Book Review: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

9780451499578

★ ★ ★

Here and Gone is an unsettling and intense thriller that I wanted to love. The premise was intriguing, the pace set to keep me questioning and interested—and while I liked it, but at times I was skimming details that didn’t add to the story. While I am not fond of multiple POVs, I thought it was fitting with this story, reading the events through Audra, Danny, and Sean’s eyes build up throughout as it unfolded.

I was rooting for all of them, and couldn’t help but feel for each of them. I thought Here and Gone was well-written, fast-paced, and engaging. I am only left wondering about one character, but I thought it was a well-rounded ending. It’s a short, quick read that I finished in two sittings, and I will be on the lookout for more published by the author.

Synopsis 

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 20th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

Book Review: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

EXQUISITE COVER AW.indd

★ ★ ★ ★

Deliciously dark, Exquisite is a book that you will not put down once you begin reading the first page. Alice Dark enters Bo Luxton’s quiet, simple life, and a sinister relationship develops. Told in both Bo and Alice’s point-of-view, an unnerving, claustrophobic story unfolds of passion, manipulation, loss, and obsession. I spent my Friday night on the couch, devouring all 306 pages within 5 hours. I found this leaned more towards psychological suspense rather than thriller—with a gradual build-up of tension and discovery that ended in a terrifying tale.

Stovell’s writing is rich and beautiful, with Exquisite being character rather than plot driven. Throughout, you can’t help but feel torn—who is the one with darkness seeping beneath their skin, the one with cruel intentions? It’s one of those stories were you think you may know where it is headed, but you’re left stunned in silence at the conclusion because it takes twists and obsession to an entirely new and unique level. A must-read for the summer, you’ll have this novel finished within hours!

Synopsis 

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops…
OR DOES IT?
Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2017 by Orenda Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner

29562590

★ ★ ★ ★

This was phenomenal! I would have finished reading this in one day, but had a lot going on–still, I carried it with me everywhere to squeeze in a few more chapters whenever I had a free minute. Any chance I had, I let people know about this book because I was enjoying it so much. Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. When she begins to experience dreams and flashbacks to the last few years of her life, she learns that her life isn’t what her husband, Jacob, has made it out to be. It turns into a terrifying nightmare with a rocky marriage, broken promises, and secrets that are unraveled as she starts to remember and question her surroundings. Set on a fictional island located near the San Juan Islands in Washington, isolated from the mainland and the life she remembers, Kyra can sense that deep down, it isn’t what it seems.

The Twilight Wife sets the atmosphere for a engrossing thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. I flew right through this story, and had to take a few days to let my thoughts process because I could not stop thinking about it even after I put it down. A.J. Banner wrote a page-turner, that at times left me feeling claustrophobic because I felt I was in Kyra’s head throughout the story, as she discovers the horrifying truth, and how unnerving that was for her as a character. Imagine not knowing things are not right, but people will not be honest, and you just can’t remember despite living through it–it is frustrating and makes you feel despair. Banner’s story-telling is rich with world-building that brings the Pacific Northwest out of the pages, characters that are complex and at times surprising, but realistic and relatable.

Often times I tried to figure out what was going to happen as I read along, and by the end, I was stunned–and completely wrong! Banner adds twists and turners at every point you think you are about to figure out what is going on. You may think you know, but you have no idea, and that is refreshing for a thriller like this. The Twilight Wife is an engaging story, that will have you feeling the desperation and anxiety that Kyra feels while she is pieces the clues of her past life together.

Synopsis 

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 27th 2016 by Touchstone

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

cover_9781609453640_817_600

★ ★ ★

Happy New Year! It has been a few weeks since my last post, both due to the holidays, and being in a reading slump, but I am back with another review.

I went into reading this one with no expectations, but being intrigued by the synopsis and relating to the mental illness aspect. I finally got around to finishing Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik, and it was a fascinating story. It was a slow burn for me. It started off strong, but dwindled midway through. It did take me a little longer to get through this because Maksik’s writing style and narrative, and at times it wasn’t the smoothest story-telling–other times, I just lost patience. It was a complex and demanding read, but it was also intense and engaging. When it comes to the mental illness aspect of this novel, it was written carefully and thought-provoking. There was so much more to this novel that was touched on, and done well, that being living with mental illness, the consequences to actions, violence, coping, and family. It certainly is not for everyone, and it is a challenging read, but it is a powerful one.

Synopsis

Joseph March, a twenty-one-year-old working class kid from Seattle, is on top of the world. He has just graduated college and his future beckons, unencumbered, limitless, magnificent. Joe’s life implodes when he starts to suffer the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and, not long after, his mother kills a man she’s never met with a hammer.

Joe moves to White Pine, Washington, where his mother is serving time and his father has set up house. He is followed by Tess Wolff, a fiercely independent woman with whom he has fallen in love. The lives of Joe, Tess, and Joe’s father fall into the slow rhythm of daily prison visits followed by beer and pizza at a local bar. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie March, Joe’s mother, is gradually becoming a local heroine as many see her crime as a furious, exasperated act of righteous rebellion. Tess, too, has fallen under her spell. Spurred on by Anne-Marie’s example, Tess enlists Joe in a secret, violent plan that will forever change their lives.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Europa Editions

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Before the Feast by Saša Stanišić

26889828

★ ★ ★ ★

Saša Stanišić’s Before the Feast was a strange and whimsical story. It was one that had to be read in small portions, so it took me quite a while to get through despite thinking it would be a quick read. At times it was a challenging book because it required my full attention, but it was memorizing and beautifully written. Without giving too much detail away, it is about a long night in Fürstenfelde, a small East German village, on the eve of the feast–the feast that is not exactly defined. We learn about the history of Fürstenfelde, the mysteries and magic, we also follow the inhabitants of the village with their distinctive personalities and different circumstances. Told through short chapters and the town as the narrator, I enjoyed this story, although at times it was chaotic, and didn’t have a straightforward plot–if you go in expecting that, this may not be book for you. If you want to not just read, but experience a story that brings you into that world through captivating prose about old stories, myths, folklore, and fairy-tales, this would be a fine choice. This vibrant, odd, yet charming village full of its people both living and dead, of all backgrounds, that end up coming together.

Often I found myself putting the book down because I needed to pull myself from the story and read something a little more solid in terms of a plot. In a way it felt like I was in this dream land, though not completely in slumber–you know that middle, where you can’t seem to fully wake from the trance? I still feel like that when trying to form my thoughts around the story. I feel like while there is a vagueness to it, and a reader can easily be confused with where it is going, there is a lot up to the reader on interpretation and whether or not they think there is meaning or a point behind it. Take the time to appreciate how well crafted this story is, and don’t rush through it–travel through Fürstenfelde with a curious and open mind. Before the Feast was an unusual and riveting novel that I hope to come back to one day to relive.

Synopsis

Someone has opened the doors to the Village Archive, but what drives the sleepless out of their houses is not that which was stolen, but that which has escaped. Old stories, myths, and fairy tales are wandering about the streets with the people. They
come together in a novel about a long night, a mosaic of village life, in which the long-established and newcomers, the dead and the living, craftsmen, pensioners, and noble robbers in football shirts bump into each other. They all want to bring something to a close, in this night before the feast.

Paperback, 353 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Tin House Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

24885533

★ ★ ★ ★

Before we get to my thoughts on The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, I wanted to let everyone know about a great website that I recently discovered because I am partnering with them for this review. SocialCookCo is a website that helps you find, locate, and compare book prices so you can find the cheapest deal by comparing your chosen books with over 50 book shops around the world to make sure you get the best bargain. There are different formats available, such as paperback, audio, eBook, out-of-print, and even textbooks along with second-hand copies. SocialBookCo is a comparison engine and not a bookstore, so when you find the best price for your purchase, they will direct you straight to the retailer where you carry out the transaction. They give shoppers all the options when it comes to book buying, and want you to save your money, which I think is cool for those of us who frequently purchase books through online retailers because who doesn’t like saving some money that will most likely go towards another book? I sure do!

Ken Liu is a phenomenal author of speculative fiction, as well as a translator, lawyer, and programmer. He has won numerous awards for his novels, such as the Nebula, Hugo, and World’s fantasy awards. The Paper Menagerie, his debut collection, contains 15 fantasy, magical realism, and science-fiction short stories and novellas–some of which have been previously published. If I had to summarize this collection in three words, it would be profound, thought-provoking, and distinctive. Very rarely do I come to the end of a book, unable to form my thoughts on the experience because I am still in a literary daze.

The Paper Menagerie is an exceptional short story collection, but at times it was a challenging read. Through different genres and exploring different themes such as love, history, suffering, and diversity, to the complexity and connections with the characters, and Liu’s brilliant, imaginative, and unique story-telling. When it comes to short-story collections, it is common to find a mix of feelings and thoughts when it comes to the individual stories, but with this collection, whether I enjoyed the story or not, I appreciated and was engrossed in the writing. The stories strike a reader’s core when it comes to experiencing so many emotions throughout every story.

This is the first of Liu’s work that I have read, and I think it was the perfect introduction into his writing. When it comes to the stories, you really need to clear your head, focus, and dive into the worlds and character stories he builds–afterwards, take the time to reflect on each one before beginning the next. There is no doubt that Ken Liu is a remarkably talented author, and writes effortlessly and poignant no matter the genre or subject. My ultimate favorites were Good Hunting, The Regular, The Paper Menagerie, and The Waves. The Paper Menagerie is a beautifully crafted collection that was equally heartbreaking, captivating, and engaging. I am not one to often pick up or recommend short-story collections, but I highly encourage anyone who appreciates rich, authentic prose, to read this.

Synopsis 

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Paperback, 450 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Saga Press

Goodreads
Purchase on SocialBookCo

Book Review: The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee

28691882

★ ★ ★ ★

While sorting through her mother’s belongings, Jessica Campbell and her father find a horrifying discovery — beneath resealable plastic bags with frostbitten meat, in the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers are the bodies of two dead girls. The two girls are a pair of foster children, Casey and Jamie Cheng, that lived with the family in 1988 — two of the countless foster children her mother had taken in over the years. Six weeks after the sisters went missing, give their difficult history, everyone assumed they had run away. As Jessica learns more about the girls, and Donna, whom she thought of as the perfect mother, she uncovers dark stories and complicated truths about the life she thought she knew and mother she admired.

While The Conjoined is marketed as a mystery-thriller, it is more of a family drama. It is thought-provoking, well-written, and captivating until the very end. Through complex and realistic characters, and a writing style that flows effortlessly, Sookfong crafted a novel that makes you forget that you’re reading a book. Alternating between the past and the present, The Conjoined, is a not exactly a murder-mystery — the murder of the girls is not the main focus, but rather the exploration into the social work system that is often unfair and ineffectual. It is also about character psychology, trauma, family, self-discovery, and the struggles that immigrants and their children face.

This was a dark novel the further along, as the several layers were lifted. Sookfong’s prose brings depth and understanding into the story and characters, it hits nerves and brings forth real emotions that you physically experience. I devoured this in a few sittings, because of the compelling story and rich prose. There was so much that as a reader who was invested into the story and characters, I wanted to know, or at least have confirmed rather than wonder if  what I suspected was true. There is no resolution when it comes to the girls murder, or whether Donna committed the crime. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed Sookfong’s profound writing that crafted a riveting and disturbing story. If you’re looking for a dark thriller whodunit story, this is not it, but if you are willing to go in expecting the unexpected, and want a family drama that is much more, The Conjoined is your next pick.

Synopsis 

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by ECW Press

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

28363987★ ★ ★

The Lesser Bohemians is the newest novel written by Eimear McBride, the author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which won the Baileys Women’s Prize in 2014. This is the first novel that I have read by Eimear McBride, and it was quite the experience.

This story appears to be a simple love story between an 18-year-old Irish girl who arrives in London to attend drama school, and a successful actor who is 20 years older. There are complex layers that only begin when their relationship blossoms. It is a captivating story about fierce love, innocence, and discovery set in the mid-1990′s London. McBride writes prose that is musical and beautifully done, but the structure of the writing absolutely made my head spin. This novel is wonderful, but it requires a lot of focus and piecing together bits throughout because sentences are quite choppy and scattered. The style of writing is not one that I would particularly pick up and purchase for myself because of that, however it certainly is unique.

Synopsis

Upon her arrival in London, an 18-year-old Irish girl begins anew as a drama student, with all the hopes of any young actress searching for the fame she’s always dreamed of. She struggles to fit in—she’s young and unexotic, a naive new girl—but soon she forges friendships and finds a place for herself in the big city.

Then she meets an attractive older man. He’s an established actor, 20 years older, and the inevitable clamorous relationship that ensues is one that will change her forever.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Hogarth

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

Book Review: Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, Dylan Thuras

28110891

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Atlas Obscura was founded in 2009 and began as a website that brought you a guide to the world’s wondrous and weird places. It is a collaborative project with founders Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras, along with their community of explorers who help discover hidden spots to share with the world. They wanted to celebrate a different way of looking at the world, so whether you are looking miniature cities, books bound in human skin, or bone churches, Atlas Obsura is where to find them.

Now you can travel across the globe, discovering hidden gems right from your comfy spot on the couch with their best-selling book, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. Authors Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton set out to create a catalog of all the places, people, and things that inspire wonder. It celebrates more than 600 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. Included are hundreds of photographs, charts, and maps for every region of the world, and compelling descriptions on each place. If weird travel destinations intrigue you, this book is a must to pick up.

You’ll be occupied for hours, discovering Fingal’s Cave in Scotland, a sea cave with walls perfectly hexagonal columns, or the Tree Cathedral in Italy, a piece of living architecture that continues to grow. There are also morbid findings, like did you know that the  Overtoun Bridge, located in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, is known as the dog suicide bridge? Since the 1960s, around 50 dogs have perished after leaping to their deaths from the same spot on the bridge.

This book is so rich with information, research, and photographs. It brings new locations, objects, and monuments to light in a unique way with showcasing the strange and outstanding corners of the world that will bring out numerous emotions from disbelief to wonder. It is an entertaining travel book that makes me want to reach out of my comfort zone and begin exploring the world, but it is also filled with history on places and people that I would have not otherwise learned, which makes it all the more captivating.

It opened my eyes to parts of the world I had never seen, and quite honestly did not know existed. I spent hours engrossed in the pages, reading the facts and viewing the charts and maps that were included throughout. It brought on discussions on just how fascinating the world is, and how people should take the time to appreciate the natural wonders. I adore this book, and I can only hope that the authors publish a second book with new findings in the future.

Synopsis 

Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 600 of the strangest and most curious places in the world.

Here are natural wonders—the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that’s so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Architectural marvels, including the M.C. Escher-like stepwells in India. Mind-boggling events, like the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, where men dressed as devils literally vault over rows of squirming infants. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, Turkmenistan’s 45-year hole of fire called the Door of Hell, coffins hanging off a side of a cliff in the Philippines, eccentric bone museums in Italy, or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England.

Atlas Obscura revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden, and the mysterious. Every page expands our sense of how strange and marvelous the world really is. And with its compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, surprising charts, maps for every region of the world, it is a book you can open anywhere.

Hardcover, 470 pages
Published September 20th 2016 by Workman Publishing Company

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

tumblr_oa4bpxyvpl1rcwv6eo1_500

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Marrow Island was a slow read for me because I was not up to my usual pace; not because it isn’t good. It is actually a captivating, eerie read that is a slow build-up with an unsettling ending. Apparently there is a lot of comparison to Station Eleven, but I personally don’t feel that at all.

Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island after fleeing the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father, and ravaging the island’s environment. It’s set in post-disaster Washington state as Lucie returns to the island that is slowly rebuilding to reconnect with her childhood friend, Kate, who lives within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony that is located on part of the island—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” As an environmental journalist, Lucie’s experience tells her that there is more to the Colony than their charismatic leader is letting her know, and Lucie sets out on uncovering the secrets even if it endangers more than their mission.

Alexis M. Smith’s prose is lyrical, vivid, and haunting. When it comes to nature, as well as human instinct and emotion, there is such a raw and jarring quality to her writing that brings you in. This is a novel that can easily be read within a day or two, but I wanted to take my time to appreciate this beautifully crafted novel.

Synopsis

Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island; along with her mother, she fled the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father and ravaging the island’s environment. Now, Lucie’s childhood friend Kate is living within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” There have been remarkable changes to the land at the colony’s homestead. Lucie’s experience as a journalist tells her there’s more to the Colony—and their charismatic leader– than they want her to know, and that the astonishing success of their environmental remediation has come at great cost to the Colonists themselves. As she uncovers their secrets and methods, will Lucie endanger more than their mission? What price will she pay for the truth?

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.