Book Review: You Lucky Dog by Julia London

Book Cover

Book Cover

Title: You Lucky Dog
Author: Julia London
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Romance


Synopsis

An accidental dog swap unleashes an unexpected love match in this new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Julia London.

Carly Kennedy’s life is in a spiral. She is drowning in work, her divorced parents are going through their midlife crises, and somehow Carly’s sister convinces her to foster Baxter–a basset hound rescue with a bad case of the blues. When Carly comes home late from work one day to discover that the dog walker has accidentally switched out Baxter for another perkier, friendlier basset hound, she has reached the end of her leash.

When Max Sheffington finds a depressed male basset hound in place of his cheerful Hazel, he is bewildered. But when cute, fiery Carly arrives on his doorstep, he is intrigued. He was expecting the dog walker, not a pretty woman with firm ideas about dog discipline. And Carly was not expecting a handsome, bespectacled man to be feeding her dog mac and cheese. Baxter is besotted with Hazel, and Carly realizes she may have found the key to her puppy’s happiness. For his sake, she starts to spend more time with Hazel and Max, until she begins to understand the appeal of falling for your polar opposite.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This is a sweet romance with some laugh-out loud funny moments. Carly is a publicist for a fashion designer, and she has to wear his outfits as a part of her promotion–outfits that get her into some truly hilarious trouble when she has to do, well, anything.

The theme of dogs carries throughout the story, and it is a definite strength of the novel. Max and Carly are brought together because of their nearly identical dogs, who are seemingly smitten with one another.  Max’s research at the university deals with the neuroscience of the brain and he uses dogs in his research. His younger brother has autism, and he loves dogs.

This book also has strong family themes, as both Carly and Max have complicated personal lives.  Max’s love for his younger brother makes him a sweet and caring character, despite the fact that he may come across as aloof and overly “scientist-y” to others.

While the tone of the novel itself is sweet, it has a bit of a gloomy feel to it. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because of their personal lives, but I felt quite sad while reading it, even during the funny bits.  Both Max and Carly are under a lot of pressure–Carly with losing her job, her parent’s divorce, the ever-increasing rent of her home, and Max with going up for tenure against the department’s star researcher.  The one highlight in their lives seems to be each other, and of course, their relationship isn’t easy. There’s a major twist about halfway through the book that really puts a wrench in what they have found together, and while it seemed like it was intended to be funny, it did fall flat to me a little.

Book Cover

I recommend this book to lovers of romance novels that have a strong dog-lovers theme.

*Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley for the arc to review*

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Book Review: More than Maybe by Erin Hahn

More than Maybe

More than Maybe Book Cover

Title: More than Maybe
Author: Erin Hahn
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Date of Publication: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

“Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?”

Goodreads

My Thoughts

More than Maybe is like a music-nerd’s heaven.  It’s chock full of references to great bands and artists, and as I was reading, I kept wanting to listen to the songs they were talking about.  (In case you were wondering, lounging on the couch listening to The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” while reading a good book is the perfect way to spend a Monday night!)

While More than Maybe is well written, and I truly connected with the characters, it was missing that X-Factor.  Parts of the book felt a lot stronger than others. In particular, the prologue had me itching to read the novel, but it did start off very slow.  It gradually becomes clear that Vada and Luke already know who each other is (which isn’t entirely obvious from the description of the book), and they’ve been casual acquaintances for the last 3 – 4 years. We don’t get a meet cute, and the very beginning is so vague that it’s hard to tell how long they’ve known each other or how well they know each other until a little too far into the book.  

I loved both Vada and Luke and their dynamic, but I felt like the plot was lacking… something. There weren’t many obstacles for them to overcome in their love, unless of course both of them suffering from varying degrees of shyness is truly an obstacle.  Also–Luke is shy, and he’s had a crush on Vada since they met, BUT he’s had a bunch of girlfriends in the past? That part I don’t get. If he liked Vada, why didn’t he ask her out? There needed to be an explanation for this, and it could have been something simple and cliche like “He didn’t really like the other girls as much as he liked Vada, and he was afraid of rejection”. It would be cheesy, but still a solution to this little plothole.

Both Vada and Luke have issues in their lives that keeps the plot fresh.  Vada wants to go to college, and she’s dealing with navigating her relationship with her deadbeat dad and trying to find the courage to ask him for the money she needs.  Luke’s father is a former rock star, and Luke is dealing with the problem that his family doesn’t respect that he doesn’t want to perform music, and he’s writing his music in secret for himself.  There is a very subtle and well-executed character arc that Luke goes through as he discovers who he is.  (Super vague, I know, but I don’t really want to spoil anything).  

While the plot isn’t quite what I was expecting, this romance is very cute, and the novel has a nice, fulfilling conclusion.  

More than Maybe

I recommend this book to those looking for a music-themed young adult romance.  

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams

The Love Square

The Love Square

Title: The Love Square
Author: Laura Jane Williams
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: June 29, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books UK


Synopsis

She’s single. But it can still be complicated…

Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love.

So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man.

Followed by another.

And then another…

And all of them want to date her.

Penny has to choose between three. But are any of them The One?

The bestselling author of Our Stop will have you laughing, crying and cheering Penny on in this funny and feel-good exploration of hope, romance and the trust it takes to finally fall in love. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You and Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

After having devoured Our Stop and falling in love with Laura Jane Williams’ characters, humour, and writing style, I had high hopes for this novel. But this one is nothing like Our Stop, and I think that’s what made me have a hard time with it. It’s much more heartfelt and serious, with very little humour. 

Penny is an old soul, and I say that because while reading the first few chapters, I was sure she was an older woman. When it was revealed that she’s only thirty, I was shocked.  I think it’s a combination of her irritability, her having given up on finding love, the success she’s already found in her career, and her general outlook on life.  I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of Penny’s. She’s indecisive, which I can accept, since that’s honestly a critical aspect of the plot of the book. (If she wasn’t indecisive, she would be able to pick her man right away!)  But one part that really got to me was her jealousy. Can she honestly be upset that the men she’s with aren’t monogamous when she herself isn’t? That said, there was a little bit of slut shaming in this book that really upset me, and honestly made me dissatisfied with the man that she ends up choosing in the end.  

The blurb for the novel is a little misleading, and she isn’t truly dating three guys at the same time.  While the book has feminist themes, I wanted her to genuinely date these three men for the majority of the book, but she only starts to date the third man around the 60% mark. Based on my experience reading Our Stop, I had assumed that there would be humorous scenes where she bumps into one man while on a date with another, and other romantic comedy situations, but this book only has one or two of these, and the tone was all off. I felt more of a sense of dread than being overwhelmed with the giggles like I was during awkward scenes in her previous book.  

I know I shouldn’t be so critical, but when the blurb tells you that you will be laughing and crying while reading a “feel good book” I expect to laugh and “feel good” while reading it. Oh well. I’ll still check out the author’s next book, and I hope that she’ll return to the romantic comedy genre.  

The Love Square

I recommend this book to those looking for a heartfelt novel about a woman trying to figure out her identity.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

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Book Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

The Princess and the Fangirl

GeekerellaTitle: The Princess and the Fangirl
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Series: Once Upon a Con #2

Date of Publication: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Quirk Books


Synopsis

The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after. 

Goodreads

Plot & Characters

I wanted to love this book as much as the first, but unfortunately I had a few qualms about it. I think it’s in the nature of the story itself. It takes place over a single weekend, so already the plot is rushed.  

Because we’re following two separate love stories in this book, I never felt that I really connected with either of the love interests. Half of me wanted this book to just ignore the romance, and focus on a potential sisterly/platonic relationship between Jess and Imogen as they discover the hardships each of them have to face in their own lives. That said, there were some adorkable romantic scenes – particularly when Jess and Harper were singing karaoke, and I wouldn’t trade that scene for anything.  Unfortunately, because we don’t get to dive into the heads of Harper or Ethan, to me, they felt like two-dimensional characters, and I was disappointed in the romances in general.

An important message about toxic fandom that was hinted at in the first book was explored more fully in this one (to be honest, in Geekerella Elle seriously perpetuated that toxicity with her own blog posts about Darien Freeman playing Carmindor in the reboot.)  I appreciated the admission that Jess disliked Elle because of this–it’s a hint of realism in an otherwise over the top sweet book series.  

This isn’t a spoiler because nothing came out of it, but why was there a whole scene in the beginning of the book when Imogen was talking about her moms having a sperm donor to have her, and griping about how much she must look like her dad, if there wasn’t going to be a realization/discovery somewhere along the line that she and Jess are half-sisters? They’re not, at least, if they are, it’s not discovered in the book, so I’m assuming they aren’t. One of my favourite relationship types in literally any book is sisterly bonds, so I was super disappointed that this was hinted at, but then nothing came out of it.

Worldbuilding

I mentioned in the review for Geekerella that the worldbuilding was one of its strong suits.  While that’s the case in the this second installment in the series, unfortunately the Starfield TV series isn’t heavily described, and the reader has to recall what was revealed in Geekerella to fully understand the references. I read the two books nearly back to back, so I didn’t have a problem with this, but others might assume this book is a standalone, when this is not quite the case. You can catch on about what happened in the previous book easily enough, but the Starfield references, which are what truly makes this series phenomenal, won’t make as much sense if you haven’t read Geekerella already.

The Princess and the Fangirl

I recommend this book to those who loved the first, and who want some more ExcelsiCon magic in their lives. 

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Book Review: Up Close and Personal by Kathryn Freeman

up close and personal

Up Close And Personal

Title: Up Close and Personal
Author: Kathryn Freeman
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: June 12, 2020
Publisher: One More Chapter, HarperCollins UK


Synopsis

“Sizzling chemistry, a page-turning will they/won’t they romance and the hottest twist on one of your favourite movies…

British actor Zac Edwards is the latest heartthrob to hit the red carpets. Hot, talented and rich, he sends women wild…all except one.

Close protection officer Kat Parker hasn’t got time to play celebrity games. She has one job: to protect Zac from the stalker that seems to be dogging his every move.

Zac might get her hot under her very starched collar, but Kat’s a professional – and sleeping with Zac is no way part of her remit…” – Goodreads

My Thoughts

I really really wanted to love this book. A gender reversal of The Bodyguard? Colour me intrigued! 

Right off the bat, the sexual attraction between Zac and Kat is laid on a little too thick. When they first meet by accident at an event, Zac doesn’t know that she is his new bodyguard.  But once he finds out that she’s his bodyguard, he’s still set out to be with her.  She wants to be with him, but she needs to keep it professional. They both have secrets that they’re keeping from each other, and the unraveling of these backstories is a strength of the novel. However, they fall in love with each other far too quickly.  Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the romance novels I’ve been reading lately, but I wanted to see more connection between them before they fell in love.  That said, their interactions are quite cute at times, if a little juvenile. They’re thirty years old, but they’re acting more smitten and sweet than the 16 year olds in the last young adult romance I read.

That said, if you want to read this book because you want to read about a mere commoner falling in love with a celebrity, then this is the book for you!

Kat is a professional bodyguard, and it’s difficult for her to guard a client who’s so darn alluring.  This is probably the most relatable part of the book.  She’s trying her hardest not to be distracted by Zac’s presence, because one wrong move could get him killed.  Zac doesn’t seem to understand this, and he does his best to distract her with his ridiculous handsomeness.  This is a little unrealistic and an unlikable personality trait, considering the fact that he has a secret past, and he is genuinely worried that someone might be targeting him because of it, and that it isn’t just an unstable fan who has him in their crosshairs.  

There are a few little inconsistencies in the storytelling. The dialogue between Zac and Kat, while charming and witty, can often be quite stilted. I loved the way that Zac talks–using overly formal language that is reflective of his upbringing–but the inner dialogues of the two protagonists were cringey at times. Kat comments on his use of “fancy words” like “purgatory”, but then she uses the word “incorrigible” to describe him. I’m pretty sure “incorrigible” is a far fancier word than “purgatory”, but maybe that’s just me.  Also, Zac is a famous movie star, one who has his very own stalker, but where is the paparazzi? I don’t think they made an appearance more than during that a scene early in the novel.  

The mystery plot of Zac having a stalker was quite intriguing.  I found that the suspense plotline was wrapped up a little too neatly, and a little too quickly for my liking. Even the obligatory romance novel scene where Kat and Zac fight near the end seemed contrived. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were fighting over, and it became clear during the scene where they forgive one another and profess the undying love that they’ve had since first laying eyes on each other that they didn’t know what they were fighting over either. Groan.

up close and personal

Despite my critique, this is a sweet, fun, and quick read that’s perfect for a night in.  I recommend this book to those wanting to read a cutesy insta-love romance story.

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ebook to review*

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Book Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty

Book Cover Beauty

Title: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance, Young Adult
Date of Publication: 1993, reprinted 2018
Publisher: Greenwillow Books


Synopsis

A strange imprisonment…

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Robin McKinley’s beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast. – Goodreads

Plot

I wanted to love this book, but it lacked for me in plot. The book concentrates on Beauty’s family life prior to moving into the castle to live with the Beast. This is the focus of the book, which I had not been expecting at all. I wanted to read about the castle and whatever mysterious magic goes on there, but this only took up the last little bit of the book.  While the events that unfolded in her home life with her father and her sisters were interesting, I couldn’t quite enjoy it because I was waiting for the real story. It almost felt like two books ideas were slapped together, when they would have served better as two separate stories.

Language & Setting 

The major appeal for this story is the writing style. Robin McKinley has an exquisite writing style, and the way that she describes the settings and the characters makes it seem like they could leap off the page and into the real world.

Characters

I had a hard time connecting with Beauty, even though she was an ordinary girl with a love for books. It might be an artifact of the writing style – when the writing focuses on style and beauty of language, I personally find it harder to connect with the protagonist.  While we frequently get glimpses into her head and what she’s thinking, I never connected with her on a deeper level. 

Unfortunately, her family was far more developed than any of the characters in the castle. We don’t get to truly meet any of the servants, since they’re invisible, yet it’s understood that they’re there. The Beast is somewhat of a caricature, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why Beauty fell in love with him.  However, if Beauty’s time in the castle had made up as much of the book as the events leading up to it, I do feel that I would have had enough time to grow to appreciate the Beast and his idiosyncracies.

Beauty

I recommend this book to those who are looking for a different take on a magical medieval life, but aren’t expecting the story to exactly mirror the movie.  There is a much greater focus on her family than on her time with the Beast, and knowing this before reading the story might increase your enjoyment of it.

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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: 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: 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

Book Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom cover

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Genre: Thriller
Date of Publication: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Viking


Synopsis

When Joan takes her four-year-old son to the zoo for a day of frolicking with the wildlife, of course she doesn’t expect to be staying at the zoo later into the night, fearing for her life while a killer hunts her down. Joan must keep her son out of the clutches of this psychopath–no matter the cost. 

Plot 

This novel is what the publishing business calls “high concept”. The idea behind the story is really quite simple: Joan is trapped in the zoo with her son and there’s a shooter on the loose. While it’s a very intriguing concept, it quickly becomes clear that the author didn’t have any other ideas when she wrote up this story. The plot is quite formulaic, without any real twists in the story. The decisions that Joan makes are at times understandable, but often they’re quite infuriating. Sure, your cell phone glows when you receive a text message, but getting rid of it is not a good idea, Joan. You will need it later. There were some plotholes like this – if you’re carrying a bag around with you, just put the phone in your bag! Put it on airplane mode. Check out the settings and turn off notifications! There were so many better ways that she could have handled that.

Anyway, I’m nitpicking on one plot issue, but honestly, the entire novel was full of these. 

While the book is primarily told from Joan’s perspective, we do get brief scenes from the points of view of some of the other survivors, but that wasn’t consistent. We were, however, consistently provided POV scenes from the shooters. 

The story really lags in the middle, but it picks up again towards the end. There wasn’t much going on in terms of twists and turns in the plot. Everything carries out the way you would expect, although, I would have expected the police to show up a lot earlier. Turns out the explanation for them not showing up is somewhat satisfactory. Somewhat.

Characters

Joan is the typical overprotective mother. One thing that I did enjoy about the story was how insensitive she was to the needs of the other survivors. She finds the talkative girl annoying – and even though it’s clear to the reader that the girl is jabbering on because she’s nervous and it’s her coping mechanism–Joan doesn’t realize this until later, because she’s so wrapped up in her own coping mechanisms.

Joan’s son is really quite adorable at first, but it starts to get laid on too thick when Phillips hounds the reader with one cute anecdote after another. Every parent thinks that their child is a special snowflake, but as a non-parent, I started to find this grated on my nerves. I understand that Phillips was doing this to make the reader invested in the outcome of the story, and that the true story is about how much this woman loves her child, but it definitely wore on me after a while. 

I also really really hate when authors use mental disability or mental illness to make a villain seem scarier. No. Just don’t. 

Language

This novel is very a very easy read, which makes me think of the Mark Twain line, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” It’s a favourite line for me, as a writer, and I do think this applies here. I can critique the story and the characters until the cows come home, but it’s clear to me that Phillips has a talent for getting the words on the page to depict exactly what she means. Her writing style bumped my rating up from two stars to three. The novel is also quite short, and so while some parts drag (as mentioned in the Plot section), these parts are over rather quickly and then it’s on to the next plot point.  

Fierce Kingdom

I recommend this book to those looking for a quick yet linear thriller that focuses on the relationship between a mother and her infant son. 

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