Book Review: Survivor Song (Paul Tremblay) @paulGtremblay @WmMorrowBooks

survivor songIf I were to write a how-to novel, I’d title it “How to Ramp Up Your Anxiety During A Global Pandemic: A Definitive Guide”, I think I would start it with this list:

Watch World War Z.
Watch Contagion.
Think about doom.
Read Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay.

Now I realize that this book was in the making LONGGGG before Covid19, but what is going on around the world makes this a particularly pertinent read. As soon as I read the first few pages, I was filled with an uneasy feeling. Thank goodness that is exactly one of the qualities I look for in a book.

The novel opens with a discussion of a new strain of rabies virus in Massachusetts; one that causes effects within an hour of being bitten. It causes the victim to become extremely violent and lose their mind.
Sounds peachy.
Nat, who happens to be 9 months pregnant, is waiting for her husband to return from the grocery store with rations when they are both attacked upon his arrival. He is killed, and she is left with a nasty bite to her arm. With nowhere else to go, she calls her friend from college, a pediatric surgeon to help her. Ramola is tasked with trying to stop the virus from consuming her friend and trying to save the life of her unborn baby.

One of the things I liked the most about this book was that it was straightforward; Tremblay promised a zombie-rabies filled story and that is what he delivered. Do I wish there were a few more twists and turns? Maybe. Essentially, what is in the synopsis is what the story delivers. However, I felt like the story was well written enough that I constantly felt entertained. Almost like when I read the Wikipedia summary of a movie before I watch it; even though I knew what was coming, it didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

It is obvious to anyone who is familiar with his work that Tremblay is a master storyteller and within the first chapter, I found myself settled right into the story. Essentially, the perspective shifts back and forth between two kick-ass female protagonists, Nat and Ramola (Rams). This narration becomes key to the story and the development was what made this plot particularity interesting. As Rams become more panicked, Nat becomes more unravelled and Tremblay makes some smart narrative choices to make this clear.

I binged this one in a couple of hours; literally could not put it down. Absolutely recommended from me!

 

Thanks to the author and the publisher for a digital copy of this book to help me give an unbiased review.

Book Review: Allegedly (Tiffany D. Jackson) @WriteinBK @KTegenBooks

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Struggling with book burnout? Finding yourself in a slump? I have found a cure. Allegedly, by Tiffany D. Jackson, is the answer. I have not read a book like this one in a LONGGGG time. I sat down to read a chapter and found myself completely consumed. I finished it in a single afternoon and then frantically began texting my friends to persuade them to READ THIS BOOK.

Set eight years after her alleged crime, Mary is just as confused and hopeless as she struggles to find her place in a group home for other “troubled” girls. After allegedly killing an infant at 8 years old, Mary’s life seems to be laid out for her. With not many options and her privacy sensationalized by the media, Mary is just trying to survive. Until she finds out she is pregnant. Surviving is no longer the priority. Proving what really happened is. And, after all, Mary never did say what really happened…

I think what pulled me in immediately was the narrative style of the novel. The novel is told through the eyes of Mary as she struggles to survive and cope with past trauma. There are also little bits and pieces that are excerpts that are psych reports from Mary’s case, police reports and interviews and novels published about Mary’s life. The narrative style is so well crafted; Jackson creates a narrator who completely multifaceted; she is both naive, and wise beyond her ears, kind and vicious, fearless and frightened. As I was reading I continued to go back and forth, trying to decide if I could trust their character, or if I needed to be wary of her. I was totally on her side as I read, but then would read one of those little excerpts and wonder if I should trust her. I will not give away the ending of the story, but, I will say that by the end of the novel, I was left completely satisfied. With this level of characterization and storytelling, I was shocked to find out this novel was the author’s debut!!

Now, I will be the first to say that I struggle with Young Adult fiction, and this novel is published by a YA publisher. However, this didn’t feel young AT ALL. While the main character is sixteen, I never felt like I was reading something too young for me. I’m not sure if it was the level of characterization or the content, but I was glued to the pages.

I highly, highly recommend; 5 star read.

BRB running to buy everything by Tiffany D. Jackson.

Trigger warning: there is some content related to trauma (sexual and physical abuse).

New Adventure

Well, during this pandemic, I’ve decided to try my hand at podcasting!  I do love blogging, but, in recent times, I’ve been struggling to read and blog as I used to!

My long time friend and I have decided to team up and start “Better Late Than Novel”

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Synopsis: 

We are two Canadian book lovers who will never make it through our “to be read” piles.  We could talk about books all day and we want to discuss them with you! 

Each week we will talk about current book news, and what we’re reading.  

Tune in each week for a new episode featuring our “top five picks” list of books you should read.  Topics could range from our favourite comfort reads, top “on the edge of your seat” reads or books to satisfy your royal family obsession. 

 

You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Anchor.

Book Review: Providence (Caroline Kepnes)

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Synopsis: 

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity—but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.

My Thoughts: 

Well, I made a mistake with this one.

It happens to the best of us.

You see an author that your LOVE and you dive into a book expecting it to give you all the same feels.

Unfortunately, I didn’t consider (even after reading the synopsis) that this novel would NOT contain Joe Goldberg.  The anti-hero from YOU and Hidden Bodies that I have come to know and (pretty much against my free will) love.

This novel is COMPLETELY different from Kepnes’ prior novels.  It is like comparing apples and oranges; and that, my friends, was probably my first mistake.  I went into this one thinking I would get the dark and twisty vibe that I have come to know and love, but Providence is really a hodgepodge of all different types of genres: a little bit paranormal, a dash of coming of age, a pinch of YA thriller.

I think Kepnes is fearless for doing something SO different, but, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t understand all the Lovecraft references and I don’t really love YA (I teach high school students- I get enough teen drama on the daily).

Overall, I would probably recommend this to my students or add it to my classroom library.

I’ll continue waiting for more Joe.

Book Review: Under My Skin (Lisa Unger)

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Synopsis:

What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts–there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

My Thoughts: 

I  have been a huge fan of Lisa Unger for YEARS!   Give me a psychological thriller with a relatable character, and I am a happy camper!

Unfortunately, this one didn’t do it for me.

For the majority of the book, I found myself confused.  I was switching back and forth, checking dates and trying to organize the plot in my head.  I felt like a detective myself putting a red string on a board trying to connect my theories.   Is this okay?  Sure.  Sometimes I really like to be challenged while I read, but, honestly, sometimes I just want to escape and don’t want to have to piece things together.

Sometimes I want a straight forward thrill.

Did this put me off of Lisa Unger?  Absolutely not. Her talent is clearly apparent and this woman can WEAVE a story.  I will absolutely read more by her, but, this one wasn’t for me.

 

Book Review: The Fifth to Die (J.D Barker)

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Synopsis:

In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

My Thoughts: 

When I read The Fourth Monkey, I was obsessed.

I lent it to all my friends.

I made my boss at work read it.

I was a woman on a mission.

After a long wait, I finally read The Fifth to Die, and, while I loved the pacing and the dark vibes, I really struggled to STAY engrossed in the sequel. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was just as brilliantly written, and I still love some Sam Porter, but there was a lot going on!  Almost too much going on.   Many more perspectives, many more storylines and, just as I thought I was getting everything straight, it was over!

I do think this one is worth the read; however, I think I’d read them back to back so I could follow along.

This isn’t one to go into blindly!

Thanks for Netgalley for the digital copy. 

Book Review: Recursion (Blake Crouch)

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Way back when I first started blogging, I read and reviewed Dark Matter which quickly became one of my favourites! As a person who rarely reads novels with a science fiction vibe, I was shocked by how much I loved it.  I raved about it.  I shouted from the rooftops. I reread it.

So, at the end of my school year, when I realized that Blake Crouch was releasing Recursion, I rushed to add this one to my summer TBR and I dove in.

Like Dark Matter, Recursion is a novel that bent the line between reality and fiction leaving me uneasy…and I loved it!  Essentially looking at the idea of memory and recalling memories, Recursion follows a scientist, Helena, and a cop, Barry, as they navigate lives, past lives and memories.  Fast paced and thrilling, the novel moves back and forth through narrative view and time.  As their stories collide (along with their past and present memories), I found myself flipping through the pages and completely hooked!

My one complaint with this work is that I felt like it was about 100 pages too long.  I loved the pacing at the beginning, and I found that I needed all the explanations; however, by the end, I felt the story dragging and stalling without reason.   I was frustrated with the continuous repetition by the main characters, and, even though I understand the plot relied on this repetition, I felt like I could have done without a few of the minor story arcs.

Regardless of my length issue, I did feel like this one would be a great read for summer.  I lounged around my patio for countless hours devoured by this storyline.

4 stars.

Would I want this as a series on Netflix?  ABSOLUTELY!  Give me this story a hundred times over in a mini-series.  I want this explained in flashbacks.  I want this story developed by actors.  Someone breakdown this science!

Books The Spark Joy: The Marie Kondo Tag

I, like many other people, spent the week after New Years binge-watching the Marie Kondo special on Netflix and folding my clothes into teeny-tiny squares.  As far as I am concerned, the Kondo method is pretty solid.  However, I did have a major issue with her stance on books.

GET RID OF MY MOST OF MY BOOKS?

Nope. No, thanks.  But, then again, I do realize that a healthy tidy is always a good thing.

Her method really did get me thinking about the books that “spark joy for me”.  The books that make me want to squeal with delight and then immediately force everyone around me (mostly against their will) to read them and discuss plot points with me.

So, I have begun to tidy my books and make a donate pile As I am tidying my books, I’ll be adding to my list.

First up in my pile:

Harry Potter

Okay.  Fine, I cheated a little bit here.  I included an entire series; how could I not?  Harry Potter is one of those things that spark so much joy that I find myself overwhelmed! Truly I find re-reading these books to sort of be “the solution” to everything.  Feeling sad?  Read Harry Potter.  Feeling nostalgic?  Cuddle up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  Feeling like life has you down?  Read some HP and realize that your luck could be WAY worse; I mean all my problems seem small when I take into account that an evil wizard is not my arch nemesis and constantly trying to destroy me.

 You

I just can’t quit Joe.  I know I should.  I know it’s wrong.  I know it’s bad.  Whenever someone tells me they haven’t read this book, I find myself internally screaming and trying to keep my cool.  I usually force them immediately to borrow my copy and then message them every few days so I can experience it again for the first time.  So creepy; so good.   Joy sparked.

Flowers in the Attic

Love. Love. Love.  Not only was this one of the first books I distinctly remember reading as a preteen but it was also one of the first books my mom remembers reading as a teen.  I guess this one feels like one of the OG creepy novels; one of the first novels that had me looking over my shoulder and reading late into the night.  Definitely feel like doing a Kondo-coo when I hold this one.

The Great Gatsby

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book.  I have multiple copies.  I remember the exact place I was when I opened this book for the first time.  Oh, old sport, what a spark of joy you give me!

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Which books “spark joy” for you?  Which ones would stay on your shelves no matter what?

Let me know!

 

 

 

Book Review: Her Pretty Face (Robyn Harding) @SimonSchusterCA

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Anyone still out there?!

I’m alive and well over here after a very extended blogging break.  Between a new position at school, adjusting to married life and general life, I found myself in one of the biggest book slumps that I have ever had!   However, this past week, I felt the urge to read and found myself completely drawn to one of my favourite authors, Robyn Harding, and her sophomore novel Her Pretty Face.

Now, a little back story here, I have been listening to the My Favourite Murder podcast on my 45-minute commute pretty much daily and I recently listened to a live episode that talked about killer couples (specifically a Canadian couple who were active near my hometown!).  As soon as I read the synopsis for this book, I knew that I had to read it ASAP!

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart…because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunick. And she’s a murderer.

I binge read this one in a single evening and, days later, found myself thinking about it still!  I love the writing style of Robyn Harding; she has the uncanny ability to captivate her reader with quick prose and eloquent storytelling.  This novel is NOT a traditional domestic thriller and if you are expecting Gone Girl-esque thrills, you are opening the wrong book.  However, if you are after complex characters, strong plot, and realism, then this is the book for you!

Essentially, the story unfolds through multiple narrators and throughout varying time periods.  In the present, as Kate’s present unravels and mixes with her past, I found myself torn with a moral dilemma.  Can someone change?  Should people be judged based on their past?  In true Robyn Harding style, like The Party, the chapters were short and sweet.

I am absolutely floored with some of the negative comments that I was reading about this book on Goodreads.  I didn’t feel like this novel was even supposed to be a domestic thriller, instead, I found it to be a character study, a domestic drama and a snapshot of a psychopath.

I’d recommend this one, it got me out of my slump!