ARC Review: “People of Abandoned Character” by Clare Whitfield

Title: People of Abandoned Character
Author: Clare Whitfield
Genre: Historical/thriller
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 29/09/2020 – 04/10/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was still a great read.

I was expecting a fast-paced thriller, with main character Susannah racing against the clock to discover whether her husband is Jack the Ripper and possibly prevent the next murder.

Instead, it was slower, with a sense of dread creeping insidiously under the surface. The book takes it time looking at attitudes towards both women and queer people at the time. It doesn’t shy away from vivid descriptions of life in Whitechapel and other slums of London in the 1880s.

I loved the way (is loved the right word? Probably not) the Jack the Ripper murders were tied into the plot of Susannah as she tries to make her marriage work despite Thomas becoming more and more erratic and volatile. In particular the way the murder of Mary Jane Kelly is tied in is especially clever, though when I try to sleep tonight I am probably going to regret enlarging the police photograph of her body on Wikipedia to compare it to the description in the book (pro-tip: don’t do that).

Susannah is not an entirely reliable narrator and she’s definitely the sort of character to be labelled “unlikable” with all the baggage that comes with that descriptor. I imagine she would have been a difficult character to write, particularly in the first person, and I applaud Clare Whitfield for how consistently she wrote Susannah. This is Whitfield’s debut novel and I think she will definitely be an author to watch out for in the future!


Thank you to Zeus Books for the gratis copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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“Books. Moonlight. Melodrama.” // Review of “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Title: Mexican Gothic
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Gothic horror
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/08/2020– 12/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

Hoo boy. This was one of my most anticipated 2020 reads, but I have to put the disclaimer that I maybe didn’t know what I was getting into? I loved Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow enough that I wanted to check out her haunted house book. This is despite only managing to get through 30 pages of the last haunted house book I tried because I am a wuss.

It may be that my lack of experience with the horror genre, and with gothic horror in particular, meant I didn’t know what to expect. Some of it was expected, like the creepy, barely accessible house with a lot of death in its history, the awful people living there, and strange dreams and glowing apparitions. But I have to admit the final twist lost me! Without saying anything too spoilery, is that sort of thing common in gothic horror?

Still, the historical world-building and the characterisations were spot on. There’s also a lot of exploration of themes such as racism and misogyny, and colonialism is also an important aspect of this story. I had real visceral reactions, both good and bad, to some of these characters and the things they said and their ways of thinking. This was the reason I wanted to see it through to the end, even when things got a bit too strange for me…


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#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 “A large male orderly stands sentry, securing her passage to the place beyond sanity, and Emma steps inside…” // Review of “None Shall Sleep” by Ellie Marney

Title: None Shall Sleep
Author: Ellie Marney
Genre: Thriller/historical fiction
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 17/08/2020– 20/08/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

People who know me tend to view me as the boppy, cheery, showtune-belting one, so it always comes as a surprise to them when I announce how much I love books about serial killers (only fictional ones; I can’t do the real ones).

When Ellie Marney announced earlier this year that she was writing a serial killer thriller, I couldn’t have been happier! (I’m sure there’s a showtune I could find to express the excitement.)

I did find that I took a little while to really get into this one, but by the time I got to the end, I was thinking it was my favourite Ellie Marney book (second only to White Night). There are lots of twists and turns, including a character death I totally wasn’t expecting. There are lots of references to blood, and the climax gets violent and bit gory, so I would caution against it if you are faint of heart.

I was surprised there was no romance, given this is an Ellie Marney book. But it works just fine without it, and to be honest, given the things the characters have already gone through and what they continue to go through, it would probably be a bit squiffy to have it in there as well. I really liked the friendship that formed between Emma and Travis instead, that they could recognise each other’s trauma and be there for each other, but also knew how much the other could take and when they needed to step in.

The book is set in 1982 but to be honest, I sometimes forgot! Until the characters are trying to get somewhere without a map, or need to go and find a nearby phone to contact someone. This was fairly early days in the behavioural science field, and it was interesting hearing learning about that.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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(I received a free copy of this book from Ellie Marney in a Twitter giveaway)

Book Review: “Bitter Falls” by Rachel Caine

Title: Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 13/01/2020 – 17/01/2020
Rating:★☆

Review:

I’m not sure if this is the last book in the Stillhouse Lake series or not (a few things at the end made me feel it might be), but either way, I think it is the last one I will read.

The depiction of the PTSD all of the Proctors are experiencing is really well done. There’s a scene early on during an active shooter drill at the kids’ schools, and it was particularly heartbreaking seeing Connor’s reaction.

I also thought the cult was depicted well, including the self-proclaimed prophet who lead the group, the way many women were the most stout believers, and the whole setup itself. The action sequences at the end of the book are well done, as usual. There is one explosion that is particularly chilling, knowing what its intended purpose was even if it didn’t achieve it.

If I had realised that the case Gwen is working on in this book was closely connected to the events of the previous one, I might have re-read it beforehand. As it was, being eight months between instalments, I didn’t remember all the ins and outs and so I felt a bit lost. It’s not as connected to Wolfhunter River as Killman Creek is to Stillhouse Lake, but I would recommend having the events of Book 3 fresh in your mind.

I also couldn’t help feeling frustrated with some of the decisions the characters made, particularly running into things without solid plans, and in contradiction to what law enforcement has advised them. I know that without them doing things like this, there is no story, and that it was quite in character for Gwen, but it reached the point where I couldn’t suspend my disbelief anymore.

All this meant that I was never especially keen to pick the book up, and that I wasn’t terribly engaged when I did. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic series, and Stillhouse Lake/Killman Creek as a duology are definitely among my favourite thrillers ever. But as I mentioned at the top of the review, I think I’ve reached my limit with this series.


Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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Book Review: “Wolfhunter River” by Rachel Caine

Title: Wolfhunter River (Stillhouse Lake #3)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre:
Thriller
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/04/2019 – 17/04/2019
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Back in 2017, I devoured books one and two in this series in four days. I absolutely loved them, so I was really looking forward to the long-awaited third instalment. It didn’t quite deliver on the fronts I hoped it would, but it was still a good read overall.

At the heart of the novel is the Proctor family, along wtih Sam Cade, trying to move on with their lives post-Melvin Royal. Their pasts still haunt them in ways they could never imagine, and there are betrayals lurking around every corner. I enjoyed this character-driven stuff even as I was a bit disappointed that the suspense was lacking.

The crime story and the suspense really picked up in the last third. Up until the 60% mark, I was thinking that not much had really been happening plot-wise, but there was enough in that last third to make up for the rest. It did get a bit complicated and I had to remember who a lot of different people were. A few different sub-plots all came together, so there was a lot to keep track of.

I suspect that this is something of a bridging book between the original Melvin Royal duology and future crime-solving instalments. I am definitely interested to see if/how this series continues.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#WWW Wednesday – March 21, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

Due to me having no time a couple of weeks ago and still alternating Wednesday posts between this blog and my writing blog, it’s been about three weeks since I last did a WWW Wednesday. I’ve finished a number of things, and am progressing through my March-April TBR quite nicely. But it does make for a bit of a long post! Sorry!

What have you recently finished reading? 

First up, I finished Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.  I enjoyed quite a few of the essays in here, particularly the way she explained her depression and the stories about Simple Dog and Helper Dog. I’m not going to get around to reviewing this one properly, but I would recommend picking it up if you enjoyed the HaaH blog.

Next, I finished my ARC of Deadly Sweet by Lola Dodge. This was such a cozy urban fantasy mystery and I enjoyed it a lot. Though it did make me hungry. I want to hang out in Lola Dodge’s kitchen while she’s baking. My review is here.

The next one was Deep Storm by Lincoln Child, which I listened to. This was a sci-fi thriller, I guess. I found some of the ideas quite interesting, but it is in a third person omniscient style, and I found it a bit too detached to get interested in anyone.

On the same day, I finished an ARC of Daddy Dearest by Ellery Crane. This was a compelling thriller though there was one character where I couldn’t decide whether to sympathise with her considering how messed up she was, or whether I just thought she was completely irresponsible. So that did affect my enjoyment a bit. You can read my full review here.

Next I finished Call Me Sasha by Geena Leigh. This is Geena Leigh’s memoir of her time working in prostitution in Sydney. I’ve read a few books in this vein and it wasn’t my favourite. Though I think the audio book narrator also contributed to that because it sounded like she pouting at everything. You can read my review here.

A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester was my next read. This was a damn fine piece of historical romance, set in 1920s New York, and featuring young women bucking societal norms and also lots of Broadway. So I was sort of destined to like it. My review is here.

Last but certainly not least, I finished the audio book of The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. This was fascinating, and I’m already pretty sure will be one of my favourite books of this year. It is another historical fiction, set during the “War of the Currents” and featuring historical figures such as Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. I have never googled so many real events to find out more while reading a novel. My review will be up on Friday.

Phew! That’s it. Only seven books, but I do tend to go on a bit, don’t I? (I have actually been drafting this post for at least a week and adding books as I finished them, but it still feels like it took forever to write).

What are you currently reading? 

I’ve been reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, which is on my March-April TBR… I feel like the blurb promises one thing and the words between the covers go off in a completely different direction and I’m not sure how I feel about that. So I’m having a bit of a break from it.

In the meantime, I have started The Sherlockian by Graham Moore. I’m not quite as into it as I was into The Last Days of Night. I think it’s little things like small Americanisms in the chapters set in Victorian London, and a fictitious descendent of Arthur Conan Doyle (I’m never sure how to feel about liberties taken with such recent historical figures). But I only started it last night and I’m  already a third of the way through, so there’ s that.

What do you think you will read next?

I’ve got Ready Player One by Ernest Cline out from the library. To be honest, the excerpts I’ve read, along with everything I’ve heard from people with similar reading tastes to me, suggest that it is pretty terrible, so the best I’m hoping for is “so bad, it’s good.” Yes, every now and then I like to rage-read a book, it’s true.

It will probably be another three weeks before I post a WWW again, as I am flying to Nepal on April 2! Eeeek! I won’t be reading much while I’m there, but I have a number of ebooks lined up to read on the flights!

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

Book Review: “Daddy Darkest” by Ellery Kane

Title: Daddy Darkest
Author: Ellery Kane
Genre:
Psychological thriller
Date Read: 0/03/2018 – /03/2018
Rating:
 ★★★

Review:

This thriller started off very strong, and the writing was strong the whole way through. I definitely found it gripping, but as I went on, I did find myself a bit confused by some of the choices one character in particular made, which resulted in an ultimately lower rating.

When Sam’s best friend, Ginny, disappears in an airport bathroom while wearing Sam’s letterman jacket, it soon becomes clear that the kidnapper intended to take Sam. As she struggles to find Ginny, she starts to question whether everything she’s ever known is a lie…

The book alternates between chapters in Sam’s first-person POV and her mother, Clare’s, bacak in 1996, when she worked as a prison psychiatrist. I enjoyed Sam’s chapters, I thought her voice was really authentic. Even if it did sometimes stray into YA tropes such as kissing the hot guy you’ve known for two days, despite the fact he seems to be pretty shady.

Clare’s chapters were well-written and unraveled the details of Clare’s past at a good pace. It was Clare herself I couldn’t figure out. I couldn’t work out whether her messed up upbringing could be blamed  for her bad decisions, or whether she was just completely irresponsible. While the author was going for the former, I expect, the more I thought about it, the more it felt like the latter to me.

There were a few aspects of the plot that I had predicted, but it wasn’t completely predictable overall. It was interesting to see how all the characters were tied to one another, not just in obvious ways. The ending was intriguing, but I felt it fitted the events of the book. I think it is just an ambiguous ending, and that there will be no follow-up, but it works that way.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#WWW Wednesday – February 14, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

Only one finish this week: Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I know many people really loved it but I wasn’t a fan. I just couldn’t make sense of a lot of it. You can read my review here. Sorry it’s a bit ranty.

I actually DNFed Hellhole by Gina Damico, as the humour wore off after a while and I wasn’t really into the story. And given that I had completely forgotten about it until I looked at last week’s post to start this one, I guess that shows how much I was into it.

I also posted my review of Hunted by Meagan Spooner this week. You can find that one here.

What are you currently reading?

I am finally reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For those unaware, this book came out of the Black Lives Matter movement and is about a black teenager whose best friend is shot by a white police officer while unarmed. I have put it off for a long time because I was worried about how I would find it. And it isn’t an easy read and is making me frustrated and angry a lot of the time, but in a good, this-book-is-challenging-me way.

On audio, I am still listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, though I’ll probably finish it today or tomorrow. I like many of the ideas, but I’m not so sold on the plot itself. The MC is surrounded by characters who refuse to explain what is going on, mostly for the sake of padding out the plot, which is annoying. And I don’t care about her best friend who is trying to find her back on earth. I’ll finish this but unless the ending is really impressive, I don’t think I’ll read the sequel.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m going to try to knock a couple more books off my February TBR. Possibly Dollhouse by Anya Allyn will be next. Or The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon if I feel like a physical book instead of an ebook.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

Book Review: “Keep Her Safe” by Richard Jay Parker

Title: Keep Her Safe
Author: Richard Jay Parker
Genre:
Psychological thriller
Date Read: 09/02/2018 – 10/02/2019
Rating:
 ★★

Review:

I’ve been having a bit of a bad run with thrillers. After listening to a disappointing one that opens with a stranger in the protagonist’s house, I had hoped that this one would be better. Unfortunately, I found the writing in this one quite lacking, and while it did improve for a while, it never really impressed me.

Since I am about to go on to say a lot of negative things, I will start with something positive. As you can see from the dates above, I did read this quite quickly. Even as I was questioning some of the things that happened or why characters were doing certain things, the writing was overall quite readable. There was a chunk in the middle (from about 20% through to 65%) that I read in one sitting. The tension was good, and I did admittedly want to see how everything panned out.

The theme of this book was “How far would you go for your child?” but I feel like the author had very little experience of parenthood, and mothers of young children in particular. Some of the dialogue between the two mothers felt strange; I think they were explaining things for the benefit of the reader that one mother would not need to explain to another. There was also a reference to Maggie being an “older mother” at age 34 (32 is hardly an unusual age to be giving birth anymore).

I had other issues with the writing as well, like the fact that the mastermind behind everything has an actual villain monologue… not only that, said monologue goes on for a chapter and a half. There are other ways to explain a character’s motivations, rather than just a huge info-dump. Speaking of the villain, I couldn’t quite work out why he decided to send the two women on a wild goose chase when the initial murder he’d intended didn’t work out. I don’t know why he would have decided to reveal himself (eventually) and then the way everything wrapped up seemed a bit too easy.

I have to agree with the other reviews of this that say that the almost constant action scenes were at the expense of character development. Apart from “I’d do anything for my child”, there was really nothing else I knew about either of the main characters for most of the book. Some information was dropped in the last third which I think was meant to make me sympathise more with them, but I just didn’t have enough interest by that stage. When a bombshell was dropped about one of them, it had very little effect on me.

This was my first read by this author and while I can see his books are very popular, I don’t think I will be revisiting.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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#WWW Wednesday – February 07, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished two more audio books this week! All my training for my Nepal trek in April is paying off. I was driving for about five hours on Saturday, with a two-and-a-half hour hike in the middle. Good for audio books but my bum was rather sore by the end of the day.

First off, I finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner. The style of writing in this is a bit like The Night Circus in that half the time, I wasn’t sure I was into the story much. Then I sort of got used to its rhythms and the fact that it was more character-driven than anything else, and I really loved the descriptions of the setting. So if you like your Beauty and the Beast retellings and those things mentioned above, I recommend this one overall.

Next I finished You Sent Me Letter by Lucy Dawson. The problem with this was that it wasn’t very thrilling for a thriller. Though I wanted to know how it ended, I felt a bit unsatisfied by the time I actually got to the end. Oh well.

I also finished the ARC of Your One and Only, a sci-fi YA romance by Adrianne Finlay. I had been putting this off for ages, but I ended up really enjoying it.

This week I reviewed Lion by Saroo Brierley and Your One and Only as well.

What are you currently reading?

I started Hellhole by Gina Damico which is about a squeaky-clean teenager who ends up accidentally summoning a demon, who moves into his basement. It started off quite funny, though it’s worn a little thin. I’m still waiting to see if it picks up again.

On audio, I am listening to Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley. This is not what I expected at all; from the descriptions, I expected it to be a lot closer to literary fiction, but it’s actually far more standard YA than that (by which I mean, accessible language, snarky teenage MC, etc). But it is interesting to see a totally different mythology being drawn on to most fantasy books.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Since I didn’t get around to it this week, I will stick with saying Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker. I’m hoping this will be a better “wake up to find a stranger in your home” thriller than You Sent Me A Letter turned out to be.

What are you reading this week?~ Emily