Book Review: Good Me Bad Me (Ali Land) @byAliLand @Flatironbooks

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I am all about living in Canada, the true North strong and free and all that, but I really struggle when I see a book on my wishlist that comes out so much later here than in the UK!  One of these books was Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land.  After reading a plethora of positive reviews and hype during the time of the UK release (which was in January), I waited with baited breath until I could get my hands on a copy!  Now that I have read one of my most anticipated September titles, I am feeling a little bit mixed about my feelings.

The novel opens with the introduction of Milly (aka Annie) who is new to the foster care system after turning in her mother, a serial killer, to the authorities.  Milly is awaiting her mother’s trial in which she is the star witness.   However, Milly has some secrets too; wrestling with her guilt and dealing with her troubling past, Milly is forced to face her most internal desires and question whether or not she will be good or bad.  After all, she is her mother’s daughter.

One of the first things that struck me about this novel was the characterization.  Kids are creepy.  Kids as a narrator are creepy.  This was clearly represented within the pages of this story.   Milly is such a complex character and she was really interesting to watch develop.   She seems to be quite the mess, and for good reason, and I felt like I was able to get into her headspace through my reading.  Land does a brilliant job at creating a memorable character here.  However, one of my main issues with the text came from the disjointed narrative style.  I realize that this was probably intentional due to the unreliable nature and psychological state of our protagonist but I found this style a little hard to follow.   I think I would have gotten much more from the text if it had been more of a third person narration instead of first person.  I did end up getting used to it in the end and I did find that by the end of the text, I was following it easier.

I loved the little vignettes that were placed throughout the text that gave insight to the atrocities that Milly witnessed while living in her mother’s house of horrors.  I thought this gave such an eerie and ominous tone to the text and legitimately creeped me out.

Now, my mixed feelings do not come from a hatred of the text or from a lack of entertainment because, don’t get me wrong, this novel was binge read worthy and I finished it very quickly, it was just completely different from what I was expecting.  I was thinking this would be full of twists and turns but I knew exactly where the plot was going.  I thought this would be a fast paced thriller and instead, it was a slow burning character study.  I feel like maybe I became a bit of a victim of the hype on this one, but I still really enjoyed the story for what it was.

If you are looking for a fast paced thriller with mind-blowing twists, then this one probably will not be for you.  However, if you into a character that will look deep into the psyche of a character and bring an eerie feeling to your bones, then this will be up your alley!

4/5 stars from me.

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

Want to know what my other #cjsreads members thought about this one?  Keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra had to say about Good Me Bad Me.

Continue reading “Book Review: Good Me Bad Me (Ali Land) @byAliLand @Flatironbooks”

Book Review: Sunshine is Forever (Kyle T. Cowan) @KyleTCowan #SunshineisForever @Inkshares

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After an “incident” and a suicide attempt, Hunter finds himself heading to Camp Sunshine, the happiest place on earth and haven for depressed teens. Once he arrives, he meets fellow camper, Corin, who hatches a plan to break out of camp.   In helping with the plan, Hunter ends up going deep within himself to figure out if he plans to run from the incident that got him to the camp in the first place or if he wants to stay and face it head on.

This is a totally different book from what the #cjsreads crew typically reads and, I’ll have to admit, when I first read the synopsis, I was hesitant.  I had some serious issues with Thirteen Reasons Why and that whole craze earlier this year, so I wasn’t sure what to expect as I delved into a book about teen suicide.    However, the tagline for this book stated it was The Bell Jar meets Chuck Palahniuk.  I was intrigued but a little bit confused.  “What a combination that would be”, I thought to myself.   So, my curiosity got the best of me and I dived in.  Now that I have finished Sunshine is Forever by Kyle T. Cowan, I totally get it.

Given the subject matter, it is no surprise that this narrative is raw and honest but it is also, ironically, pretty funny.  Using dark humour, Cowan’s narrative prose completely stood out using Hunter’s narrative voice.  As he discussed his insecurities, his feelings, and his everyday life, I found myself accepting the information as if he was an old friend.  I don’t usually read YA, simply because I don’t usually enjoy it nor can I relate.  However, I found something different about this one.  Perhaps the subject matter made it seem more mature?  I’m not sure but I had no issues flying through the pages.

In my line of work, I often come across teens with suicidal ideations and I found the perspective of this book incredibly eye opening.  You can read textbooks for days on the subject but this account felt so honest and real, it actually felt like it gave me a better understanding.

4/5 stars from me!

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

Want to see if the other #cjsreads book appreciated this book as much as I did?  Keep reading to see what they thought about Sunshine Is Forever.

Continue reading “Book Review: Sunshine is Forever (Kyle T. Cowan) @KyleTCowan #SunshineisForever @Inkshares”

Book Review: Killer Harvest (Paul Cleave) @PaulCleave @AtriaMysteryBus

Killer HarvestBelieve it or not, I have never read a Paul Cleave novel before! I know, I know, from what I hear, I am seriously missing out. I was pretty pumped when #cjsreads decided to pick up A Killer Harvest, the newest publication by Paul Cleave for one of our August reads.   Chelsea, my good friend from The Suspense Is Thrilling Me, had raved about this one to me months ago so I was going in with pretty high expectations. I am glad to report that this novel met (and surpassed!) all my expectations. I binge read this one over the course of a few hours and was left with a serious book hangover.

Sort of a mix between sci-fi, thriller, and mystery, Cleave weaves a seriously addicting novel from the first pages. A detective is killed in the line of duty and his murderer (a known serial killer) is also killed. Hours later, a blind teenager, Joshua, goes into surgery to receive a set of eyes to try and restore his vision; after a mishap, the teenager receives his sight after obtaining one eye from the detective and the other from the serial killer. As Joshua gains his sight, he begins to recognize people he shouldn’t recognize (after all he has never seen them before) and seeing memories from someone else’s life, leading him to realize that perhaps he is dealing with cellular memory.   As Joshua begins to discover what this means, and another murderer hell bent on avenging his partner’s death, Joshua finds himself in grave danger.

Crazy, right??

Continue reading “Book Review: Killer Harvest (Paul Cleave) @PaulCleave @AtriaMysteryBus”

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.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Driver (Hart Hanson)”

Book Review: Emma in the Night (Wendy Walker) @StMartinsPress @Wendy_Walker

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I am always looking for a good buddy read so when Chelsea (from The Suspense Is Thrilling Me) and I discovered that we both had Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker, on our TBR lists, we decided to dive in and tackle this upcoming thriller.   Instead of writing up our own individual reviews,  we thought it would be fun to craft a sort of joint review that reads discussion style to change things up a bit!  We took some general book discussion questions, answered them and we hope this format will give you an insight into what our discussions are like whenever we read a book together!

Before we get down to business, here is a synopsis of Emma in the Night.

 One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Keep reading to see what Chelsea and I thought when we read Emma in the Night.

Continue reading “Book Review: Emma in the Night (Wendy Walker) @StMartinsPress @Wendy_Walker”

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!

Continue reading “Book Review: See What I Have Done (Sarah Schmidt) @groveatlantic ‏”

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!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Lost Ones (Sheena Kamal) @sheena_kamal @WmMorrowBks”

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 Lying Game (Ruth Ware) @SimonSchusterCA

The Lying Game

I’m just gonna come right out and say it. I have never read a novel by Ruth Ware.

I have never read a novel by Ruth Ware.

I know, I know, what kind of thriller lover am I?

I have them all purchased, sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently for me but I am a slave to my TBR pile and hadn’t been able to read them yet. So, I was more than thrilled when #cjsreads made The Lying Game by Ruth Ware a July title.

The novel opens with a body being discovered and Isa, a new mother, receiving a text from her childhood friend. A text she knows to always respond to. A text she hoped she would never get. Travelling to Salten, a boarding school she spent a year in, she meets up with Kate and two other friends who all went to the school; notorious in their time, they were known for playing The Lying Game. A game blurred with reality, and soon, the girls realize that their past is not as buried as they had hoped.

From the first pages, I was pretty much hooked. It sort of had that chick lit, Pretty Little Liars vibe that I enjoy in a thriller. Imagine Big Little Lies and a sort of darker Gossip Girl. I really enjoy where I can get that sort of “feeling” from a piece of fiction for an adult, especially since it usually can only be found in the realm of YA.

I found myself flying through the pages, which were narrated by Isa, and was gripped trying to figure out what had gone on in their past (which was also explored). I had plenty of theories.   This one peaked for me in the middle, it had a sort of “SAY WHAT” moment and I was completely perplexed.

However, I found the ending to be a little lacklustre. It sort of went the tried and true route and I felt a little disappointed.

Overall, I felt like this one was fast paced and juicy enough to be a perfect read for the beach.

I gave it a 4/5 stars!

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

Want to know if Chandra and Jessica felt the same way as I did about The Lying Game?  Keep reading to find out!

Continue reading “Book Review: The Lying Game (Ruth Ware) @SimonSchusterCA”