Book Review: The Broken Girls (Simone St. James)

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 8.39.54 PM.pngI know what you are thinking. “Seriously…Another book with “girl” in the title?!” But fear not! The Broken Girls, the recently released novel by Simone St. James, stood out for me!   From the beautifully blended narratives to the small details, St. James creates a novel that is hard to put down. In fact, I found myself reading this one late into the night.

The novel opens with the introduction of Fiona, a reporter with a haunted past. After the death of her sister, things have never been the same and even though the man responsible has been put in prison, Fiona (and her family) have never really been able to move past it. So, when she finds out there are plans to restore the building (an old school for girls) where her sister’s body was found, Fiona cannot help but dig around. And, in doing so, she quickly finds out that the past never really stays buried.

Told in alternating time periods and alternating perspectives, I loved the way St. James chooses to tell this story.  I loved the moments that flashed back to the girl’s school in the 40s and how each member of their group of friends had an individual chapter to voice.   I found each character likeable and I was interested in each of their stories and was truly concerned about their plights. I also found that Fiona, in the present storyline, was a well-developed character.

I think that St. James did a brilliant job incorporating a bit of historical fiction; it didn’t feel distracting. I felt like it really added another layer to the story.

One thing I didn’t care for with The Broken Girls was the paranormal storyline. The ghost at the school felt like it really didn’t belong and was sort of a side-plot. I felt like it wasn’t needed.

Overall, I was a huge fan of The Broken Girls and I think that fans of Fiona Barton or Fiona Davis will enjoy this one.

Thanks to the author (Simone St. James) and the publisher (Berkley) for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see what Jessica and Chandra thought about this one?  Keep reading to find out what they thought!

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Book Review: Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men (Howard Schechter)

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 6.25.41 PM.pngI’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction kick lately, so, when Chandra from #cjsreads suggested we read Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men by Howard Schechter, I was all about it! I am a fan of historical fiction and true crime so this book seemed like it would be a no-brainer for me.

I hadn’t heard (surprisingly) of Belle Gunness before, so, before I started my reading, I did a quick Google search to get myself a little bit familiar with the story. This ended up being a huge mistake.

The book ended up being a long-winded version of the Wikipedia page. It lacked any real “story” and just ended up being more of a list of facts.

I also really struggled with Schechter’s narrative voice, which I actually found to be a little bit offensive.

Overall, I was not a huge fan.

Thanks to Amazon Publishing for the copy of Hell’s Princess; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review

Want to see if this book worked better for Chandra and Jessica?  Keep reading to find out what they thought of Hell’s Princess

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Blog Tour: Keeper (Johana Gustawsson) @OrendaBooks #teamorenda

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Last year, I read Block 46, a new novel in a French Noir series by Johana Gustawsson, and was completely blown away. Historical fiction collided with mystery and suspense bringing a fast-paced plot with memorable characters that kept me up late into the night and recommend it to all my friends and coworkers. So, when I was asked to be a part of the blog tour for Gustawsson’s second novel featuring the same detectives as Block 46, Keeper, I enthusiastically agreed!

Once again, Gustawasson combines past with the present as her story unfolds.   Just as dark as Block 46 but in a completely different time period, this time we are transported back and forth from London/Sweden in 2015 and the Jack the Ripper murders which terrorized London in the 1800s. We follow profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells as they struggle to see how these cases fit together, a copycat killer on the loose and family secrets. Once again, I found myself seriously impressed with how effortlessly the plot was weaved between the time periods.

It is extremely hard to discuss this book without giving anything away but the twist at the end was mind-blowing! Actual jaw-dropping. I was, once again, left reeling by this novel! Who knew that I would love this French Noir genre so much?! Overall, I loved the follow up to Block 46 and Keeper had me up late into the night, devouring pages! I cannot wait to see what Gustawasson will come up with next!

Highly, highly recommended.

BOMG Book Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Heather Morris) @BonnierZaffre

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I feel like the last several “book outside my genre” book reviews have had me reading various historical fiction, specifically Holocaust fiction.  Today’s review is just that!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris, is a novel that I have been struggling to write a review for. How can a true, harrowing story be rated?   The novel follows Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, as he lives his daily life Auschwitz and struggles to protect the love of his life, Gita, whom he meets in the camp.   I really did appreciate it was inspired by the true events of a couple; both humbling and heartbreaking, I was captivated by their love story.

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Book Review: The Big Lie (Julie Mayhew) @Candlewick @JulieMayhew

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 8.42.50 PM.pngI find myself drawn to the same books continuously. When it isn’t thrillers or suspense titles, you can find me stuck in a good romance or some historical fiction. Preferably, fiction set around the Second World War, tales of human resiliency and the rebellion fascinate me. Ironically, with all my changing genres, I don’t read a lot of novels in the YA genre, but when I do, I often find myself drawn to the dystopian sort. I love getting lost in this sort of “what if” world that feels too real, too close for comfort.   Needless to say, when I stumbled across The Big Lie, the upcoming novel by Julie Mayhew, a dystopian, coming of age, YA novel set in modern day Nazi occupied England, I threw this one at the top of my TBR pile and dove in.

The novel surrounds a young girl, Jessika, who is a model citizen living in Nazi-run England. She obeys her father, she tries to impress her elders and she is loyal to her country. However, her neighbour and best friend Clementine is not the same. Clem is loud and outspoken, much to Jess’ dismay.   The louder Clem gets, the more nervous Jess becomes until she finds herself wrapped up so tightly in Clem’s world that things start to feel confusing. Jess has always thought she was doing the right thing, but what happens when the right things start to feel wrong?

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BOMG Book Review: The Trick (Emanuel Bergmann)

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After binge reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, I had my sights set on reading something similar. I wanted a historical fiction novel set in the time of World War II. Browsing my bookshelves, I decided to dive into The Trick, (a novel recently translated into English) written by Emanuel Bergmann.

The story was very original and used a twist on the classic then vs. now type of narrative approach. Partially taking place in 1934, following a young Jewish man who falls in love and joins the circus as a magician and, decades later, with a young boy who seeks out the now elderly (and cynical) magician to try and bring his crumbling family back together.

I felt like this novel lacked the emotion that holocaust fiction is known for. I didn’t feel any particular connection to any of the characters. This disappointed me. Usually, I feel over-attached to characters within similar types of prose and find myself weeping by the end. The characters in this novel seemed a bit detached from the story, especially the characters within the “now” section of the narrative. I think, for me, this story would have been more successful if it had been through the eyes of the one narrative in the past. I was intrigued by the idea of the circus and the happenings during that time. Every time the switch was made into the present; I found that the author lost me.

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BOMG Book Review: The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah)

The Nightingale.pngYou know that book that you purchase as soon as it comes out because you are dying to read it? You go to the bookstore, snatch it off the shelves and buckle it into your passenger seat on the way home. You head inside, you get distracted and then the book ends up on your shelf for three years? The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, was that book for me.

I had been told I would love it. I figured that I would. However, it just never was the right time and, as I began reviewing books and accepting review copies, most of my poor bookshelf babies remained unattended.

When Chelsea, from The Suspense Is Thrilling Me, and I started brainstorming for books for our online book club, this book immediately came into discussion.   We wanted something that had been widely read, so a majority of people would be able to chime into our book talk, and we wanted something that would give us a break from our regularly scheduled genres.

I knew generally speaking what to expect when I began this novel, but I couldn’t get over how diverse Hannah is as a writer. When I think of Kristin Hannah, my first thought is usually “chick lit”. This novel is so much more.

The novel opens with the introduction to sisters, Vivanne and Isabelle. Both very different, yet close, the girls are thrust together at the start of the German occupation in France during the Second World War. As the war progresses, the sisters are tested and their lives change in unbelievable and horrific ways as they find themselves in the middle of the war, the center of resistance and doing their best to survive.

From the first pages, I was absolutely captivated with the story of these two sisters. Told in alternating perspectives, the reader is given two completely different views and two completely different situations.   I was completely carried away by the story and become lost in the French countryside during the WWII.

It is hard to say anything about this book that hasn’t already been said since I am truly coming late to the game but I know for sure that this book will sit with me for a long time; it was absolutely brilliant. I would highly recommend it.

5/5 stars.

Did you read this book?  Did you feel like chatting about it?  It is never too late to join in the discussion on Goodreads!

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/245555-suspenseful-clues-and-thrilling-reviews

Book Review: Lightning Men (Thomas Mullen) @Mullenwrites @SimonSchusterCA

Lightning MenLast year, I read Thomas Mullen’s “buzzed about” publication, Darktown, and I was absolutely blown away.  So, I was extremely excited to read its follow-up, Lightning Men. This book took me forever to get through. It had nothing to do with the writing (it is phenomenal) or the plot (it is completely captivating). Instead, I found myself struggling due to the completely pertinent nature of the text. It made me completely sick to my stomach to think that a plot, highlighting racial inequality and tension in the 1950s would be so relevant to 2017.   I found this historical mystery to be completely draining.

The second novel in this series picks up two years after Darktown with African American police officers, Officer Boggs and Officer Smith, in Atlanta on patrol. The characters remained just as realistic and well developed as in the first novel and Mullen’s vivid imagery, which was one of the features I loved most within Darktown, was just as apparent throughout these pages. Mullens is a master of word choice and creating an entire “scene” for the reader.

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Book Review: If the Creek Don’t Rise (Leah Weiss) @sbkslandmark

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 10.21.58 AM.pngI am such a sucker for a character-driven novel. As much as I love a story with a fast-paced plot and plethora of twists, every so often I enjoy the decadence of curling up with a story that is full of strong characters and pushed by their emotions and actions. I love to get lost in their lives.   If the Creek Don’t Rise, the debut novel by Leah Weiss, did exactly that.

The novel opens with the introduction of Sadie Blue, a pregnant and newly married teenager whose husband turns abusive the minute they are married. Bruised and broken, Sadie retreats back home to her grandmother. Through alternating POVs from various members of their small Appalachian town, Sadie’s story unfolds.

As a novel categorized as a historical fiction, I was little bit worried when I started my reading but I was pleased that this one didn’t feel too out of touch. I often find some historical fiction hard to digest, but, as I read this one, I didn’t feel that way at all. Weiss does a brilliant job at creating a piece that is historically accurate as well as inviting. I loved the touches of the dialect and I loved the narrative style. From the first pages, I was drawn into and loved the female-centric narrative; for a majority of the story, a key woman in the plot narrates each chapter. I thought this was so interesting and original, especially given context of the story and the time period it is written in.   Women, pretty obviously within this plot, did not have a real voice and Weiss chooses to give their voices a chance to be heard entirely.

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