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 ~

Feel Me Fall by James Morris

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

I promise that even though I’ve been super inactive on my blog, I’m still reading books! I’m on vacation right now and I really don’t get good wifi so having the connection necessary to write and post has been quite a challenge. I finally found a stable wifi connection so get ready for a deluge of posts!

After a plane crash that stranded her and her teenage friends in the jungles of the Amazon, these high schoolers must band together to struggle against the elements. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new hierarchy arises, filled with power struggles, betrayals, and revenge. When Emily emerges as the lone survivor, she must explain why she is the only one alive. But can she carry the burden of the past?

There were quite a few things that I enjoyed about this novel. I liked that the author skipped back and forth in time for certain portions of this story. It may have been a bit confusing at first, but it really added to the intrigue and mystery of the story. This novel was really action-packed and it was very easy to get caught up in the story. The one thing I didn’t really like was Emily’s character. She wasn’t a character I felt very interested in and her personality was a little blah for me. The ending was a cliffhanger, which I both liked and didn’t like; it was a unique twist but I generally just like to have a completely finished story. Overall, this was a strong YA novel that was action-packed and gripping, and I think many teens would enjoy reading this book!

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 ~

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

I read the premise of this novel months ago, but it was not available anywhere in Canada for a while. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this novel, which has been hailed as a YA version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which is one of my favorite series!

Lumikki Andersson is a loner and she likes it that way. She knows all too well the trouble you can get in if you don’t mind your own business. But Lumikki’s rule is put to the test when she discovers thousands of washed Euro notes in her school’s darkroom – and 3 classmates with blood literally on their hands. With people now determined to get the money back, Lumikki finds herself on the run. At the center of all this chaos is Polar Bear, a mysterious drug lord with a notorious reputation for getting what he wants. If Lumikki hopes to make it out alive, she’ll have to uncover the entire operation before it’s too late.

This was a book that I had high hopes for but it ended up letting me down. To be frank, it was boring. In the beginning of the novel, the author alluded to a fairy-tale; however, the reference soon became obsolete as it literally did not have anything to do with the actual story. The plot itself was quite simple and the main character kept putting herself in situations that she could have easily avoided. While I understand that this is needed for there to be an actual story, the author should have at least included strong motivating factors that led to such decisions. I can see where the author was trying to go with a Lisbeth Salander vibe with the main character but it didn’t really work too well; instead of being intrigued by Lumikki, I just couldn’t care less. The other characters were nothing special, and this added to my indifference towards this book. At the end of the day, this story started off with a premise full of promise but it delivered on nothing. Perhaps I’m being unfair. I must mention here that I read a translated version; maybe the original is better! However, since I will probably not be in a position to read the original work, I’m going to have to pass on this series.

Happy reading ~

Pretty Fierce by Kieran Scott

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

I love my badass heroines. So when I read the premise and saw that this novel was about a girl whose parents are assassins, and that she is on the run, I fell in love.

As the daughter of professional assassins, Kaia has faced her share of danger and will do anything to survive. After her parents vanish, Kaia spends a year in hiding, looking for her parents before finally realizing they must be dead. She tries to forget her past and blend in as a normal teenager. And the one person who makes her feel sane and normal is her boyfriend, Oliver. But when a hit man jumps her, and Oliver sees her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is revealed. In a split-second decision, she leaves everything behind and takes Oliver with her. With professional killers out for blood, can Oliver and Kaia protect each other long enough to discover the truth?

I really wanted to like this novel. The beginning of this story was full of excitement and I got a rush from reading about their hasty flight out of town. This story was told from the perspective of both Oliver and Kaia, which I thought was a nice touch; we get to see what the assassins’ daughter feels and the civilian. However, the longer I kept reading, the more incredulous I found the whole thing. There are so many things that happen to them, so many weird connections made, and things just didn’t add up. At various points in the story, I had to put the book down and just try to move past all of the inconsistencies. While there was definitely tons of action, I felt no connection with the characters, and just couldn’t get into this absurd plot. For me, this novel did not live up to expectations.

Happy reading ~

The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

Everyone knows the basic gist of World War II. There are countless heart-wrenching stories about the survivors and the soldiers who fought in this war. However, this story is unique in that it focuses on the Italians who were drawn into this war because of Mussolini. While I knew about Mussolini and his friendship with Hitler, I never knew the full involvement of the Italian people in this war and the tensions that arose in Italy. Knowing that this book dealt with this topic made me really interested in reading it.

While most in Venice know that the war is coming to a close, people know that it is still not safe to voice their opinions and go against the Third Reich. Germany is still strong and many cities in Italy are occupied. One night, a fisherman named Cenzo comes across the body of a young woman in the lagoon near La Serenissima. He puts her on board his ship, only to discover that the body he presumed was dead is very much alive – and in trouble. Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Giulia is being hunted by the SS. For reasons beyound his understanding, Cenzo decides to help her reach safety instead of handing her over to the Nazis. This decision will lead them into a world full of danger, as they make their way through a world of secrets and treachery.

This story is more of a romantic historical thriller than a historical fiction novel. Yes, it shed light on the political tension in Italy and the dangerous circumstances that citizens were in. The author mentioned many different interactions between Cenzo and those around him, that allowed the reader to gain insight into the different viewpoints people had about this war and Mussolini. I found these sections to be entertaining and interesting. I liked Cenzo’s character: he came off as a simple man but turned out to be quite complex. The romance that takes place in the novel was set up quite nicely. In the beginning, the novel made me curious and I couldn’t stop myself from continuing on. In the middle, however, there are parts that got quite boring. At one point, I even forgot the point of the story. I will say, though, the author did a good job of recovering from this by making the ending exciting and funny all at the same time. This isn’t a novel that I could really take seriously, and I think that was the author’s intent. This isn’t a sad story about the destructive effect war can have. Neither is it a novel that is hilarious and ridiculous in its portrayal of war. It lies somewhere in between, ensuring that readers can see the serious side of WWII while also showing a dark humor that somehow makes the story lighter. Overall, I quite enjoyed this book and the way in which the story was told. If you are looking for an interesting historical thriller with romance elements, then give this novel a shot. But if you are looking for something that has a more serious take on Italy’s involvement in WWII, then this may not be the book for you.

Happy reading ~

 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

There are a few books that capture your interest right away just with their cover and title. That was my experience with this novel. Without even having read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read this novel. When I received the ARC of it, I was ecstatic and jumped right in without reading the blurb. So …. here is my review:

After her mother’s suicide, 15-year-old Lane Roanoke is sent to live with her grandparents and cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in Kansas. Lane’s mother never talked about life back home, so Lane doesn’t really know what to expect. But she soon finds herself embracing life as a beautiful and rich Roanoke girl. However, it isn’t long until she discovers a terrible family secret… and so she runs away. For the next 11 years, Lane does her best to forget her past and start fresh in Los Angeles. But one call from her grandfather is all it takes to make her come back home: Allegra has gone missing. Unable to fight off the guilt of having left Allegra behind, Lane returns to look for clues and help in the search for her cousin. While her homecoming means a chance to reconcile with her past friends and an ex-boyfriend, it also means facing the devastating  truth she has been running away from… and this time, she may not be able to escape it.

Right away, I’m going to start with a trigger warning: this novel deals with some graphic sexual content so keep than in mind before reading it. That being said, I really liked this novel. It was disturbing, yes, but it was intelligent and thought-provoking. The author created characters that were well-formed and had believable reactions based on what was happening. Quite often, I find authors creating characters that behave in ways that just don’t make sense with the experiences that the character is going through, but that wasn’t the case in this novel. The story was gripping; I couldn’t put the book down no matter how uncomfortable it got. This is one of those books that you know will stay with you long after you read it. Everything is explained well, and there was never a time when I didn’t sympathize with the Roanoke girls – and that is a difficult thing to achieve. Overall, a really well-written and disturbing novel that gripped me from beginning to end!

I received this novel as an ARC from NetGalley and Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

The hardest books for me to read are those where children die. Children are so vulnerable, so innocent, and when harm befalls them … well, it just hurts me to hear about it. There are times when I’ve chosen not to read a really good book because the topic has been too difficult for me to read. However, I decided to give this novel a shot and I’m so glad I did because it was absolutely fantastic!

It takes one rwiny afternoon to shatter a mother’s life, when her son slips from her grip and runs into the street. In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything, including that terrible car accident and the death of her child. Desperate to escape, she moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

At first, this novel broke my heart. I could feel the pain from losing a child with every word written on the page. I could feel the guilt oozing out of Jenna, and I understood the helplessness of the detectives investigating the hit-and-run. But when I got to the midpoint, this story shocked me. The twist was unexpected and I knew I had to read more. The story became so much darker; it was sinister and scary and I couldn’t stop myself from reading further. The cast of characters were fabulous, each so unique and detailed that I felt I got to know them on a deeper level. Few books have made me feel as if I have glimpsed the soul of each character… but this one did. This was such as fantastic story, and it is a thriller that made me feel every emotion under the sun! Looking for your next big thrill? Don’t miss out on this one!

Happy reading ~ 

Pathological by Jinkang Wang

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

I’ve been suffering from a flare-up of tendonitis in my wrists, which is why I haven’t posted as much recently. While I may be moving at a slower pace than usual, I’m hoping it won’t slow me down too much and I will still be able  to churn out a steady amount of reviews!

This novel intrigued me because of its scientific nature, as well as because of its author’s reputation. A friend of mine spoke very highly of this author, and while she is able to read Chinese fluently and so can read this novel in its native form, I must be content with a translated version. Either way, I was very excited to be approved for this novel!

Mei Yin is a young scientist who runs her own research institute in China. Not only is she known for her scientific prowess, she is also known for her kindness; she has founded an orphanage that helps hundreds of children. But Mei Yin is not all that she seems to be: in her possession is “Satan’s gift”, a deadly smallpox virus left over from Russian research conducted during the Cold War. Mei Yin is determined to find a vaccine for this virus – no matter the cost.

Zia Baj is a terrorist who is also a notable virologist – and he has also obtained Satan’s gift. However, his plans for this virus are a lot more sinister; he plans to start a war that will rip the world apart. And he knows exactly the right place to unleash this virus: an American classroom. At the same time, thousands of miles away, the children in Mei Yin’s orphanage fall ill.

As the authorities begin to notice the eerie similarity in outbreak patterns in these two locations, they can’t help but wonder how these two cases are linked…. and whether this outbreak can even be stopped.

Usually when I read a novel that is translated, I try not to comment too much on the prose or the awkwardness of the language; I can’t really judge these two aspects accurately as I am not reading this novel in the language that the author intended, and I am not here to judge a translator at how well they do their job. With that being said, I found the story to be very interesting. This novel is heavily steeped in science and if you are not familiar with virology or even certain basic concepts of evolution and their consequences, then this novel may not be as enjoyable for you. I enjoyed that the author was able to make me think of evolution and vaccination in a different way; I’m not saying I agree with the conclusions that the author makes but it definitely gave me food for thought! I also found that the story had a good amount of detail and good character development, as well. The terrorist angle was a little bit weird for me because it is mentioned in the beginning of the novel an then stays silent for a major part of the story, only rearing its head at the end. While the author did tie up all loose ends, I’m not so sure if the terrorist angle was really necessary. It was also the part that I believed had the least amount of shaping and growth, when it could have been a lot deeper and more developed. Overall, a very interesting novel that will make you rethink what you know about evolution and viruses.

Happy reading ~

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

December is my favorite month when it comes to reading. Because I know that the new year (and new books!) will be upon me shortly, I become frantic and try to get through my ever-growing pile of books to read and review. December gives me the motivation I need to sit and read book after book, and write review after review, until I’m left with a much more manageable book list that I can continue to work on in the new year. I desperately wanted to finish this book before January, and I was able to get through it in a mere 3 hours!

Zoe is a child genius, a musical prodigy – the perfect daughter. But a party gone wrong led to the death of three teenagers – and Zoe was the one to take the blame. She faced the courts, served her time. And now she’s free. Her mother remarried and now Zoe has a stepfather and stepbrother in her life, along with a half-sister. As Zoe Maisey, life should go back to normal again. But on the night when Zoe decides to give a piano performance, there is a disruption that threatens to bring her past back to the forefront. By midnight, Zoe’s mother is dead. Who killed Zoe’s mother and why? And what will happen now to this “perfect” family?

One of the things I liked about this novel was how it was split into two parts and went back and forth between different character perspectives as well as between different points in time. This ensured that the reader was attentive; I like to be kept on my toes because it makes me work that much harder to make connections – and sometimes, a challenge is a good thing!

While I enjoyed reading from the perspective of different characters and found the events leading up to the murder interesting, I didn’t really find Zoe to be a well-developed character. For one thing, the whole genius aspect had no purpose so it didn’t really even need to be included in the story. I thought that it was mentioned because it would lead to something somewhere but it didn’t, so that was a bit of a disappointment. Her character just made me sad but I couldn’t connect with her or feel anything other than marginal pity. I feel like she could have been a lot more complex, especially in showing her emotions regarding her mother’s death.

I also found the character of the solicitor to be quite unnecessary. I thought that the author had included him and his perspective for a purpose but he pretty much did nothing throughout the whole novel and had his own mini sidestory going on that I didn’t really care about. I pretty much hate when authors include things that have no bearing or purpose so the solicitor was definitely a disappointing character for me.

While the premise was interesting, and the whodunit aspect had me hyped, finding out what happened and the way that it resolved itself was a bit lacking in the wow factor, so I didn’t get that thrill that I was hoping for.

Overall, this is a well-written novel that incorporated many different perspectives and timelines. However, it was lackluster in terms of creating complex characters, and did not deliver on the thrill factor as strongly as I had hoped. Still a decent read, and worth giving a shot!

Happy reading ~