Thursday, 27 July 2017

Hum If You Don't Know The Words

Author: Bianca Marais
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Setting: South Africa
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 420
Source: Publisher
Publisher: G.P Putnam Books
First Published: July 11, 2017
First Line: "I joined up the last two lines of the hopscotch grid and wrote a big "10" in the top square."

Book Description from GoodReadsPerfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970's Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum if You Don’t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.
 


Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to G.P Putnam for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Hum If You Don't Know The Words is a wonderful book that gave me all the feels. It made me cry, laugh, angry, shocked and even hopeful. But what surprised me was that this is Bianca Marais' debut novel. Marais uses imagery and beautiful, even poetic, language to describe South Africa's multicultural and linguistic diversity as well as the complicated and blatantly bigoted dynamics between South Africans in the 1970's. 

I have always been an avid reader of books dealing with racism and civil rights and after reading (and loving) Trevor Noah's book Born a Crime a couple of months ago I have become more interested in books related to Apartheid. With this book, Marais sheds light on the flagrant racism and abuse of power of Apartheid and also addresses other issues including homophobia, loss, grief, abandonment, bravery and the deep need we have for family connections.


Marais humanizes Apartheid by showing how the Soweto Uprising on June 16, 1976 affected her two main characters. The story is narrated by two very different points of view - Beauty, a highly educated Black Xhosa single mother and teacher from the Transkei region and Robin, a 10-year-old white girl from the Johannesburg suburbs. These two are brought together after the Uprising and show two contrasting views of the effects of Apartheid and the prevalent, often flippant attitude of racism as the status quo.


Both Robin and Beauty are given equal page time and are well-rounded characters but I had a much stronger connection to Beauty.  She had such strength, tenacity, grace and conviction even after enduring unimaginable losses and hardship. Robin is precocious and deals with the loss of her family in her unique way. She was often used to bring some humour to the story. While these lighter moments offset the more serious scenes, at times, it got to be a bit much.

I will caution readers that there were a few scenes, especially towards the end involving Robin, that will require readers to suspend belief. This is fiction, I get that, but I think that the story went a little too far past what I'd feel was plausible. That is the only part of the book that faltered for me. Otherwise, this is an outstanding read that will keep readers transfixed. 


Hum If You Don't Know The Words will hit readers in the heart, head and hopefully conscience about how we need to treat and respect others. A little compassion, respect and empathy can go a long, long way. This is a poignant and important story that shows the damaging and long-lasting effects of inequality and bigotry with heart, some humour and wonderfully vivid language.


Recommended.  

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Woman Who Left

Author: Josephine Cox
Genre: Light Historical Fiction/Women's Fiction
Type: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 423
Source: Personal Copy
Publisher: Headline Book Publishing
First Published: 2001
First Line: "The old man's voice carried on the summer breeze."

Book Description from GoodReadsLouise and Ben Hunter's loving marriage is marred only by their unfulfilled longing for a child. Living and working with Ben's father, Ronnie, they are quietly contented. But when Ronnie dies, their whole world changes. Ben's lazy brother, Jacob, returns, convinced he stands to inherit Ronnie's small fortune. And he means to have his brother's wife; though just as she did years before, Louise warns him off. Jacob, however, is not so easily dismissed. When he realizes Ben will inherit everything, Jacob is beside himself with rage, and commits a terrible deed, one that threatens to destroy everything his brother and Louise hold dear.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: When I was in my 20's I enjoyed lighter reads and Josephine Cox was one of my go-to light fiction authors. You know the kind of read - nothing too heavy, with fairly predictable characters and a plot that I could easily jump in and out of between my interpreting gigs.  

I've had this book on my shelves for many years and finally got around to reading it in my feeble attempt to 'read what I own'. While I admit that the Light Historical Fiction genre is no longer my 'cuppa tea', The Woman Who Left still falls considerably short for me in terms of plot and character development. There's light fiction and then there's weak fiction and this book, unfortunately, falls into the latter category.

While I appreciated how tertiary characters introduced certain scenes and gave the 
book a small town feel, the characters were cliched, one-dimensional and behaved exactly as you'd expect. When you add in the plot that didn't have a lot of meat to it and the overabundance of banal dialogue sprinkled throughout, it's not surprising that I wasn't a fan of this book.

Preferences change over time and I can't say that I continue to be a big reader of the Light Historical Fiction genre. That said, this book was weak in too many ways making my lack of enthusiasm for the book more than just a genre issue.  

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Words in Deep Blue

Author: Cath Crowley
Genre: Teen, Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 273
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf Books for Young Readers
First Published: August 30, 2016
First Line: "Every love story is a ghost story."

Book Description from GoodReadsLove lives between the lines.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came. 

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.

Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.


Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Knopf Publishing for providing me with a hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: I picked up this book based on its bookishly blissful locale - a secondhand bookshop and its Letter Library - a spot where the books are not for purchase but instead act as a drop off point for people to leave personal letters to each other. The back and forth between the recipients was a unique way to tell the story and ... it's a bookshop, people! 'Nuff said.

The book has a good premise and a varied cast. Rachel and Henry had some delightfully witty banter but I didn't quite feel their romantic bond. As main characters go, they were a little underwhelming. Henry was nervous and desperately needy and he's hung up on his on-again/off-again girlfriend Amy (the poster child for narcissism and whose redeeming qualities only Henry can see through his rose coloured glasses). Rachel's profound loss over her brother is sad and I felt for her but I didn't connect with her either. All is not lost though, I quite enjoyed secondary characters George and Martin who were quite endearing, a breath of fresh air and my favourite characters of the bunch.

Overall, the pacing was on the slower side but I was kept engaged. The plot has some teen angst and family issues that propelled it along but I wasn't a fan of misunderstandings between the characters. You know, the kind that can be resolved with a simple one minute conversation? I sort of understood why Rachel kept the death of her brother a secret. But when there are misunderstandings that could have been easily fixed but the author chooses to draw it out for too long, it bothers me and reminds me of an episode of Three's Company (I'm dating myself).

This book had a great setting and premise but it's lighter on the emotion and depth than I was expecting. The unique use of the Letter Library and the author's obvious love of books are what will stand out the most for me. This is a lighter read with some twists, a focus on unrequited love and the sometimes all-consuming feelings of loss. If you're a bibliophile and in the mood for a lighter, sometimes funny, slightly angsty teen read you may want to pick this book up.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Walking With Miss Millie

Author: Tamara Bundy
Genre: Middle School Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 227
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)
First Published: July 4, 2017
First Line: "The day we pulled into Rainbow, Mama was pulling out all her tricks to distract us, trying to pretend we hadn't just left every one of our friends ten hours behind."

Book Description from GoodReadsA poignant middle grade debut about the friendship between a white girl and an elderly black woman in the 1960s South.

Alice is angry at having to move to Rainbow, Georgia—a too small, too hot, dried-up place she’s sure will never feel like home. Then she gets put in charge of walking her elderly neighbor’s dog. But Clarence won’t budge without Miss Millie, so Alice and Miss Millie walk him together. Strolling with Miss Millie quickly becomes the highlight of Alice’s day, as she learns about the town’s past and meets a mix of its catty and kind residents. As the two become confidantes, Alice is finally able to express her heartache over her father’s desertion; and when Miss Millie tells her family story, Alice begins to understand the shameful history of Segregation, and recognize the racism they need to fight against. Navigating the neighborhood with Miss Millie gives Alice new perspective, the wisdom to move on from her anger, and even enables her to laugh again.

Tamara Bundy’s beautifully written story reminds readers that there is nothing like friendship to lighten one’s load, and make anyplace a home.


My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Walking With Miss Millie is a Middle School novel about Alice, a ten-year-old girl who finds herself in a new town with her mom and brother as they uproot their lives and move south to help Alice's ailing grandmother in 1968 small town Georgia. Alice is angry and didn't want to make the move. She misses her absentee father and eagerly awaits the day that he'll finally show up and take them home. Alice finds herself initially forced to take daily walks with her elderly neighbour (and her curmudgeonly dog) but what she didn't expect was the touching and much needed bond that resulted.

At the heart of this book is the poignant relationship between Miss Millie, a 92-year-old African American woman and Alice. They are a unique pair and their bond highlights the importance of friendship, multi-generational influences on our kids and the notion that people are far more alike than they are different.  

Bundy gets into the mindset and vernacular of a ten-year-old girl as she raises several big issues -- abandonment by a parent, forgiveness, loss, friendship, bullying, the effects of Alzheimer's etc. I liked the inclusion of a Deaf secondary character (based on the author's own brother) and how Bundy shows how Deaf people were/are treated and misunderstood by the hearing world. While there are many issues raised, the focus is on racism. Readers will witness how some townspeople treat Millie and understand more about her as she shares stories from her earlier life. These are touching scenes that approach Civil Rights and racism at a Middle School level.

My only criticism is that there may have been too many issues within one wee book. The issues are handled well but the 227 pages weren't enough time to go into much depth in terms of issues or characters. There's a lot going on in this book but parents/teachers can look at it as a starting point for discussions on the various topics raised.

This is a book about the friendship between an unexpected pair who enter each other's lives at the right moment. Alice provides Millie with friendship and Millie is a calming force in Alice's turbulent life. She helps Alice navigate the adversity in her life, shows the importance of kindness and shares some wonderfully quotable tidbits of wisdom to her young neighbour.  


"But maybe the most important thing is for people to just be kind."

Walking With Miss Millie is a touching coming of age story about a friendship that defies age and race and would be a good read for children Grades 4 and up.

Favourite Quotes:
"Poor Grandma. On her bad days, she couldn't remember things. But on her good days, she couldn't forget not remembering." ~ Alice

"I learned it's okay to get mad. It's okay to get sad, but after all that gettin' mad and sad, ya gotta get smart. Ya gotta take a step back, away from all your hurtin', and figure out what ya can change and what ya can't." ~ Miss Millie


Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo


Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 390
Source: Personal copy
Publisher: Atria
First Line: "Evelyn Hugo to auction off gowns."

Book Description from GoodReadsFrom Taylor Jenkins Reid, “a genius when it comes to stories about life and love” (Redbook), comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950's to her decision to leave show business in the late '80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for “creating complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.


My Rating: 5 stars

My Review: This is an utterly engaging look at a Hollywood icon - her trials, tribulations, successes and multiple marriages - as she struggles to make her way in life, love and career within the confines of Hollywood and those she creates for herself.

Evelyn is a complex character. She's stunningly beautiful, head strong and confident in some aspects of her life. As a young woman, she doesn't always make the right choices but she's a compelling character that readers will gravitate towards. Readers will become engrossed in Evelyn's life as she struggles to find love, accept love and find her true self - unabashedly and totally. Personally, I loved the older Evelyn who had paid her dues, made her mistakes and came out of it all with a quiet confidence, strength and self-awareness.

Evelyn isn't a character that I'd normally enjoy ... and yet, I liked her. I really liked her. She's exceptionally flawed but she's aware of many of her flaws - she accepts some, regrets a few and is unashamed of many. She has used her body and played the Hollywood game to further her career in an industry that didn't value strong, independent women. She made horrible choices, betrayed loved ones and even ignored parts of her own identity to further her career. But underlying it all there was always a glimmer of a woman I could get behind as a main character and I wanted to see her succeed, despite herself. 

The story is told with two different time lines with Reid dropping juicy tidbits to keep her readers attention. The first time line follows Evelyn as a young starlet in Hollywood and the other, decades later, focuses on an elderly Evelyn as she tells her life story to Monique, a young, unknown journalist. There are some twists thrown in and the mystery of why Monique was chosen to write the memoir added mystery to the book. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a mesmerizing read that gives readers a bird's eye view into Hollywood and touches on some bigger issues, including sexism, sexuality, owning up to one's choices and even has its touching and romantic scenes too. 

Your emotions will get a work out with this book. You'll laugh, feel exasperated, cry, get all mushy with true love and even enraged! And through it all you'll find yourself cheering on this unique, sassy and flawed character who persevered, lied, loved and betrayed to achieve success at the box office and in her personal life as she struggled to know herself. This is some wonderful storytelling that would make a fantastic summer read if you want to delve into old Hollywood with a truly unique and flawed character that you can't help but root for.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Sparks of Light


Author: Janet B Taylor
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Teen
Series: #2 in the Into the Dim series
Type: e-book (PDF)
Source: NetGalley
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers
First Published: August 1, 2017
First Line: "Decapitation."

Book Description from GoodReadsFor the first time in her life, Hope Walton has friends . . . and a (maybe) boyfriend. She’s a Viator, a member of a long line of time-traveling ancestors. When the Viators learn of a plan to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla, only a race into the past can save the natural timeline from utter destruction. Navigating the glitterati of The Gilded Age in 1895 New York City, Hope and her crew will discover that high society can be as deadly as it is beautiful.

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: I have read Into the Dim twice (so far) and loved it both times. In this second book of the series, Taylor brings her readers back to the amazing world she created which includes time travel, historical settings and a diverse cast of characters.  

Sparks of Light picks up two months after Into the Dim and I liked that things weren't all rosy for Hope and her friends after returning to present-day Scotland. They had lived through hell and the repercussions were believable and, for some, long lasting. 

With the threat of Celia still lurking, the group is sent to late 18th century New York City to destroy a device invented by none other than Nikola Tesla. While I was slightly less captivated by this setting (compared to 12th century England in Into the Dim), this book is a solid follow-up that gives readers quite a ride. Taylor continues to weave historical elements and people into her plot seamlessly and while the book starts off slow she ramps up the pace with some edge-of-your-seat scenes. The plot has a much darker feel, is sprinkled with twists and focuses on big issues that influenced late 19th century New York - specifically racism, homophobia and the often horrific and gruesome treatment of people with mental health issues. 

I'm always on the lookout for strong, interesting, well-rounded female characters and Taylor provides a group of women with a wide range of appeal - from the sassy, to the learned, to the loving, to the take charge kind of gal, Taylor shows that female strength comes in many shapes, sizes and personalities. The secondary characters continue to shine and add much to the plot and overall feel. I love Phee, Collum, Doug, Moira and Mac but, truthfully, Bran and Hope seemed to lose some of their luster in this book. Readers get more information about their shared past but the jumping back and forth between present and past interrupted the flow of the main plot and didn't add much insight.

There continues to be an element of romance but I liked that it doesn't overpower the plot. Is it odd that I'm not a fan of the Hope/Bran pairing? Perhaps. But, for a couple in love they haven't spent a lot of time together and it seemed that more page time was spent with Hope's friends telling her how much Bran loved her instead of showing the readers their bond. Truth be told, I still want to see Hope with another Viator.

Readers are left with a slightly abrupt ending as well as a few unanswered questions that will make them eager to read the third book in the series. I strongly recommend reading these books in order. Overall, a great follow-up to a series that I regularly recommend to my library patrons, friends and family.

Note: This book has one of the most intriguing and funny beginnings that I can remember reading. You got me, Janet B Taylor.  You totally got me!

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Two Nights

Author: Kathy Reichs
Genre: Suspense
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 320
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
First Published: July 11, 2017
First Line: "My right-hand neighbor thinks I'm crazy, so she brings me cheese."

Book Description from GoodReads#1 New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs steps beyond her classic Temperance Brennan series in a new standalone thriller featuring a smart, tough, talented heroine whose thirst for justice stems from her own dark past. 
Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct. 

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing.
But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie s help.
Is the girl dead?Did someone take her?If she is out there, why doesn't she want to be found?
It s time for Sunnie to face her own demons because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago. 

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Kathy Reichs is known for her popular Temperance Brennan series but in this new standalone Reichs focuses on a new protagonist -- an ex-military, ex-cop named Sunday Night. Sunnie is a strong and defiant woman with a tortured soul, numerous physical and emotional scars and is shadowed by a past that continues to haunt her. She's a tough gal with a lot of baggage that she attempts to keep in check with the support of her twin brother and her dry sense of humour. Sunnie's one-liners had me cracking up and was easily my favourite part of the book.

Two Nights fell somewhere between a 2.5 and a 3-star rating for me, which was disheartening. The book starts off about a missing teen but that plot is quickly sidelined by a story that focuses on a terrorist plot. I found the terrorist tangent much less compelling and never felt fully invested in it. A secondary story line is scattered throughout the book and focuses on the point of view of an unidentified woman. All the reader knows is that she's living a nightmare at the hands of a sadist. 

The main plot is told through Sunnie's perspective but it felt like Reichs kept readers at arm's length when it came to getting inside Sunnie's head. I had a hard time sympathizing with her because, as a reader, I wasn't privy to her past until very late in the book. As the story continued, my attention began to falter due to very dialogue-based writing, over-descriptions of settings and clues that were scattered too far apart. 

This was my first book by Reichs and I quite enjoyed her humour and the final twist. But, while I give kudos to the author for stepping out of her comfort zone with this new protagonist, this book fell a little flat for me. Sunnie continues to be an intriguing character and I assume Reichs has a lot planned for her in future books which will hopefully show more depth to Sunnie's character now that readers know where she's coming from.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Mrs Saint and the Defectives


Author: Julie Lawson Timmer
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: e-book
Source: Publicist via NetGalley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
First Published: August 1, 2017
First Line: "It was only when Markie saw her husband's hands clasped around another woman's breasts that she finally acknowledged their problems weren't ones she could hide any longer."

Book Description from GoodReadsMarkie, a fortysomething divorcée who has suffered a humiliating and very public fall from marital, financial, and professional grace, moves, along with her teenage son, Jesse, to a new town, hoping to lick her wounds in private. But Markie and Jesse are unable to escape the attention of their new neighbor Mrs. Saint, an irascible, elderly New European woman who takes it upon herself, along with her ragtag group of “defectives,” to identify and fix the flaws in those around her, whether they want her to or not.

What Markie doesn’t realize is that Mrs. Saint has big plans for the divorcée’s broken spirit. Soon, the quirky yet endearing woman recruits Markie to join her eccentric community, a world where both hidden truths and hope unite them. But when Mrs. Saint’s own secrets threaten to unravel their fragile web of healing, it’s up to Markie to mend these wounds and usher in a new era for the “defectives”—one full of second chances and happiness.
 


Rating: 5 stars

My Review: Readers will be drawn to this book initially by its eye-catching cover but what will keep them reading is Lawson Timmer's heart-felt vision of family, second chances and redemption.

After a failed marriage and the public humiliation that accompanied it, Markie moves herself and her teenage son to a new town to start over. Her goal? To blend into the background, keep her head down and make some money.  

But she didn't anticipate Mrs. Saint.

Mrs. Saint is a force to be reckoned with. She's an elderly whirling dervish of good intentions but how she puts those intentions into practice aren't for the faint of heart. Resistance is futile. Sure, she can be abrasive, she's a know-it-all and pushy but she's the grand dame of the neighbourhood who has her hand in everyone's lives for various reasons. She is drawn to help (whether they want it or not) the lost, the lonely and those who need someone in their corner.

I went into this book knowing I'd get a story that centered around family because that's what Lawson Timmer writes best. Not necessarily the traditional family unit because family isn't always born. Sometimes family emerges from the people we choose as family - friends, neighbours etc. The cast is made up of a melange of lost souls that Mrs. Saint has pulled into her small universe for different reasons. They are a diverse bunch and their interactions are sometimes quirky and humorous as well as poignant and touching.

Markie was slow to warm to Mrs. Saint (and outright hated her at times) and I was slow to warm to Markie. Some of her reactions felt over-the-top but even when I didn't agree with her behaviour there was always an inkling of her that I liked. The more she came to understand herself the more I could get behind her as a protagonist.

This book hits many of the 'great read' check marks. It's got an interesting premise, two important themes (family and the strength one gains from helping others) and is filled with heart, a bit of humour and even an intriguing mystery. What more could you ask for?

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Lake Union Publishing for providing me with an e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

UNSUB

Author: Meg Gardiner
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Type: e-book
Series: #1 in the Unsub series
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Dutton
First Published: June 27, 2017
First Line: "The yelling woke her, the rough voice of her father, shouting into the phone."

Book Description from GoodReadsA riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?


My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: UNSUB is an eerie, gritty Criminal Minds-type book about a serial killer that puts the tension and twists front and centre. The characters are a mixed bunch and while I can't say they stood out for me, I appreciated that the focus was more on the criminal profiling, multiple twists and nail-biting scenes. Some of the killer's methods of displaying his kills were imaginative to say the least and some verged on almost too gory for little old me. Almost.

The plot was fairly complex and was sprinkled with pockets of tension. The twists and red herrings had me guessing and second guessing my theories about the identity of the elusive Prophet. I was certain that one of my suspicions would be right and held on to that idea until near the end (I'm nothing if not stubborn) but I will have to admit defeat on this one. And while some of Caitlyn's epiphanies stretched the realm of plausibility it was still an enjoyable and very engaging read.

The only issue I had was that once they figured out the killer's cryptic code things got a little murky. There were a lot of victims and I found it a hard remembering each of them and how they fit into the killer's grand scheme. This scheme was complex, dark and is based on something that some people may be well versed in but I'm not one of them. I struggled a bit remembering the various levels in his nefarious plot. 

The book ends with an intense scene while also giving readers a hint about the future of this fledgling series. I can see why this book has been optioned for a TV program. It's got all the makings for a solid criminal profiling-type show.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Dutton and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Snape: A Definitive Reading

Author: Lorrie Kim
Genre: Fantasy
Type: e-book
Source: Personal copy
Publisher: Story Spring Publishing
First Published: July 4, 2016
First Line: "The Harry Potter series may be named after The Boy Who Lived, but if you want to know the story, keep your eyes fixed on Snape."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe Harry Potter series may be named after the Boy Who Lived, but if you want to know the story, keep your eyes fixed on Snape. This hook-nosed, greasy-haired, grumpy character is one of J.K. Rowling’s enduring gifts to English literature. He’s the archetypal ill-tempered teacher: acerbic, yet horribly, deliciously funny. Every time he opens his mouth, he delivers. When he’s in a scene, you can’t take your eyes off him. Snape is always the story.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: This book is a thorough dissection of the Harry Potter books with a focus on Severus Snape, one of the all-time best, most complicated and polarizing characters of modern literature.

Each chapter focuses on one of the seven books in the series. They begin with a detailed account of the book's plot and includes long quotes of the original text. As someone who has read the series four times, I felt that the rehash of each book went into too much depth and I ended up skimming much of it. As a Potterhead I knew all this! And, while some may say the plot summary is for HP newbie fans, I honestly think that this book will only be bought by the die-hard fans of Harry Potter.

While there were some good points made, many of the insights would be fairly obvious to a Potter fan. But the points that were based on pure speculation by the author, that weren't supported in Rowling's text, made me cringe a bit. She made too big of a leap in quite a few of her points. I had assumed I'd devour this book but admit to picking away at it for weeks.

Don't get me wrong, Kim makes some great points and I appreciate the amount of research that went into this book. And while I didn't agree with all of the author's points it is always nice to slip into the Potterverse again. 

Snape is a complex character who forced me to run the gamut of emotions during the seven HP books. He's complicated, heartbreaking, mysterious, devoted, hateful and obsessive. I liked how the author shows the conflicted nature of Snape and how his past formed who he became. Reading this book has reminded me that it's time to pull out my Potter set and re-read it this summer.

Related Posts with Thumbnails