Book Review: Death by Didgeridoo by Barbara Venkataraman

Death by Didgeridoo

death by didgeridoo

Title: Death by Didgeridoo
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Jamie Quinn Mysteries #1

Date of Publication: November 23, 3013


Synopsis

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.” – Goodreads

My Thoughts 

This is such a cute and fun mystery! The tone is light and the mystery is irresistible, which are two critical ingredients for a delightful cozy mystery.

I absolutely loved how much Jamie cared about her cousin, Adam, who was accused of murder. I genuinely felt for him and her need to protect him, even if she isn’t technically the right type of lawyer to do so.  The mystery itself is quite smart, and despite the short length of the book, (only around 111 pages) there were enough suspects and twists and turns in the case to keep me guessing until the very end. 

My only complaint is that the novel is a little too short and, as a result, a little too fast paced.  I loved the protagonist’s voice and her way of describing the world, and I wouldn’t have minded more scenes in between the action where I would get to see her day to day life.  That said, the length can also be considered an asset for the book, because most people will be able to finish it in one sitting (and they’ll want to, because it’s so darn compelling!)

Death by Didgeridoo

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick, upbeat cozy mystery to get lost in.

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* Thank you to the author for the ebook to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Darling Rose Gold

Darling Rose Gold

Title: Darling Rose Gold
Author: Stephanie Wrobel
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: March 17, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada


Synopsis

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.” – Goodreads

Plot 

For those of you who are true crime fans like myself, you might have felt a niggling bit of familiarity when reading the synopsis. That’s because this book is loosely based on the story of Gypsy Rose, the girl who was poisoned by her mother for her entire childhood. Aside from this basic premise, the book has nothing to do with the true case (I hope–otherwise it’s a little too twisted for my liking!).

We get two points of view and two timelines in this novel. The story opens with Patty being released from prison after having served her five years for child abuse. Patty wants back into her daughter’s life, and Rose Gold welcomes her with open arms. But is it quite that simple? 

The other point of view if that of Rose Gold, beginning from the point where her mother goes to prison. We find out what happened during those five years to bring her to where she is today.  And let me tell you, there’s no way you could predict what happens…

The entire story is gripping and twisted from the very first page to its last.  

Characters 

Patty is your typical narcissist. I absolutely adore the way that she is portrayed. She doesn’t see herself as a villain, even though she knows deep down that poisoning her daughter was wrong.  She explains away everything as things that she has to do. She talks about the respect she deserves.  I get chills just thinking about her. 

Rose Gold is an absolutely fascinating character. She spent her formative years relying on her mother, who made her food (obviously), dressed her, and did everything else for her. When Patty goes to prison, Rose Gold has nobody. She’s alone, self-conscious about her slim figure and rotten teeth, and her chapters were quite hard to read. I genuinely felt for her, and I think that her perspective coupled with her mother’s made this into quite a phenomenal book.

Every single character in this book seems to be quite deplorable, which made for an engaging story, but really made me feel depressed after reading it.  At the risk of spoilers, I’ll leave it there, but I do want to say that I hope that people would be more forgiving of Rose Gold in the real world. I mean, she shouldn’t be mocked for having rotten teeth when she’s spent her entire life throwing up (stomach acid will do that).  

Darling Rose Gold

Ultimately, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a gripping psychological thriller that really delves into the minds of the damaged and broken. Bear in mind that it’s a very dark and twisted tale, so it’s not for the faint of heart.  

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* Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and the author for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

The Other Mrs

The Other Mrs Book Cover

Title: The Other Mrs.
Author: Mary Kubica
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Park Row


Synopsis

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light. – Goodreads

My Thoughts

This novel has been picked up to be a Netflix movie, and I could not be happier.  I’m also not surprised. The Other Mrs. is a compelling, character-driven thriller that I gobbled up in just one sitting.  Whenever I read a book to review, I always keep a notebook at my side to jot ideas down as they come to me.  I literally wrote five separate times that I couldn’t put the book down.  I remember jotting down those notes while holding the book in my other hand because I wasn’t ready or able to stop.

The Other Mrs. is primarily told through two points of view, that of Sadie and her husband’s mistress. The chapters flow quite nicely from one perspective to the other, and there aren’t any lags in the plot that gave me an obvious chance for a bathroom break.

Despite the character-driven approach to this book, it’s quite fast paced and has a lot of great twists throughout.  While I did predict the major twist, the story was so damn engaging that I didn’t mind at all, and in fact I was eager to see exactly how it would play out.

Sadie is an interesting main character, one who’s relatable, and doesn’t lean towards that “unlikeable” trend that’s oh too common in psychological thrillers these days. That’s not to say that she’s unnecessarily likable.  She has her flaws and makes some questionable decisions, but the author didn’t go out of her way to transform her into a deplorable human being.

The other characters are quite interesting and engaging, and I don’t want to go into depth at the risk of giving spoilers.

The Other Mrs

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick, thrilling read, something that they can’t put down. I don’t recommend you read this if you don’t have an entire evening to devote to The Other Mrs.

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* Thank you to Park Row and the author for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Sound of Stars

The Sound of Stars

Title: The Sound of Stars 
Author: Alechia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 25, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Teen


Synopsis

Two years prior to the beginning of this book, aliens named the Ilori took over Earth, effectively oppressing mankind as they plan to transform the planet into a new vacation spot.  Ellie Baker is a teenage girl who lives in her old apartment building, which has been completely taken over by Ilori.  Books and other forms of artistic expression are no longer allowed, but she runs an illegal library in the basement.  M0Rr1S (Morris) is a lab-born Ilori, but he isn’t like the rest. He listens to forbidden music, and he has a soft spot for humans. When he meets Ellie and discovers her library, it’s his duty to turn her in for execution.  But there’s something about her that he is drawn to.  He confides in her that he just might have the solution to save mankind, but he needs her help…

Setting

This novel is set in a not-too-distant future where aliens have invaded.  They’re in the process of changing the world, because they hope it will become a vacation destination for their kind. The atmosphere of the story is dark and ominous, and gave me serious Hunger Games vibes early on. Despite this darkness in the plot and the setting, there is quite a bit of hope. Ellie hopes that books will save them, and Morris believes that music will be their redemption.  These themes carry throughout the novel, making it stand out from others like it.  

Plot & Characters

I wanted to love this book. A teenaged librarian living in a dystopian future? The novel starts off really strong, with several great twists early on, despite the slow pace and information dumping about aliens and how the new world works.  I assumed that after this information dump had occurred, the pace would pick up. Quite the opposite, actually. After this first third of the novel, the plot slows even more, and the focus clearly becomes on the budding romance between Ellie and Morris, not on saving mankind.  For a character like Ellie, who put her life in danger every single day by lending out books to other captives living in her building, I find it hard to believe that she would be so easily distracted from her ideals.  Whereas books like The Hunger Games focus on the dystopia and changing the world for the better with the romance being a side plot, The Sound of Stars takes the opposite approach, which is particularly evident in the latter half of the book.

There are many fun literary references throughout the novel. Every chapter begins with a quote from a classic book, and there are quite a few references within the text itself, which made the bookworm inside me squeal with glee. That said, the author was a tad too heavy handed with the themes early on in the book. I didn’t need to be spoon-fed the fact that alien invasions are the science fiction version of oppression.  Unfortunately, these themes were not shown, but told through the dialogue of characters within the first 15% of the story.  I expected this to be a theme throughout, but I didn’t expect the characters to notice and comment on this right away, which in essence ruined the discovery of this for me. 

I think this ties into my major complaint about this book.  There was far too much talking about what was happening, and not enough actual action. Again, too much telling, not enough showing. 

My favourite relationship in the entire book was that between Ellie and her best friend, Alice, who she had feelings for romantically prior to the start of this book.   I wanted more of a discovery of this relationship, but instead, the author decided to focus on Ellie’s relationship with Morris.  

The romance between Ellie and Morris was stilted and uncomfortable but masquerading as cute and progressive. I grimaced more than a few times when they were talking about their feelings, something that comes pretty easy to a cyborg that had to learn to hide his human-like emotions since they are forbidden among his kind. 

The Sound of Stars

I recommend this book to those looking for a slow-paced young adult science fiction that’s very heavy on the romance.

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* Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks

Devolution book cover

Devolution

Title: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
Author: Max Brooks
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Literary
Date of Publication: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Del Rel Books


Synopsis

“As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.

But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing–and too earth-shattering in its implications–to be forgotten.

In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.

Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us–and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it–and like none you’ve ever read before.” – Goodreads

Plot & Language

What an amazing premise! I love the layout and the style of this book. The majority of the story is told through diary entries, with some interview excerpts and other forms of epistolary thrown into the mix. It genuinely read like a non-fiction book on the subject. Brooks uses a matter-of-fact tone in the excerpts from books on Bigfoot, etc. but the language flows quite conversationally during the diary entries. This narrative flow makes the story that much easier to get lost in.  

My only complaint is that the book was comprised mostly of diary entries, with occasional excerpts from interviews and textbooks. I wanted more of these other forms of storytelling! I would have liked to have read more on the history of Bigfoot appearances.  Nevertheless, Brooks takes advantage of this, and I found myself genuinely wondering what was real and what wasn’t. He quoted Frans de Waal and Jane Goodall, two of my favourite animal behaviour experts, and I know that the information in those quotes were real. He talked about evolution of man, including species such as Gigantopithecus, which I know to be true. But I don’t remember much else from my undergraduate anthropology classes, and this novel had me questioning and believing that Bigfoot could be real. That’s the sign of a talented writer!

I also loved the theme of the novel, which is reflected in the title, “Devolution”.  Throughout the story, we question whether or not Bigfoot could exist, while being presented with information about evolution and primate behaviour. All the while, Kate and the others at Greenloop are struggling to survive, and we learn just what people are willing and capable of doing when their lives are in danger. 

This story is compelling and quite haunting at times.  It’s definitely a horror, but one that can be enjoyed by those who aren’t fans of the genre, as it has so much more to offer.

Characters

I did find that Kate and her husband, Dan, weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. While I’m glad that Brooks didn’t spend a lot of time in the diary entries having Kate talk about their past, their failing marriage (any more than was necessary), it did leave a lot of questions unanswered. For one: Why is Kate joining this group? I didn’t quite understand it, as she didn’t quite fit in with the others, and I would have benefited from a little more handholding in the beginning of the book, with Brooks possibly having her explain why she was there more than just “to fix their marriage”. I also wanted more about her past. We know that she had a brother, but what was their relationship like? What did she have back home to fight to survive for? 

Side characters in the novel were quite interesting, and I enjoyed the occasional additional piece of information that the author provided, whether it was an interview or a diary entry—to provide more information into their backgrounds.

Devolution book cover

I recommend this book to those who want to read a compelling story about survival, and to those who want to dip their toes into epistolary fiction.  A suspension of disbelief isn’t even required to enjoy this story about a first-hand eyewitness account of Bigfoot.

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* Thank you to OLA Super Conference and Del Rey Books for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Voodoo Shanghai by Kristi Charish

Voodoo Shanghai

Voodoo Shanghai book cover

Title: Voodoo Shanghai
Author: Kristi Charish
Series:
Kincaid Strange # 3

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Vintage Books Canada


Synopsis

“Just when Kincaid Strange thinks her life is back on track and she’s finally put her time as a paranormal practitioner with the Seattle PD to rest, her ex (and Seattle cop) Aaron asks her for help with yet another strange and ominous case. Martin Dane, the White Picket Fence Serial Killer who terrorized West Coast families living the suburban American dream, appears to be back at it with a fresh murder in Portland. There’s only one problem: Dane has been dead for three weeks.

Kincaid can’t resist a paranormal mystery. Despite her misgivings, she agrees to examine the Portland crime scene. What she discovers is a place of supernatural power unlike anywhere she’s ever been–and the reason Aaron had been so tight-lipped about the case details. There’s already a voodoo practitioner on the scene: Liam Sinclair, a TV celebrity of questionable talent and dubious intent.

Kincaid wants nothing more than to finish the job and retreat to Seattle, but the deeper she looks, the less the murder adds up. When she uncovers a much more sinister mystery–missing ghosts, scores of them, whom no one is looking for–there’s no turning back.”Goodreads

Plot 

Voodoo Shanghai is one hell of a thrill ride from start to finish. As usual, Kincaid gets herself into trouble, and she seems to make enemies every place she goes.  The novel opens with her dealing with an unruly ghost that’s haunting her parents because they didn’t make the right offering to her spirit. The designer purse was the wrong colour.  This book is full of dark and twisty plot points, but there’s also quite a bit of Charish’s characteristic dry humour, which is part of what makes this series such an entertaining read.

One of the major appeals of this book is the dynamic world that Charish has created. The magic has very distinct rules, and much of the book is spent explaining how it works, either through Kincaid’s interactions with clients or through her lessons with the sorcerer who coerced her into becoming his apprentice for a two year term.  None of this information seems dry, as it all comes from Kincaid’s point of view, which interjects quite a bit of gritty humour into every scene.

Voodoo Shanghai is the third and final instalment in the Kincaid Strange series, and it sure does go out with a bang. Unfortunately, while the major plotline for this book was resolved (no spoilers!) there was still a cliffhanger hinting at what’s to come.  I want to see what’s to come! Gah, Vintage Books Canada better order more books in this series, stat.

Characters

Kincaid is a tough-as-nails practitioner, and she won’t let herself be controlled by the men in her life. That said, even her love interest, the Seattle PD detective Aaron, tries to control her to a degree, and I’m glad to see that she still doesn’t back down on what she believes in, even when Aaron pushes her.  It was interesting to see her starting to try to be more professional in this book, even wearing a blazer to meetings with clients, and she tries so hard to not always say exactly what’s on her mind. Is that character development, Kincaid? Even with the subtle softening of her character, she’s still the Kincaid I’ve grown to love.

We also get a deeper look into Gideon Lawrence, the thousand-year-old ghost of a sorcerer who took Kincaid on as his apprentice in the previous book. Before, we thought he was simply “evil”, but it becomes clear over the course of this novel that he has his own moral code, as grey as it may be, and we get a taste of the past that has made him who he is today.

Setting 

This time, the novel isn’t all set in Seattle, but a good chunk of the storyline is set in Portland, since Kincaid is summoned to work on a federal case.  As mentioned in the Plot section, the America that Charish has created is incredibly unique, authentic feeling, and three-dimensional.  The world of Kincaid Strange is similar to ours, but for paranormal elements which are all seamlessly interwoven into our reality, making for a believably dark and compelling alternate universe.

 

Voodoo Shanghai

I recommend this book to those who want a gritty paranormal mystery with a strong female lead, dynamic worldbuilding, and lots of the undead.

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* Thank you to OLA Super Conference, Vintage Books Canada, and the author for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg

The Mentor

The Mentor

Title: The Mentor
Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: June 14, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books


Synopsis 

When Kyle earns a prestigious position as an editor at a large New York publishing house, he’s surprised and delighted to hear from his favourite professor from his college days.  Apparently, Professor William Lansing has been writing a novel these last ten years, and he asks if Kyle would consider publishing it.  Kyle is thrilled to be the first to read this novel, but that excitement is short lived. It’s a thousand pages of horribly written depravity.  Kyle tries to let his professor down gently, to tell him that the novel can’t be published, but his mentor won’t take no for an answer…

Plot 

The Mentor starts off slow, but the writing was compelling enough to keep me engaged until the novel’s hook was revealed. There are quite a few hair-raising twists throughout this thriller.  A couple were somewhat predictable, but there were enough surprises to keep me on my toes.  The ending (no spoilers!) is downright chilling. 

This book is quite a psychological thriller, as it becomes clear that Professor Lansing isn’t exactly the stereotypical concerned teacher.  He has a dark side, which is gradually revealed as the story progresses. There are times when Kyle questions his own sanity, and the reader can’t help but do the same.  That said, there are other horror elements, such as the “depravity” of the professor’s novel, which are revealed to the reader in snippets.  These excerpts were never too extreme, but definitely not something you’d want to read with the lights off.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Mentor by Lee Matthew Goldberg”

Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me

Title: Be Not Far From Me
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Publisher: HarperCollins


Synopsis

When Ashley and her friends decide to spend the night camping in the vast wilderness outside their small town, she has no idea what’s in store for her. After a horrible fight with her boyfriend, she runs away from the group, falling and seriously injuring her foot. She soon realizes that her friends thought she went home. They won’t be looking for her. Ordinarily, she’d be fine—she’s a survivor. But she’s far from the path markings and her foot is getting worse and worse by the hour. Does Ashley have what it takes to survive, or will she end up “missing” in the woods like so many others before her?

Plot

I really wanted to love this book. The premise is fantastic, and there are a couple of twists and turns along the way.  However, the pacing is not phenomenal. The book starts with a bang, but there are a few too many flashbacks that weigh down the action in the middle of the book, and I often found myself skimming because I wanted to find out what would happen in present day.  While these flashbacks serve to flesh out the main character and her relationships and motivations, they didn’t seem particularly cohesive. It’s rare that I say this, but I think the book might have benefited from a dual timeline. Perhaps the novel could have began with her lost in the woods, injured, with another timeline/flashbacks revealing what happened to get her there. However, the rationale for her being in the woods in the first place is quite shallow, so maybe the author would have had to have spent more time focusing on this in order to make a dual timeline work.  The lack of focus of the flashbacks made them feel unnecessary, when in fact, they do provide some insight into Ashley’s backstory, making the novel read a little more literary than thriller.

That said, the best parts of the novel are the thrilling bits. We get a few intense sequences while she’s lost in the woods, but not quite as many as I’d hoped. The book gets more graphic than I’d expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The novel itself is a very quick read, so the issues with pacing shouldn’t deter you from this fun night of reading!

Continue reading “Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis”

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Book Cover

Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: Horror, Literary
Date of Publication: 1959
Publisher: Penguin Classics, among others


Synopsis

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.Goodreads

My Thoughts

It’s hard to separate out the four appeal elements for this book, because they’re all so interwoven and dependent on one another.  But I’ll try! 

Language

Jackson’s style of writing is clearly the primary appeal for this novel. This is a classic for a reason, and there is significant imagery and symbolism in everything that appears on the pages. The novel begins with somewhat of a light tone, talking about the house and the darkness within it, but as the story progresses, this lightness is swallowed by darkness, and the tension rises with every turn of the page.  A lot of the horror of this novel is not in what happens, but in how it is written. Jackson has a way of eliciting fear and dread in the reader, just by careful word choice and sentence structure.

Setting 

Set in an old house that’s so peculiarly built that it rivals the Winchester Mansion in California, the setting is what makes this novel so memorable. The house is described not in just physical terms, but also in the way that it makes people feel.  The history of the house and everything else has so much thought and care put into it that it feels more fleshed out than the main characters. And that’s because it is its own character.  

Plot

This novel has a slow pace, particularly at the beginning, but the language is so beautiful and engaging that I didn’t even notice.  That isn’t to say that nothing happens, but it happens at its own pace, and the plot isn’t at all rushed. We don’t get one of those books where so much happens at the beginning that it lags in the middle. The Haunting of Hill House has the opposite effect, where it begins slowly, taking its time to get where it wants to go, but the plot unravels quicker and quicker as the story progresses. I would say that if you have a hard time getting into the story, you should give it another shot, because the book just keeps getting better and better.

Characters

I was surprised by how funny this book was. The characters are witty, and some of the things they say serve to transform them into three-dimensional, relatable characters that could exist today, not only sixty years ago. Some of the imagery made me laugh out loud, particularly in the beginning of the book when Eleanor leaves to find Hill House, and she steals her sister’s car.  While this book is quite short, I felt that I really connected with Eleanor, and her character development (at the risk of spoiling anything) is quite fascinating and beautifully facilitated by Jackson’s firm grasp of the written word.

The Haunting of Hill House

I recommend this book to literally anyone who claims to be a fan of haunted house stories. 

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Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol

Djinn Patrol book cover

Title: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
Author: Deepa Anappara
Genre: Literary
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart


Synopsis

Set in Metropolitan India, this atmospheric novel follows Jai and his two friends as they search for their missing classmate.  Obsessed with a police television show, Jai is convinced that he will be able to find the boy, even when the police themselves are indifferent about the case. As more and more children go missing, however, it becomes clear that there is something insidious going on, and Jai’s life will be forever changed by the events that unfold…

My Thoughts

This book is beautifully written. The words seem to leap off the page, creating a dynamic, three-dimensional image of metropolitan India. It felt like I was actually there.  The language, while beautiful, can be hard to follow at first, as Anappara uses many Indian words in casual conversation. While the meaning of the words can be discerned from context, I wish I’d noticed the glossary at the end of the e-book before reading the story.  That said, I don’t think not knowing the exact meaning of words impacted my enjoyment of their use.

The protagonist is a child named Jai, and his entire world is tinted by rose-coloured glasses. He has an innocent and naive perception of everything that goes on around him, which is demonstrated through both his observations and the prose.

The book mostly comes from Jai’s point of view, but we also get scenes from the missing children – their last memories before they disappear. This in itself is heartbreaking, particularly after reading the author’s afterword.  180 children go missing every year in India, which is a shocking statistic that makes the words on these pages even more poignant.

My favourite parts of this book were the parts where Jai’s friend, Faiz, would state that the djinn were stealing the souls of the children. Brought up casually in conversation, I think this served several important purposes. It added a supernatural air of mystery to the story and it reinforced our perception of these children’s innocence, but it also created a beautiful metaphor for the true malignant cause of the disappearances.

This book is marketed as a mystery, but I disagree.  From the description on Goodreads, I’d gotten the impression that it was about a group of children searching for their lost friend, and that it would read similarly to Stranger Things or The Goonies. This isn’t the case. Jai is compelled to search for the missing boy that he barely knew.  The story is not at all plot driven. It is primarily setting and character driven, and the focus isn’t at all on his search. While his friends are three-dimensional characters in this story, I never got the feeling that they have an unbreakable bond and would go to the ends of the earth to find each other should one of them go missing.  The story itself doesn’t carry with it a sense of hope that I prefer to see in coming of age stories. It’s more of a harsh removal of the rose-coloured glasses, and we see the world for what it really is.  Gloomy.

Djinn Patrol

I recommend this book for someone wanting to get lost in the streets of Metropolitan India.  This is a coming of age story more than a mystery, and it delivers a powerful commentary on a true story, and how tragedy can shape an entire community.

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* Thank you to NetGalley and McClelland & Stewart for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon