Friday, 28 April 2017

Promises to Keep

Author: Genevieve Graham
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction (Canadian)
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 336 pages
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
First Published: April 4, 2017
First Line: "The hummingbirds would return soon, tiny warriors marking the true beginning of summer in their frantic, efficient manner, and I smiled every time I saw them."

Book Description from GoodReadsSummer 1755, Acadia

Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: I'm a pretty big Historical Fiction buff and a proud Canadian so this book, which is set in 18th century Acadia, sounded like a perfect fit for me.

The strength of the book is in the vivid detail describing the beautiful, bucolic Grand Pré farmland and coastline where the Acadian people had lived in harmony with the French and Mi'kmaq people for generations. When this idyllic setting and its people are threatened by a sudden British invasion, the Acadian people find themselves thrown off their land and suffer hardships, hunger and abuse at the hands of their captors. This historical setting is the backdrop for a light romance between a young Acadian woman and a British soldier.

When the British invade, readers witness some of the hardships and treatment imposed on the Acadians but there lacked a sense of brutality and fierceness to those scenes. This lighter, less graphic aspect may attract some readers but I was expecting something a little grittier.

The characters are a diverse bunch and I would have loved to have more page time devoted to the Mi'kmaq but the focus stays mainly on Amélie and Connor. Their romance was sweet but they didn't have enough depth to their characters and I felt readers aren't given enough reasons for their connection and draw to each other. I just didn't feel the love, I guess.

While I enjoyed the setting, premise and Canadian historical perspective, the execution of the story, its characters and dialogue were a little weaker than I had anticipated. Readers who enjoy a lighter Historical Fiction read that shows the resiliency of the human spirit and a strong nod to romantic elements should enjoy this book.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Perfect Stranger

Author: Megan Miranda
Genre: Suspense
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 336
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
First Published: April 11, 2017
First Line: "The at under the front porch was at it again."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls, a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Unlike many other readers I have never read Megan Miranda's popular book All The Missing Girls but based on the buzz surrounding that book, I jumped at the chance to review her latest literary offering.

This story is set around Leah, a tainted journalist who moves to a small town with her old friend Emmy who has suddenly reappeared in her life. When Emmy goes missing and there's a brutal attack against a woman who looks suspiciously similar to Leah, Leah starts to investigate. 

This book has very bleak, dreary tone throughout which I wasn't crazy about.  Miranda uses the ever-popular unreliable main character which worked well. The Perfect Stranger has a lot of characters and subplots - almost too many.  There's a lot going on here but these subplots didn't always work well together.  

As far as characters go, I can't say I was a fan of Leah. She was frustrating and while I liked that I didn't know where I stood with her she also came off as overly naive for an experienced journalist. Who doesn't know details about a person they've lived with, especially when they feel such a strong connection to them?  As a journalist wouldn't that bother her that she was missing those pieces of information?  It just didn't ring true for me.

I struggled to rate this book because some aspects were done well and others were weak. The suspenseful build-up was strong but it also felt unnecessarily convoluted much of the time. The plot had great potential but the energy fizzled out at the end leaving readers without a major twist. Instead we're given a meek conclusion that didn't give readers enough explanation or confrontation that we were hoping to witness.

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

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

An Echo in the Bone

Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 820
Series: #7 in the Outlander series
Source: Personal copy
Publisher: Delacourte Press
First Published: September 22, 2009
First Line: "The body is amazingly plastic."

Book Description from GoodReadsJamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he'd rather die than have to face his illegitimate son--a young lieutenant in the British Army--across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won't include Jamie's life or his happiness, though--not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire's daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna's parents' story comes to life through Claire's letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire's love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles--as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire's fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.

With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure--a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.

My Rating: 2 stars

My ReviewThe Outlander series and I have had a love/frustration kind of relationship.  I adore the main characters, Claire and Jamie, and their unique love story.  It also doesn't hurt that the uber popular TV series (which is impeccably cast) has reminded me why I love this series so much.  

But ... 

Gabaldon's incessant need to describe every last little detail, add superfluous characters and multiple minor story lines is really putting a strain on our relationship. I'm not saying Outlander and I are going to break up but I think we should take a break for a bit.

An Echo in the Bone, the seventh book in the series, had its good moments but they were far and few between. Considering the slow progression in the bigger story arcs, the story could have been edited down considerably. My main issue is that Claire and Jamie aren't the focus anymore. Gabaldon puts more focus on William and Lord John who are as dull as dishwater compared to Claire and Jamie. And, unless you've read the spin-off Lord John series, you may feel like you're missing some facts (like I did). Roger and Brianna's story was a little more interesting and at least felt like it was progressing the plot.

In this book, there's a mishmash of characters (many of whom were secondary or tertiary) who were hard to keep track of.  There were also various settings, many different POVs and the non-linear telling didn't help keep things clear. But I kept at it because a bookish friend of mine said the next book in the series, Written in my Heart's Own Blood, is simply ahh-mazing. So, now she's done it. I had to finish it to find out what happens in the next book. So, with my friend's comments in mind, I begrudgingly kept at it ... for almost a month (for someone who reads 2-3 books/week that's a loooong time to read one book). Once I read the next book I'll see if it was all worth it.

My fear is that Outlander has lost its spark for me. It has become a rambling story with many non-essential characters and plot lines that didn't pull me in. I hate having to give this book such a low rating but it is the slowest in the series (and I've lived through reading The Fiery Cross!). The following terms accurately describe this book for me: excessively descriptive, tired and rambling.  Here's hoping the next book brings back that Outlander magic for me.

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Goldfish Boy

Author: Lisa Thompson
Genre: Children (Middle School), Mystery
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 313
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Scholastic Press
First Published: February 28, 2017
First Line: "Mr. Charles had sunburn right on the top of his head."

Book Description from GoodReadsMatthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac. 

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My ReviewLike a goldfish in a bowl 12-year-old Matthew Corbin sits in the second story windows of his house and witnesses life going on around him. He is unable to wander far or often from his home-bound world due to the paralyzing effects of his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

At the heart of the book is a mystery involving a missing toddler, with Matthew being the last person to see the child. Matthew lives on a small cul-de-sac which is also home to a group of interesting and diverse characters. Readers become privy to many of the characters' stories and secrets as the mystery of the missing toddler unfolds and everyone begins to look like a suspect.

Thompson has written engaging and well-rounded characters and Matthew is an easy kid to like. He's a regular kid with extraordinary burdens to bare. Thompson provides her readers with enough of a description of OCD for them to understand without inundating them with too many facts. She describes Matthew's daily struggles to live within the confines of his OCD, his triggers and how these compulsions influence his life and the lives of his loved ones. His struggle to balance his compulsions with the need to find the missing toddler was handled well and felt believable. He has a couple of quirky sidekicks, who are also in the outer fringes of the tween social spectrum, but it was heartening to see how these three 'misfits' gain confidence and support from one another.

While this book is a mystery, it also has a lot of heart as it deals with several issues. Readers will feel for Matthew as people misinterpret his OCD behaviours as well as his parents who struggle to understand and deal with their child's perplexing behaviours. Other issues, such as bullying, social effects of food allergies and loss, are handled with sympathy, knowledge and heart.

I simply loved this book. Whether you're looking for a mystery, a peek into a young life with OCD or a group of characters that will stay with you, this book has something for everyone. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Mediterranean Zoodles with Portobello Mushrooms

I'm trying to eat better.  Emphasis on the word 'trying'. 

I love food. I love carbs. I love fatty and deep-fried foods. I reeeally love carbs (did I mention that?).  I adore crunchy kettle chips, burgers topped with blue cheese and bacon, Poutine and all the foods that should be enjoyed 'in moderation'. *sigh* 'Moderation.'  I hate that word because I don't enjoy watching what I eat.

As a child, teen and woman in her twenties and even thirties I enjoyed an exceptionally high metabolism.  I could eat whatever I wanted until the cows came home, eat the cows and still not gain an ounce.

But, as a woman in her 40's, my high metabolism has up and left me. It's GONE! Poof! Now when I eat something 'bad for me' that may not be deemed healthy, I notice it when I step on the scale. This is not cool.  High metabolism, why hast thou forsaken me?

In order to still enjoy eating and not gain weight, expand my thighs or Grinch Belly (fellow Moms, you know what belly I'm talking about) I need to choose better options. This is where my new Spiralizer comes in and how I met my new BFF 'zoodles'. I'm not talking about those tiny animal shaped pasta in tomato sauce.  I mean the noodles made out of zucchini which have become all the rage.

Now, before veggie haters start 'poo pooing' the mighty zucc noodles I have to say that I quite enjoy them. They're easy to whip up and you can top them with whatever you want. Personally, I love topping zoodles with some of my favourite Greek flavours: Kalamata olives, garlic, Feta cheese, red wine vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes.  

Total gastronirvana.

This is an easy recipe you can whip up for a quick lunch or supper.  It's simple to double or even triple and can be made vegan if you omit the Feta or use a vegan option for the cheese.  It's a tasty carb-free meal option that is filling yet very satisfying.  Is it a big serving of Buffalo Chicken Poutine?  No.  No, it is not.  But it is a good alternative so that I can occasionally enjoy some of those naughtier treats once in awhile.  All in *sigh* moderation.

Yield: 1 large serving or 2 side dishes

1 tsp grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice)
3 cloves, minced --- divided
1 medium-sized portobello mushroom, sliced
2 small zucchini
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliced
2 tbsp Kalamata olives, sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Spiralize your zucchini into noodles.

(Note: I'm using the World Cuisine Tri-Blade Spiral Vegetable Slicer)

I tend to break up the very long noodles into more reasonable pieces (6" long). You can also cook up that odd zucchini tail (see above) that's left over from spiralizing.

In a medium-sized skillet, heat oil to medium heat.  Add 2 garlic cloves and mushroom slices; cook for 2 minutes, turning half way through, until slightly browned.  Add zoodles and remaining garlic clove. Toss to coat zoodles and mushrooms.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Add sun-dried tomato slices, Kalamata olive slices, dried oregano, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to the skillet. Toss well. 

When zoodles are al dente (don't let them get mushy!), remove from heat and serve immediately topped with feta cheese.

Source: The Baking Bookworm

Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated by World Cuisine for mentioning their product in my post.  My comments are based on my own experience with their product.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

I Found You

Author: Lisa Jewell
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Atria Books
First Published: April 25, 2017
First Line: "Alice Lake lives in a house by the sea."

Book Description from GoodReadsA young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

My Review: I Found You is a psychological thriller that often had me on the edge of my seat. In her latest book, Jewell weaves together an intricate story with multiple points of view which captivated me and had me questioning the identity of some of the players. 

And yet I'm finding this book hard to review. There are some great tension building scenes, a diverse cast of characters, a few time frames and a lot going on. But it worked ... until it didn't. Noooo! After the wonderful, thrilling set up I was waiting for a gripping, twisty "I didn't see that coming!!" reveal but was left with an ending which felt too neat and tidy.

There are a variety of characters in the book and unhealthy, sometimes creepy and desperate, relationships abound. I know what Jewell is capable of with her characters (read her book The House We Grew Up In for stellar characterizations) but this time around they fell a flat for me. I wanted more depth to them and the fact that readers must suspend belief to believe that so many of the characters would refuse to involve the police (or medical help) when it's blatantly clear that many of the issues could be handled better by the authorities seemed an odd (and unbelievable) choice.

Alice, the single mom main character, came off as desperate, naive and not very likable. I couldn't get behind the idea of Alice bringing home a man she found on the beach like he was one of her dogs. Who does that with a house full of kids, especially after her past (which is eluded to but the details of which aren't given to the reader)?  Lily, the young newlywed, felt excessively wooden and unemotional for a young woman whose life has just been turned upside down. The characters just didn't work for me.

What stood out for me is the tension-building and the fact that the author constantly had me questioning Frank's identity. It was awesome and I spent a couple very late nights unable to put the book down. The tension-building was a solid 4 - 4.5 stars for me but the depth of the characters and the ending lowered that stellar rating for me.

While this book wasn't a home run for me it is still quite a good read and Lisa Jewell will continue to be an author I seek out. We may not always see eye-to-eye on all of her books but she can spin a good, unique tale and when I can connect with her story and characters it's a truly awesome reading experience.  My favourite book by Jewell continues to be The House We Grew Up In followed closely by The Girls in the Garden.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Beyond the Wild River

Author: Sarah Maine
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Atria Books (Simon and Schuster Canada)
First Published: April 18, 2017
First Line: "The gunshot lifted the rooks from the branches."

Book Description from GoodReadsFor fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams, a highly atmospheric and suspenseful historical novel, set in the 1890s about a Scottish heiress who unexpectedly encounters her childhood friend in North America, five years after he disappeared from her family’s estate the night of a double murder.

Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borderlands, save for the occasional trip to Edinburgh, where her father, a respected magistrate, conducts his business—and affairs of another kind. Evelyn has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled.

Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father.

Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

My Rating: 3 stars

My Review: Beyond the Wild River is an atmospheric read set in the borderlands of Scotland and the wilds of northern Ontario, my home province. The descriptions of both settings are vividly drawn for the reader, and with so much focus on Northern Ontario, it almost becomes a character in its own right. 

The plot had an intriguing premise but the execution was at a much slower pace and was less compelling than I had expected. While I enjoyed some of the descriptions of the flora and fauna, I would have preferred additional page time dedicated to plot twists and more depth to the characters, specifically Evelyn. The tension doesn't build until the last quarter of the book where things finally come to a head. Until then, there was often too much description at the expense of the plot. Readers should also expect a rather large dose of happenstance as the characters' lives merge in a very remote part of the globe.

Overall, this book was just okay. I struggled to stay invested in the story for much of the book but the ending brings many of the loose ends together for an expected yet decent conclusion. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Author: Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Teen, Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
First Published: April 18, 2017
First Line: "Reeve's End is the kind of town every kid can't wait to escape."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?

My Rating: 4 stars

My Review: Missing is an intense and sinister read that will keep you on your toes. Edge-of-your-seat, ominous and even a few gruesome scenes help create a steady build-up of tension. Add in the evil taunts by the 'bad guy' and the first half of this book has a wonderfully creepy, dark feel. 

The tone lightens a bit in the last half with less of that creepy feel and more focus on the mystery aspect as Winter tries to figure out what's happened to the missing teens from her small town of Reeves End, Kentucky. There is a smidgen of romance but, thankfully, it's kept to a minimum.  The dialogue between Winter and her love interest elicited a couple of eye rolls from this 40-something reader so I was thankful the suspense was the focus.

This was more plot-driven than character based. The characters were a bit of a mishmash - from Winter and Jude whom we get to know fairly well to a smattering of locals (including the sheriff who was a one-dimensional corrupt, lazy man who was easy to hate) and some high powered, rich people. 

The book focuses on Winter who was an okay main character but I would have liked to have seen more depth to her. Some of Winter's decisions were questionable and some issues had too much of a serendipitous 'right place, right time' feel but Winter she held her own.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The cover is eye-catching and it's a good, chilling read with twists and a sinister overtone.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House Children's Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Cutaway

Author: Christina Kovac
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Atria
First Published: March 21, 2017
First Line: "It began with someone else's story."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe Cutaway draws you into the tangled world of corruption and cover-up as a young television producer investigates the disappearance of a beautiful Georgetown lawyer in this stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

Harkening to dark thrillers such as Gone GirlLuckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little LiesThe Cutaway is a striking debut that will haunt you long after you reach the last page.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: I went into this debut novel eager for a gritty, suspenseful, psychological thriller set within the hustle and bustle of a network news team. But I wouldn't call it a psychological thriller, nor would I equate it with Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn's works.  Instead, it's a detailed look at the dissension within the ranks of a TV news station, a mystery surrounding a missing person and a lot of page time devoted to Virginia's love life. 

The characters needed more development in order for the reader to become invested. Virginia is tough, has a cool job but I struggled to connect with her and understand her intense, oddly obsessive, interest in this one specific missing person case. A reason is given for her obsession towards the end of the book but it was a case of 'too little, too late' for me with the reasoning not being overly unbelievable. 

The first three-quarters of the book was a slow-go for me and I waited to feel pulled into the story. The pacing and character development were weak throughout and I struggled to finish this book. I picked up this book because its blurb said it was a 'dark thriller' but Evie's disappearance felt convoluted and played second fiddle to Virginia's romantic angst. The last quarter of the book picks up the pace but by that time I wasn't invested in the plot or Virginia and was just eager for an ending.

In the end, this debut novel had an interesting premise but I wouldn't recommend it to fans looking for a psychological thriller. While the behind-the-scenes look at a TV network news station was interesting, too much time was spent on Virginia's love life while the plot surrounding the missing woman was left in the shadows for too long.

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Baby Doll

Author: Hollie Overton
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Redhook Books
First Published: July 12, 2016
First Line: "A deadbolt has a very specific sound."

Book Description from GoodReadsFor fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the TrainBaby Doll is the most tense thriller you will read this year.

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next... her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter...and to her captor.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: This book had a great premise and an enticing blurb which describes it as a good book for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Those are big shoes to fill and unfortunately unfair and inaccurate comparisons. Whoever decides what goes into a book's blurb does a disservice to the author and loses credibility with the reader when the description doesn't accurately portray the literary product. 

This book is not a suspenseful thriller but instead documents the aftermath of what Lily and her family go through after she escapes. There are strong similarities between this book's plot and Room (the popular book by Emma Donoghue) but Baby Doll is a much lighter version. The only tension and suspenseful energy happened right at the beginning when Lily escapes.  After that it's a family drama, tangled romantic relationships and weak dialogue.

The story is narrated by four people: Lily, her twin sister Abby, their mother Eve and Rick, the man who abducted Lily. That's a lot of different perspectives but they weren't insightful or intriguing. The one perspective that was missing was little Sky's - a huge missed opportunity to see the effects of the confinement and subsequent freedom through the eyes of a child who has never experienced it.

A big issue for me was a lack of connection to the characters. I couldn't sympathize with Lily or her twin sister Abby (whose ability to add F-bombs into most of her sentences and make most situations about herself is astounding). I questioned many of their choices (especially how both were able to get away with disregarding police procedure) as well as how easily and quickly Lily and Sky recovered from their years of terror. They seemed to spring back with a new haircut and a trip to the mall. Um, wha??  It wasn't realistic and felt too superficial. Add in the abundant 'telling instead of showing' aspect with uninspired, one-dimensional characters and unconvincing dialogue and you can see why I gave this book a low rating.

This was a quick read but it had an overly dramatic 'movie-of-the-week' feel to it and a lack of tension-filled build-up in its plot. I realize I'm in the minority with my review with many other people rating it five stars. This just wasn't a book for me. 

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Redhook Books and NetGalley for providing the complimentary ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Mother's Promise

Author: Sally Hepworth
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 368
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: February 21, 2017
First Line: "When the doctor gave Alice Stanhope the news, she was thinking about Zoe."

Book Description from GoodReadsWith every book, Sally Hepworth becomes more and more known for her searing emotional portraits of families—and the things that test their bonds. In The Mother’s Promise, she delivers her most powerful novel yet: the story of a single mother who is dying, the troubled teenaged daughter who is battling her own demons, and the two women who come into their lives at the most critical moment. 

Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis. 

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

My Review:  I have read Sally Hepworth's first two books (The Secrets of Midwives and The Things We Keep) and her writing and characterizations just keep getting better and better! Her latest bookish offering is an emotional, compulsive read that focuses on the bonds between women - especially the bond between mothers and their children.

Hepworth doesn't shy away from big issues and there are a few in this book. One of the main issues discussed is severe social anxiety disorder which, while important to the overall plot, wasn't overplayed. Hepworth's descriptions of living with this debilitating disorder felt authentic and sympathetic as she helps her readers to understand the effects it has on teenage Zoe's perception of the world around her, especially as it pertains to helping her ailing mother. 

The chapters alternate between several of the characters so readers get a varied view of the issues raised. I was most drawn to Alice and Zoe's POVs with Kate's portion of the book still interesting but playing second fiddle. I found Sonja's role in the book quite tertiary and not as strong as it could have been but I understand why her story was included.

As a mother and a daughter myself, this book touched me deeply and is given a coveted "Made Laurie Cry" award (a rare award indeed but aptly given) as Hepworth precisely describes the love and devotion mothers have for their children and the strength women can draw from each other. 

This is a powerful, emotional book that really should have a "Keep Kleenex Handy" warning on the cover.  Hepworth examines several serious issues with sympathy and respect as she focuses on what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a friend.  

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Say Nothing

Author: Brad Parks
Genre: Suspense
Type: ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Dutton Books
First Published: March 7, 2017
First Line: "Their first move against us was so small, such an infinitesimal blip against the blaring background noise of life, I didn't register it as anything significant."

Book Description from GoodReadsA powerful and moving breakout thriller about a couple who are plunged into unimaginable terror when their children are kidnapped, and the stop at nothing compulsion to get them back.

Judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: A prestigious job. A beloved family. On an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, he is about to pick up his six-year-old twins to go swimming when his wife, Alison, texts him that she’ll get the kids from school instead.

It’s not until she gets home later that Scott realizes she doesn’t have the children. And she never sent the text. Then the phone rings, and every parent’s most chilling nightmare begins. A man has stolen Sam and Emma. A man who warns the judge to do exactly as he is told in a drug case he is about to rule on. If the judge fails to follow his instructions, the consequences for the children will be dire.

For Scott and Alison, the kidnapper’s call is only the beginning of a twisting, gut-churning ordeal of blackmail, deceit, and terror; a high-profile trial like none the judge or his wife has ever experienced. Their marriage falters. Suspicions and long-buried jealousies rise to the surface. Fractures appear. Lies are told.

Through it all, Scott and Alison will stop at nothing to get their children back, no matter the cost to themselves…or to each other.

My Rating: 2 stars

My Review: Say Nothing is about the abduction a federal court judge's six-year-old twins and the manipulation of the judge's caseload by the kidnappers.  

The short chapters kept the pace moving during the kidnapping and readers witness Scott's increasing mistrust of those around him. Unfortunately, I didn't have a connection with the characters, especially Scott. For a man who just lost his kids he didn't show enough emotion and came off as indecisive.  I had a hard time believing that a man who usually holds so much power as a federal judge could be so easily swayed to 'say nothing' and do nothing to save his own young children. It didn't ring true for me and doesn't make for a strong thriller when the protagonist goes along with what the kidnappers want for most of the book. I wanted him to take charge and get his kids back but instead we are at the mercy of the kidnappers who are mere caricatures of villains.

The book is touted as a thriller and while there were a couple of suspenseful scenes ultimately the book lacked tension and solid characters. Instead, the focus is on Scott's court docket and how the kidnappers want to manipulate his upcoming court cases to their benefit.  Legalese and court cases took over much of the book and may interest some readers but not this one.  I wanted more suspenseful scenes with twists, not details about patents and court cases.  At this point my interest waned drastically to where I struggled to finish the book.

The writing itself is okay but never drew me in and lacked the tension and well-rounded characters I had expected. 

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

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