Book Review: The Driver (Hart Hanson)

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 8.17.20 AM.pngLately, I have been craving an action style thriller, so, when #cjsreads decided to make The Driver by Hart Hanson one of our August picks, I was excited to dive in! I am a bit of a sucker for Hart Hanson; he is the creator of Bones and one of the main writers on the show, so I was curious to see how his television writing would transfer over to a novel. Also, although he is American, he lived in Canada at one point, so he is pretty much an honorary Canadian. Needless to say, I had some high hopes for this book!

The novel opens with Michael Skellig, an army veteran/ex-military officer turned limo driver, waiting for his high-end client behind an upscale hotel. Feeling like something isn’t right, Skellig moves inside the hotel just in time to save his client from two gunmen but is too late for one of his body guards and Skellig ends up in custody for murder. Romantically involved with both the detective on the case and his lawyer, Skellig ends up released under the condition that he becomes his high-end client’s personal chauffeur and protector. Sounds all fine and dandy, except that someone clearly wants him dead and the only person who stands in the way is Skellig.

The general premise was interesting to me but from the first pages, I found the narration to be really problematic. It felt choppy. It felt sort of confusing and I really struggled to try and figure out exactly what was going on. Really, as I was reading, I continuously thought to myself, ‘I think this would make more sense on screen”, which truly does make sense given the background of the author. I also found, surprisingly, that this one moved fairly slowly. The pace does pick up eventually, but I found it slow and steady until about the 60% mark.

I didn’t find Skellig a particularly likeable protagonist but I did love the dry wit and humour that he brought to the text; I felt like his character was well developed and complex. Hanson did a great job with him.

Overall, this one left me feeling disappointed due to the choppy narrative style but I absolutely think that this one will end up being one of those “marmite books” that people will either absolutely love or hate. I think fans of something a little less traditional will really enjoy this book.

Thanks to the publisher and the author for a copy of this book; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to know what Jessica and Chandra thought of this book?  Keep reading to see what they thought of The Driver.

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Book Review: See What I Have Done (Sarah Schmidt) @groveatlantic ‏

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I had heard of Lizzie Borden before but had never really given much thought to her actual trial until I began See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. One of #cjsreads first August picks, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect when I dove into this book. Generally speaking, I enjoy historical fiction but struggle when it has a mystery/thriller angle. I don’t know what it is about them, but they all feel a little “Sherlock Holmes” to me. However, with a cover quote by Paula Hawkins stating this book was “eerie and compelling” I was intrigued right away.   I would have to say that I agree with Hawkins on this one; See What I Have Done had an ominous vibe throughout.

Opening with Lizzie discovering her father dead in his study and going back and forth between the day of the murder and the days prior, the investigation into the murder begins and it doesn’t take long for Lizzie to be at the center when she begins to seem unreliable and struggles to remember events of the day. With her sister by her side and the police closing in, the novel is narrated through multiple character perspectives including a stranger and a housemaid.

The first thing that stood out for me while I was reading was how irritated I was with the multiple character perspectives. I didn’t care for the various POVs; I felt like I wanted to hear the story through the eyes of Lizzie and all the other characters felt a little bit irrelevant to me. I know they all played their role but I think I would have been completely consumed with the plot should it had been through Lizzie’s unreliable narration. I love me an unreliable narrator!

I was impressed with how Schmidt was able to take a real scenario and turn it into a fictionalized account without making it seem over-embellished or too far-fetched. I feel like it was kept realistic and took more of a rational approach. This was a smart decision on Schmidt’s part. I felt like I was truly reading more a “true crime” story instead of a work of fiction.

Overall, I felt like this was an entertaining read but, like some other historical mysteries, I found this one to be quite slow moving. If you are at all interested in Lizzie Bordon, this will obviously appeal to you and I also feel like fans of true crime will have a special interest in this tale. However, if you are looking for something incredibly fast paced, then I would skip this one!

Thanks to the publisher and the author for a copy of this book; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to know what Chandra and Jessica thought of this one?  Keep reading to see what the other members of #cjsreads had to say about See What I Have Done!

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Book Review: The Lost Ones (Sheena Kamal) @sheena_kamal @WmMorrowBks

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I first discovered the work of Sheena Kamal when I read Eyes Like Mine, which was previously published in the UK. Now that book is being published in North American under the title The Lost Ones and I am thrilled that #cjsreads decided to read this for one of our July picks.

Not only is this book amazing, but it also features tons of Canadian content- which- let’s get real- I am completely biased about!

The book, which appears to be the first in a series, introduces a brand new anti-heroine with flawed, recovering addict, Nora Watts. Working as a PI and journalist, Nora finds herself caught up in the case of her missing daughter. Along with the help of her ex-sponsor, her employers and her sister, Nora begins the hunt for her daughter and gets wrapped up a parallel crime when one of her co-workers is murdered. This one had me glued to the pages and flipping rapidly to understand how all these moving pieces fit together.

My original review of this book can be found HERE, but since this is a #cjsreads title, keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of this one!

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Book Review: Fierce Kingdom (Gin Phillips) @RandomHouseCA @GinPhillips17

Fierce Kingdom.pngI have been eagerly anticipating the release of Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips, for MONTHS; I had read multiple posts during the blog tour for the UK release and it shot right up to the top of STAFF PICKS at Chapters-Indigo upon its release in Canada, but since the US released it later on in July and I was reading it with Jessica and Chandra for one of our July #cjsreads picks, I held off for as long as possible!  Now that I have read the title, I feel as if the hype is justified but feel like this book absolutely left me wanting more.

Let me break it down.

The novel opens with a mother (Joan) and her young son (Lincoln) enjoying an afternoon at the zoo.  Lincoln is talking a mile a minute, Joan is making lists in her head and as they head out of the zoo for the evening, Joan hears a popping sound.  Something is absolutely wrong and this is made clear when Joan sees the bodies.  There is a shooter in the zoo and the shooter is not just hunting the animals.  Scooping up Lincoln and running, Joan must try and protect him from the evil that lurks.

The general premise was absolutely gripping; I was hooked from the first pages of the book.   What a different setting for a thriller!  I felt like the zoo backdrop added an extra layer of unpredictability as our protagonist had to not only worry about the human danger but also the danger that comes from nature.   Phillips also does an excellent job at making her characters realistic and relatable.  I was genuinely concerned for their plights and found myself continuously asking myself what I would do in such a situation.    I also felt like Phillips did an amazing job at developing her secondary characters.

Now, my struggle with the book is hard to discuss without giving any spoilers but I did have quite an issue with an aspect involving a baby.  I felt like I didn’t get any resolution and I felt quite a bit of anxiety surrounding this small bit of plot.  I also struggled a lot with the ending.  Again, hard to explain without providing spoilers but it really didn’t leave me satisfied.

Overall, I felt like Fierce Kingdom was a stellar piece of fiction and would recommend it to anyone looking for something fast paced and engaging.   Gave it 4/5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, the author and Netgalley for the copy; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Want to see what my fellow #cjsreads members thought of this one?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: Fierce Kingdom (Gin Phillips) @RandomHouseCA @GinPhillips17”

Book Review: The Marriage Pact (Michelle Richmond) @michellerichmon @randomhouse

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When newlyweds, Alex and Jake, receive a wedding gift that invites them into an exclusive and mysterious group for married couples, they are flattered.   The goal of The Pact is simple.  Keep marriages happy and intact.  Seduced by the glamorous parties and sense of community, they embrace The Pact.  They are given a manual with all the rules, one being: don’t mention The Pact to anyone.   As Alice and Jake try to adhere by their rules, they realize how much different The Pact is and how dangerous The Pact can be.

I love any book that has a cult vibe, so when I discovered The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond it immediately moved to the top of my TBR pile.  I loved how this one took the domestic suspense genre and gave it a twist.   I was so glad to read something where the conflict lies not between the married but couple, but instead, the married couple against the world.   It really was like married people Fight Club.

Richmond is able to create two incredibly likeable characters in Jake and Alice.  They complement each nicely and were very realistic.  She also was able to create such a well put together and fast paced plot.  I was engaged throughout and was continuously worried about Jake and Alice as they navigated their way through The Pact.   Truly, at times, it became super creepy!   I couldn’t believe the lengths that the members were willing to go.  I read this one as a buddy read with Danielle from The Blonde Likes Books and we were continuously messaging each other with our worries.

I did feel like the ending was a random and kind of out in left field for me, especially in regards to the general tone of the book.

Overall, even with the random ending, I loved this book and would highly recommend it!!

Thanks to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for a digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

This one was a #cjsreads pick for July; keep reading to see what Chandra and Jessica thought of this one!

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Book Review: Watch Me Disappear (Janelle Brown) @janelleb @randomhouse

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 10.19.30 AM.pngI have never read a Janelle Brown book before but I am always eager to try a new author; so, when #cjsreads chose Watch Me Disappear for one of our July titles, I was pumped.

The book opens just about a year after Olive’s mother, Billie, has gone missing during a hiking trip.  Now presumed dead, Olive’s father, Jonathan, is in a legal battle in order to declare Billie dead and Olive is trying to get her life back in order.  However, Olive begins to see her mother.  First thinking it is a hallucination and then wondering if it is a sign, Olive shares her experiences with her father and they both, in their own way, begin to dig into Billie’s life.  While looking for the truth, secrets come to light, leaving both reeling.

My first thought once I finished reading was that this book was not marketed correctly; I didn’t find this one fit into the mystery/thriller genre.  I would have deemed it contemporary fiction.    Going in, I was expecting a fast paced, psychological type thriller and instead, I found this to be more of a slower read.  Even with this, I did feel like it was actually paced quite well.   Brown is able to string her reader along and keep them captivated.  I found myself completely engrossed with the actual plot.

Narrated through alternating perspectives by Jonathan and Olive, Brown weaves a tale of deception and grief.  I was captivated throughout the chapters; especially interested in the chapters highlighting Jonathan’s novel (he is writing a memoir about the time spent with his wife) and his struggle for answers.

The book has a very strong, sort of metaphysical aspect that I thought was really interesting.  Throughout, it remains very unclear whether or not Olive is truly experiencing something more parapsychological or if she is truly working through the grieving process.    I really like the ambiguity of this fact and it propelled me to continue reading.

My one real issue with the text was the characters themselves.  I didn’t feel particularly attached to anyone.  It could have gone either way for me; Billie could have been alive, she could have been dead.  It really made no difference to me.  I wish the author had spent more time developing the character relationships so I could have been more invested.

Another bone I have to pick with this book regards the ending.  I was SO MAD when I read the final pages.  As soon as I finished I sent a caps locked rage filled e-mail off to everyone I knew had read the book.  I was RILED up.

Regardless of my general feelings about the end, I felt like this was a stellar read.   I think that readers who enjoy a family drama or a piece of contemporary fiction will devour this one.  However, if you are looking for a fast paced thrill ride, you would be disappointed.  I gave this one a 3.5/5 stars.

Thanks to the author and the publisher for a copy of this book; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Keep reading to see what Chandra and Jessica had to say about Watch Me Disappear!

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Book Review: Devil’s Call (J. Danielle Dorn) @Inkshares @jdanielledorn

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 2.07.21 PM.pngI am going to open this review by being brutally honest.

When I received this book for our July #cjsreads titles, I almost added it automatically to my DNF pile. I don’t do Westerns and I don’t (usually) read historical fiction, let alone fantastical historical fiction; this book was set in the iconic American frontier on the eve of the Civil War and had to do with witches.   However, I decided to read the first chapter (to say that I tried) and, I must say, shame on me for judging this book!

Devil’s Call by J. Danielle Dorn ended up surprising me!

From the first few pages, I was hooked as I followed Li Lian, a woman in a long line of witches who goes on to avenge her husband’s murder. Dorn brilliantly drew me in with the narrative style (told sort of diary style by our protagonist) and held on to me tight! I found this one incredibly entertaining.

I do think that this title was slightly mismarketed as a horror novel; I didn’t find anything about this one particularly scary. It really was more like occult fiction. Also, do not be thrown off by the Western aspect of this novel, I promise it is not overwhelming or distracting.

Overall, this novel surprised me greatly and that is not easy to do when you read as much as I do! I give this one 3.5/5 stars.

Thanks to the author and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought of Devil’s Call.

Continue reading “Book Review: Devil’s Call (J. Danielle Dorn) @Inkshares @jdanielledorn”

Book Review: The Secrets She Keeps (Michael Robotham) @michaelrobotham @ScribnerBooks

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I was incredibly excited when #cjsreads decided to make The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham a July pick; I had heard nothing but amazing things about this novel.  Now that I have finished reading it for myself, I’d have to agree.  This book is worth all the hype.

Agatha, eight months pregnant, lives her mundane life admiring Meghan, one of the mums she sees out and about.  Meghan has it all: a baby on the way, two other adorable children, a loving husband, a beautiful house and a blog that Agatha reads each night.  Both women, due around the same time, have their own web of dark secrets and when Agatha finally musters enough courage to speak to Meghan, it sets into motion a series of events that cannot be undone.

Told between alternating perspectives between two pregnant women (Agatha and Meghan), Robotham weaves a tale of deception, desperation and desire.

Initially, I felt as if this book was going to read like a thousand others I had read before.  I wasn’t 100% sure where the author was going to go with the story but I knew it had a similar dark vibe from some others I had read recently (for example, like Watching Edie).  However, after the first few chapters, I knew this would be completely different and, needless to say, I was hooked.   Fast paced plot with complex characters had me racing through the chapters.   I, in part, was turning the pages faster and faster because I wanted to see what would happen and the other part of me needed to take frequent breaks because the pages were becoming too intense!

Overall, if you like a psychological thriller that is INTENSE and will keep you turning the pages late into the night, then you will want to read The Secrets She Keeps.  I have read almost 200 books this year and this one is at the top.

Thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

As mentioned, this one was a #cjsreads pick for July!  So, keep reading to see what Chandra and Jessica thought of The Secrets She Keeps.

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Book Review: Bring Her Home (David Bell) @DavidBellNovels ‏@BerkleyPub

 

Bring Her HomeI read a lot of mystery and thriller books (obviously!) so, when I come across one that impresses me, I feel like shouting from the rooftops.   Bring Her Home, by David Bell, was one of those books that made me want to shout.  Fast paced and entertaining, I found myself completely invested to our protagonist and his struggles.

The novel opens with Bill, a widower, facing every father’s worst nightmare.  His fifteen-year-old daughter, Summer is missing (along with her best friend, Haley).  Days later, the girls are found in the park.  Haley is dead on the scene and Summer is badly beaten.   Bill is left begging his daughter to fight for her life but also begins to wonder if he knows his daughter at all.   As Bill searches for the truth, he discovers more than what he thought.

Instead of going for the gusto, Bell opens subtly and slowly draws his reader in.  I felt instantly intrigued.    From the first pages, Bell does a superb job at setting up lots of questions for the reader to continuously ask.  I really loved this; when I read, I love to be active in my thought process trying to figure out the plot and where the author plans on going.

One of the other things I enjoyed was the plethora of twists in the middle of the novel.  Especially since I am completely tired of the big, shocking, one moment twists that so many thrillers have these days.   I felt like this made the story even more eerie and ominous because it felt so real; this truly could have been a story that could happen to anyone.

As for characterization, I felt like Bill was relatable and the story felt very real; I really appreciated that!

I was able to guess pretty early on parts of the resolution of the novel but Bell did bring in some complex details that I would never have guessed that amped up the ending for me.

Overall, I feel like fans of the “feels real” thriller will enjoy this novel; think authors like Mary Kubica.  I absolutely relished in this one.  4/5 stars from me!

Thanks to the publisher, the author and Netgalley for a digital copy of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

This one was also a #cjsreads title for July, keep reading to see what Chandra and Jessica had to say about this one!

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