will NOT be able to put it down!

Happy reading ~