Book Review: Unraveling Oliver (Liz Nugent) @SimonSchusterCA

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 7.03.10 PMAs I have mentioned before on Clues and Reviews, I struggle with serious cases of FOMO! As soon as I see other bloggers reading (and loving!) a particular book, I make sure that I arrange my schedule so I can add that book to the top of my TBR pile and dive in! This was the case with Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent.

When this one published last year, I was oozing with jealousy as I read reviews from other bloggers comparing it to some of my favourite books (You by Caroline Kepnes and Perfect Days by Rapheal Montes). However, this one released in Canada much later, so, when I was finally able to dive into this book, I was ecstatic and filled with anticipation. Was this a well-written book? Absolutely! Was it entertaining? Completely. A solid debut? For sure! Was it everything I thought it would be? Not exactly…

The novel follows Oliver Ryan, a handsome and charismatic writer who also happens to be a sociopath. After beating his wife, Alice, into a coma, Oliver reflects on his violent acts and, in the aftermath, his neighbours, acquaintances and friends of the couple try to understand what happened and what forced this man to unravel.

First and foremost, I did love the many differing perspectives and found that Nugent did an amazing job at ensuring that the plethora of characters did not become confusing. Her narrative voice remained fluid and even though there were multiple characters, it never felt disjointed. I loved the fact that all types of characters were given a narrative voice that represented all stages of Oliver’s life. I found this refreshing and a well-rounded and intimate way to discover a character. I truly did feel, by the end of the novel, that I knew Oliver inside and out.

The multiple characters were one of my favourite features and, at the same time, it was kind of where Unraveling Oliver lost me. I felt like this novel, unlike You or Perfect Days, was more of a character study. In the other novels, I was able to get a first hand, continuous look at how the protagonist/antagonist was feeling due to the singular, first-person point of view. I was able to get into the mind of a psychopath. In this novel, I was able to understand the character but it lacked the gritty and unsettling details. I also felt like halfway through, I started losing interest. I realized he was a sociopath, he was clearly a messed up guy but I just felt like it went on too long with the multiple perspectives.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt like this was a spectacular debut, it just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. If you like a dark character study, then you will absolutely enjoy this novel. However, if you prefer something a little more unsettling, this may leave you wanting more.

4/5 stars.

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

Book Review: Anatomy of A Scandal (Sarah Vaughan) @SimonSchusterCA @AtriaMysteryBus @SVaughanAuthor

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 9.35.10 AM.pngWhen choosing a novel, I am typically drawn to anything involving courtroom drama or a he said/she said type storyline. When I discovered that Anatomy of a Scandal, the new novel by Sarah Vaughan, had these exact two things within its storyline, I was sold! Up to the top of my TBR pile, it went.

The novel opens with the introduction of James: loving father, Member of Parliament and accused rapist. His wife, Sophie, is shocked at the accusations and is desperate to protect her family. Kate, the lawyer hired to prosecute the case, is certain James is guilty and should pay for his crimes. As all three viewpoints collide, Vaughan weaves a tale of love, betrayal, deceit and revenge.

When I started reading, I was completely hooked from the first few pages. In fact, I flew through Anatomy of a Scandal within a couple of sittings. Vaughan’s narrative voice is completely addictive and I found myself loving the characters; I found Sophie and Kate to be extremely relatable. Vaughan did a spectacular job at making her characters jump off the pages; there was nothing superficial about them. Instead, Vaughan seemed to delve deep and I found myself completely engrossed as their stories developed. While I loved the female characters, James, on the other hand, I hated from the moment I was introduced to him. Conniving and powerful, I felt like I couldn’t trust him for a second. I loved this juxtaposition within the writing! Having characters I loved and characters I abhorred kept me on the edge of my seat!

As for twists, I felt as if the story was pretty surface. I was able to guess where it was going almost immediately but that didn’t disturb or affect my reading at all. In fact, it made me more curious to see exactly how the story was going to play out.

I think my favourite part of the novel was how relevant it was. With all that is going on in the world involving rape culture, women’s rights and Hollywood/political scandals, I felt as if Anatomy of a Scandal did an amazing job at portraying the system surrounding these issues and what needs to change.

Overall, I really enjoyed Anatomy of a Scandal. If you are looking for a character-centric, slow burn that will get you thinking and leave you feeling, then you will enjoy this one too! However, if you are looking for an extremely fast-paced, thrill ride type of novel this one will likely disappoint.

I gave it 4/5 stars.

Thanks to the author (Sarah Vaughan), the publisher (Atria/Simon and Schuster Canada) and Netgalley for copies of this novel; it was my pleasure to provide an honest review.

Obviously, #cjsreads had to make this one of our January picks!  Keep reading to see what Jessica and Chandra thought!

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Book Review: The Wolves of Winter (Tyrell Johnson) @tjohnso14 @SimonSchusterCA

Wolves of Winter.pngI am such a sucker for any sort of dystopian novel or any novel with a dystopian landscape. Usually, anything that has a Hunger Games vibe gets me; I just love it. So, when I stumbled upon The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson.

The novel sort of has a young adult vibe with the perfect blend of a young, coming of age vibe and dark, disturbing plotlines. I find this so rare when an author can accomplish this balance (especially since I struggle with any novel that feels too YA). The story opens with a society that has collapsed after facing nuclear war and spread of disease. Lynn McBride and her family are some of the only ones left. Living in the Canadian Yukon, she has learned how to hunt and trap to survive this landscape of ice and snow. However, when a stranger stumbles upon their camp setting in motion a chain of events that leads Lynn away from the life she has come to know and into great danger, she must face challenges she has never dreamed of and fulfil a destiny she never imagined.

So let’s break this book down.

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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: 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!

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Book Review: Two Nights (Kathy Reichs) @SimonSchusterCA

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Being a crime fiction fan, it is not easy to peruse any sort of crime shelf without seeing a book by Kathy Reichs.   When I read the synopsis for Reichs’ newest standalone thriller, Two Nights, I knew that I would have to give this one a read. As soon as I started reading Two Nights, it became very clear why all of her books do well. Reichs can weave a serious story!

Two Nights opens with the introduction of Sunday Night. Sunday is a woman with a tumultuous past, a grudge on her shoulder and some serious killer instinct. After leaving the police force after some misconduct, she is drawn back to the scene privately after a wealthy woman approaches her to look into the disappearance of her teenaged granddaughter. As Sunnie begins her investigation, she comes into more danger than she ever believed and not only fights to save the missing girl but also her own life as well.
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Book Review: Beartown (Fredrik Backman) @SimonSchusterCA

Beartown.png

I don’t really care for hockey (I know, I know, I am a horrible Canadian) but I couldn’t help my curiosity surrounding Beartown by Fredrik Backman.  I had heard so many things about it! So, when I saw it in the bookstore, I added it to my cart. In typical fashion, I put it on my shelf and assumed I would get around to it in 2021, until my friend Chelsea (at The Suspense Is Thrilling Me) bought the same book, so, I suggested that we do this one as a buddy read.

I am so glad I didn’t wait to read this book.

At first, I didn’t know what I was getting into. As I mentioned, I don’t really care for hockey but my extended family eats, sleeps and breathes it. They spend hours at the rink. They train all year. They do not miss a game. I don’t understand this but I understand the culture. Backman captures it brilliantly within these pages: the sacrifice, the anticipation and the hope.  I initially started this one with the intention to read it slowly and when I had some time, however, after I sat down to read this novel, it demanded my full attention and I could not put it down.

Heart-wrenching, gut twisting and fast paced, I am still thinking about this book days after I completed it.

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Book Review: Kill the Father (Sandrone Dazieri) @sandronedazieri @ScribnerBooks

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Kill the Father, the new release by Sandrone Dazieri, is a complex and thrilling murder mystery that will take you on quite the ride.   Fast paced plot, dynamic characters, and intelligent writing had me reading late into the night. I couldn’t put this one down.

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