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review 2018-08-18 03:00
Girls' Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
Girls' Night Out - Lisa Steinke,Liz Fenton

A special thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

 

Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

 

As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit.

 

Liz and Lisa, what a ride!  This book was fantastic!  The writing is layered, dynamic, and oh so clever.  The character depictions are detailed and fierce and I was completely captivated by the timelines and narratives.    

 

What Fenton and Steinke do best is conversation.  Did you not feel like you were on this trip too?  Beyond the story are deeper themes of secrets, complicated relationships (at what point is a friendship obligatory?) and mystery.  The brilliant aspect of this book is the juxtaposition of complex friendships against a frantic search for a loved one.  Female relationships are complex, but three is never an ideal number and this ratchets the tension even further.  I would highly recommend this book.  

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review 2018-08-18 01:43
When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica
When The Lights Go Out - Mary Kubica

A special thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss, HarperCollins, and Park Row Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Jessie Sloane had been caring for her mother, Eden, and is now on her own for the first time in her life.  She takes out a lease on an apartment in an old carriage house and applies to college.  But when the college informs her that her social security number belongs to a deceased three-year-old girl, Jessie begins to doubt everything she's ever known.

 

For as long as Jessie can remember, it had only been just the two of them.  When she asked about her father, Eden never disclosed who he was.  The mystery of Jessie's life and who she is becomes further exacerbated by the grief surrounding the death of her mother as well as the lack of sleep—Jessie refuses to sleep because when she fell asleep at the hospital, her mother died, and she feels an incredible amount of guilt.  As the days go by and the insomnia gets worse, Jessie's mind starts to play tricks on her and she can't decipher what is real and what is actually happening.  

 

Twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, Eden appears to be happily married and dreams of having a child with her husband, Aaron.  The couple is struggling with infertility and Eden's desperation for a child becomes all-consuming.  Eden makes an impulsive decision that years later has Jessie questioning her whole life—has it been a lie, or have her delusions finally gotten the best of her?

 

Told in alternating perspectives and timelines, the sharp plot is blunted by Jessie's delusions and Eden's obsessive behaviour.  The reader is stuck inside both Jessie's twisted perceptions, not knowing what is real and what isn't, and Eden's emotional breakdown.  As unreliable narrators, Jessie and Eden are the perfect vehicles to execute this psychological thriller.  

 

Kubica is at the top of her game and she pens something totally fresh in When the Lights Go Out.  I would highly recommend this book, it was a fantastic read and I enjoyed the many twists in the plot.  

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review 2018-08-17 13:27
Rattus New Yorkus
Rattus New Yorkus - Hunter Shea

by Hunter Shea

 

This story is a novella and reads very fast! A divorcing husband and wife exterminator team are assigned to test a new rat control substance that is supposed to stop them from breeding. Unfortunately the planned genetic modifications don't work to plan and they breed more prolifically and become aggressive and fearless. With the reputation of New York rats, this is a seriously scary scenario!

 

It's a very fast paced story with constant action through most of it and although the nature of the action is fairly predictable, the details are what makes the difference. I would call it a light Horror. There are definite horrific bits but with comedy asides.

 

The subplot dealing with the dynamics between the divorcing partners adds some depth but wasn't explored all that far and I felt was left unresolved. Overall the story didn't have a lot of depth, but if you're looking for a fast action Horror that will make to wonder about the scratching in the walls, this will do nicely.

 

In many ways it resembles one of those old 1950s creature Horrors, but with a more modern feel and without the predictable happy ending.

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review 2018-08-13 20:08
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Sadie - Courtney Summers

A special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Sadie hasn't had it easy.  Her drug-addict mother is in and out of her life and Sadie is tasked with raising her little sister, Mattie.

Mattie goes missing and is subsequently found murdered.  This absolutely destroys Sadie and after a botched police investigation, Sadie makes it her mission to bring her sister's killer to justice.  Following what little information she has, Sadie strikes out on her own to find him.

West McCray is radio personality who is working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America.  When he overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, West becomes obsessed with finding Sadie.  He starts his own podcast that tracks her journey in the hopes of trying to figure out what happened and to find Sadie before it's too late.

Summers contemporary story is not pretty.  It's gritty, raw, and at times unimaginable.  But the sad fact is that what happens to Sadie is not unique and the world can be a dark and terrible place. 

I struggled with Sadie as a character—on one hand, she's a total badass and could be a strong female lead, but on the other, she's basically still a child that has faced some incredibly brutal situations that no one, let alone a child, should be subjected to.     

The alternating points of view is the perfect vehicle for this story.  Sadie's first person voice is vulnerable as evident through her stutter, yet strong as apparent through her sheer determination and will.  She is lost and doesn't want to be found.  The only thing keeping her going is to find and kill the man responsible for Mattie's murder.  West's narrative is true to his occupation as a radio presenter in that he is factual and purposeful.  He frames his views into consumable content, albeit somewhat flippant, because he is reporting and investigating without any personal attachment.  I took this as a comment on the impact of media and how numb we are as a society to things that should be horrific and cause for reaction/action.

The two are on a similar trajectory—Sadie to find the man responsible for her sister's death and West to find Sadie.  With each turn of the page, the reader is hoping for them to collide and Summers capitalizes on this to propel her narrative.  Her pace is spot on.

This book is not for the faint of heart.  Summers preys on the reader's anxiety and ratchets this story to a whole other level.  I actually had to take reading breaks with this one, not only to catch my breath, but because I felt suffocated by Sadie's darkness.  This novel could be a trigger warning for some because of some of the subject matter and should come with a warning to call this out.  

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review 2018-08-13 19:30
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
In the Midst of Winter: A Novel - Isabel Allende

A special thank you to NetGalley, Atria, and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Three different people are brought together in an interesting premise that travels from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to Chile and Brazil in the 1970s.

 

The story opens with a minor car accident which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected relationship between two people who thought they were living in the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster is a 60-year-old American human rights scholar that had lived for a time in Brazil.  During a snowstorm, Richard hits the car that Evelyn Ortega is driving.  She is a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala working as a nanny in the city.  At first it seems like a just a minor fender bender, but when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house needing help, the situation becomes serious.  Richard doesn't know what to do with the young woman so he calls on his tenant, Lucia Maraz for her advice.  Lucia is a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile who is attracted to Richard but has given up any hope of a more intimate relationship.  

 

These three very different people are brought together in a captivating story.  Allende's narrative moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil and sparks the beginning of a long overdue love story between the two older characters, Richard and Lucia.

 

Allende explores the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees.  It is a much needed novel in these regards.  However, having the story unfold the way it does is a disservice to the weighty topics that she depicts.  The structure is disjointed—the life stories are much more interesting than the modern day storyline that binds the characters together and I felt that Allende should have used another narrative style.  The backstories are beautifully written and incredibly moving in their harsh realities but again, the present day plot takes away from this.  Perhaps this was done on purpose, to juxtapose a love story against the darkness.  

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