Book Review: A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

A Madness of Sunshine

A Madness of Sunshine

Title: A Madness of Sunshine
Author: Nalini Singh
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: December 3, 2019
Publisher: Berkley


Synopsis

When Anahera’s husband dies, she decides to return home to Golden Cove, a little town in New Zealand where she grew up. But soon after her arrival, a popular young woman goes missing, and it’s up to Anahera and the town’s sole cop to figure out what happened to her.  Nothing is as it seems, and this little town has more than its fair share of suspects…

Plot

A Madness of Sunshine is an engaging read from its very first line. While engaging, it is a slower read, and Singh puts an emphasis on building the town and its characters prior to introducing the overall mystery.  The plot takes on the characteristics of an Agatha Christie mystery.  Whatever happened to Miriama, it’s clear from the beginning that someone in town knows what happened to her. It becomes evident that we already know the character responsible for her disappearance, and it’s up to Anahera and Tom to find out who.  While reading the book, I wrote the note “these people are all assholes”, and that’s true. There are so many potential murderers/psychopaths, that it seems like anyone could be responsible for Miriama’s disappearance. 

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Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians

Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Series: Crazy Rich Asians # 1

Date of Publication: June 2013
Publisher: Doubleday


Synopsis

When Rachel goes to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nicholas’s family and attend a wedding, she’s looking forward to a fun and relaxing vacation.  Never in her wildest dreams did she expect to find out that he’s from one of the wealthiest families in China, and that his family and their friends are incredibly manipulative, conniving, and shallow people.  Meanwhile, Nicholas’s mother isn’t happy that he’s dating an American with no wealth of her own, and she’ll do anything to make sure that her son doesn’t put a ring on that gold-digger’s finger.

My Thoughts

This book is a gem in the romantic comedy genre.  Riddled with numerous laugh-out-loud moments, this is a must-read for anyone looking for a fun read.  I listened to this story as an audiobook, and the reader was fantastic. There were times when I finished my commute or ran out of chores to do, but I still wanted to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and listen to what would happen next.

Written in the third person, the novel follows a few different characters, catching a glimpse into the perspective of the rich and famous, as well as how they look from those on the outside.  We primarily follow Rachel, as mentioned in the synopsis, but we also follow Astrid.  Astrid is extremely wealthy and experiencing marital problems.  However, I would have been happy just following Rachel’s storyline. While Astrid’s chapters were funny at times, the plot wasn’t particularly compelling to me, and the “twist” at the end fell flat.  It was a little too far-fetched, and I wasn’t really sure of its point.

I hadn’t seen the movie prior to reading the book, but I’ve heard (shocker!) that the book is better than the movie.

Crazy Rich Asians

I highly recommend this book to those who want a modern-day romantic comedy that feels like it was written in the golden era of the genre.

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Book Review: Every Time He Dies by Tara East

Every Time He Dies

Every Time He Dies

Title: Every Time He Dies
Author: Tara East
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Date of Publication: November 5, 2019
Publisher: Self-Published


Synopsis

When Daphne’s cop fiance dies in an accident that she feels responsible for, she gives up her career dreams of becoming a toxicologist and instead becomes an embalmer. A year and a half later, she finds a wristwatch on the ground at the beach, and she is suddenly haunted by the ghost of a man who doesn’t remember who he is or how he died. Daphne is forced to confront the grief of losing her fiance while helping this man to find peace.  Meanwhile, her estranged cop father is investigating a brutal murder, and Daphne unknowingly finds herself caught in the killer’s crosshairs…

Plot

Every Time He Dies is a gripping read from its very first pages.  Told in the third person, there are multiple perspectives shown throughout the novel, including those of Daphne and her father.  It isn’t clear right away where the story is going to go, and there are several seemingly disconnected subplots. Tara East expertly weaves from one to the other, so that the two subplots do not actually seem all that disjointed.  All the subplots tie together quite nicely in a climactic end to a thrilling read.  There are no plot holes in this thrill ride.

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Book Review: The Hellbound Heart

Hellbound Heart

The Hellbound Heart

Title: The Hellbound Heart
Author: Clive Barker
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: November 1986
Publisher: been republished numerous times


My Thoughts

I remember when I was a kid, hanging out at the movie store, trying to decide what age-appropriate film to rent.  I always found myself back in the horror section, staring at the covers in fascination. Hellraiser was one of the covers I often returned to. It mesmerized me. I eventually saw the movie years later, and it quickly became a favourite.

I finally read the novella this brilliant movie was based on this year.  Being a novella, it is quite fast paced, and the horror begins within the first few pages. Despite the short length of it, we get to delve into the motivations of the main characters with a remarkable amount of detail.

This is my first Clive Barker book, and it definitely won’t be my last. His writing style is unique and beautiful and horrifying. I want to explore another world he’s created with his brilliantly twisted mind and unrivaled talent for putting words to the pages.

Before reading this book, I was warned that it’s quite similar to the movie, and that I might be disappointed because of this. To the contrary. I was in the mood to rewatch the movie, so I read the book instead. It is a terror-ride from cover to cover, and recommended reading for any horror lover.

Hellbound Heart

Recommended for those who love the movie, or for those who are looking for a bite-sized horror novel to read before a sleepless night.

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Book Review: Her Crown of Fire by Renee April

Her Crown of Fire

Her Crown of Fire

Title: Her Crown of Fire 
Author: Renee April
Series: Molten Fire # 1

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: November 1, 2019
Publisher: Write Plan


Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Rose Evermore is just a normal teenager who has no idea what she wants to be when she grows up. That is, until she suddenly discovers her magical affinity for fire and develops dreams that predict the future.  Before she knows it, she winds up in a fantasy realm called Lotheria—with her best friend, Tyson, who has no magic. She is taken to the mysterious Academy to learn to use her magic, while Tyson must hide from the authorities—at the risk of death.  Rose needs to find a way to get them back home, before Tyson becomes the next target of the headmasters’ frightening wrath.

My Thoughts

This book is a real page-turner! I had a hard time putting this book down at bedtime.  From the first page I could tell that this was going to be different from other books like this. I kept expecting it to fall into common tropes.  While it’s still a book about a girl who discovers her magical powers and is torn away from her life and forced to live in a magical world where she must attend a school for magic, the individual plot points are quite unique from other similar books.

The atmosphere of this story is quite dark, darker than expected, and the Headmasters of the school are far from warm and cuddly. Punishments are severe, and they come with even the teeniest, tiniest of infractions.

At the risk of spoilers, I want to be super vague when I talk about the romance in this story. Rose does not fall for who I was expecting her to fall for, which was a pleasant surprise.  I was fully expecting April to write the more obvious of the romances (there are quite a few potential love interests), and she went with someone else entirely.  That said, the romance felt rushed towards the end of the book, and I would have preferred if Rose had interacted with her love interest a little more earlier on, had some longing glances and whatnot to build up to their passionate love affair.

I did find a few parts of the book confusing, especially earlier on. When Rose first shows up in this unique world and is taken to the Academy to study magic, she experiences a strange magical… something. Was it a test? A hazing ritual?  I’m still not entirely sure what I had read, and it happened early enough in the book that it left me worried that I would experience that level of confusion again. Fortunately, it’s the only part of the book that really left me scratching my head, as everything else was quite easy to follow.  If you experience the same while reading this book, I encourage you to push through it, because this read is quite rewarding!

One part of the book that I absolutely adored is the use of Runes. April has created a unique type of magic that leaves me aching for more. You know that a writer has created an interesting type of magic when I long to read a textbook on the subject. Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but I want to read a textbook on Runes written by Renee April. (I am a librarian and researcher, after all! It shouldn’t be so hard to believe). Other aspects of the magic in this world are just as interesting, especially the unique take on soulmates, and I’m eager to explore this world more in the next instalment in this series.

Her Crown of Fire

I recommend this book to anyone looking to get lost in a dark, magical world.

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*Thank you to Write Plan for the advanced reader copy for review*

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Book Review: Beneath London’s Fog by Iona Caldwell

Beneath London's Fog book cover

Title: Beneath London’s Fog 
Author: Iona Caldwell
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Date of Publication: October 30, 2019
Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing


Synopsis

A centuries-old vampire haunts the streets of London at night, but he isn’t the monster one would expect. Jonathan once fell in love with a human, Anna, who died tragically, breaking his heart.  Now he does not kill to feed, though it would make him stronger. He lives in the feared Raven Hollow Manor with his daughter, an orphaned human he adopted.  Since he does not kill, he is safe from persecution, that is, until another vampire comes to town and this one doesn’t share Jonathan’s moral code…

Plot 

This is a novella, which is both a strength and a weakness. It’s a strength, because every word that Caldwell writes serves a purpose to either create atmosphere, plunge the plot forward, or develop three-dimensional characters. It’s also a weakness because I wanted more!

This book is rocket-fast paced. It’s designed as a quick and tumultuous adventure, rather than a long and arduous trek, which is often the case with Victorian-era vampire fiction.

There are many flashbacks throughout the story, but they felt a little too rushed to my liking. It often felt like a scene ended just when it was really beginning.  Caldwell had a dynamic idea that could have easily been extended into a full-length piece.

The plot of this novel did seem familiar, as if I’ve read it before. While deemed “horror” the book isn’t particularly scary. However, it does deal with some dark themes, (and vampires ripping out people’s throats is always considered horror, right?). That said, I would categorize this book more as a compelling mystery masquerading as a Gothic vampire horror.

Characters 

While fast-paced, the novel doesn’t forego necessary character descriptions. Jonathan isn’t a mysterious cloaked figure, but a well-fleshed out character. Caldwell does this through flashbacks as well as present-day interactions with his daughter.

Because of the shortness of the book, we don’t get to see as much of other characters, such as the villain (I’ll leave it vague since that’s a  spoiler!) or even his daughter, Anna. I would have liked to learn more about Anna, her motivations, and maybe experience more flashbacks to when she was first adopted by this creature of the night. What happens when a centuries-old vampire is raising a teenager? I’m hoping that future instalments in this series will give me the juicy details that I want!

Language

Beneath London’s Fog reads like other classic vampire stories–particularly Dracula or Interview with the Vampire. The style is authentic to the time period. The writing is also almost epistolary in the way that Jonathan seems to address the reader, but this isn’t extended throughout the whole story, which might have disconnected the readers from the action.

While Caldwell uses an older style of writing, this doesn’t detract from the quick pace of reading.  There aren’t any long, monotonous speeches, as seen in classic horror novels such as Dracula.  That said, there were occasional parts where the grammar seemed stilted, which is to be expected when using this style of writing.

Setting

Somehow in a 100-page novel, Caldwell hits all four readers advisory (librarian-nerd alert!) appeal factors–including setting, which is often neglected in shorter pieces.  She takes her time describing the city, as well as Raven Hollow Manor. She provides twisted history of this building, which was a delightfully dark surprise. But again, I wish she had delved deeper into the beautiful world she created. I wanted to learn more about the madman that had once lived in Raven Hollow, or the monster that apparently lurks deep beneath it.

Beneath London's Fog

I recommend this novella to anyone looking for a cozy horror story to read on a cold evening while curled up by the fireplace with a cat on one side and a glass of blood–er–wine on the other.

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*Thank you to FyreSyde Publishing for the advanced reader copy for review*

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Book Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Sky in the Deep

Sky in the Deep

Title: Sky in the Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Date of Publication: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

Young Eelyn was raised to be a warrior in her Viking clan, the Aska, where she fought side by side with her brother until he died in battle. Years later, seventeen-year-old Eelyn  is fighting in a particularly brutal battle when she sees her brother alive and well and fighting for the other side.  Compelled to follow him, she is distracted and finds herself captured by her enemy, the Riki.  It is then that she discovers that not only is her brother fighting with the enemy, but he has become the enemy.  Betrayed and furious, she is now a servant to her brother’s new family, and she must figure out a way to escape, or she must learn to trust her brother again.

Plot

Finally, a young adult book about Vikings!  Sky in the Deep is fast-paced from start to finish. I was immediately enraptured by Adrienne Young’s language, and the not-so-subtle violence that occurred in the beginning of the book.  While I’m not familiar with Viking history at all, the setting and way that the characters act felt genuine to that time period, at least, as much as a young adult book can be.

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Book Review: Violet by Scott Thomas

Violet

Violet

Title: Violet
Author: Scott Thomas
Genre: Horror, Literary
Date of Publication: September 23, 2019
Publisher: Inkshares


Synopsis

When Kris’s husband dies, she decides to take her daughter, Sadie, to stay at the summer cottage her family used to visit when she was a little girl.  But things aren’t quite as idyllic as Kris remembers.  The cottage is run down and uncared for.  The town of Pacington has had a string of missing girls.  Strangely, Sadie isn’t at all upset to be spending her summer in a creepy house in the middle of nowhere far from all her friends.  She’s made a new friend–an imaginary one. A little girl named Violet, who is suspiciously similar to the imaginary friend that Kris had when she stayed at this cottage twenty years ago…

Plot

The concept of this novel is simple, yet brilliant.  Unfortunately, because of this, there aren’t many twists in the plot that aren’t immediately given away by the blurb on the back of the book. Despite this, the book is all about the journey. It’s about following Kris as she struggles to understand what is happening, even if the reader already knows or suspects what is going on.

Unlike Kill Creek, Scott Thomas’s debut novel, Violet is far more literary, and, as a result, it is much slower paced.  There are many flashbacks to when Kris was a little girl staying in this house, filling in the gaps in her memories which have faded over the years.  The prose is powerful and gripping, and the setting and characters are so well-described that I could perfectly envision Kris and Sadie stepping out of the car and approaching their new home.

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Book Review: Nobody Move by Philip Elliott

Nobody Move

Nobody Move Book Cover

Title: Nobody Move
Author: Philip Elliott
Series: Angel City # 1

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Date of Publication: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Into the Void


Synopsis

When Eddie Vegas is sent to shake down a man who owes a lot of money to his employer, he makes a fatal error and ends up accidentally killing the guy.  Since Eddie’s boss now holds him personally responsible for repaying the $50,000, he takes off. Now, not only is Eddie on the run from his former boss and partners in crime, but the man he killed had allies that are out for blood. His blood.

My Thoughts

Nobody Move is a rocket-fast paced black-comedy thriller that I finished in just an evening.  It’s one of the books where I kept looking at the clock and saying “All right, I’ll read one more chapter”, and before I knew it, it was past my bedtime and I’d finished the book.

This novel reads like a noir thriller, particularly in the beginning.  Philip Elliott frequently references the movies that clearly inspired his style, like Pulp Fiction and the Godfather.  That said, I did get the feeling he was referencing movies a little too often.  It was humorous, however, that the bad guys were getting ideas for how to handle situations based on the movies they’d seen.  The book itself, including its plot and the way that Eddie keeps making foolish mistakes, reminds me a lot of the movie Fargo.  For example, some of the shadier characters tell little colourful anecdotes throughout the novel.  These little stories often have a hidden (or blatantly obvious) relevance to what’s going on and how the rest of the story will unfold.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen

Picture of book

Book cover

Title: The Devil’s Apprentice
Author: Kenneth B. Andersen
Series: The Great Devil War I

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date of Publication: October 8, 2018
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC


Synopsis

Philip is a thirteen year old boy who has always been well behaved. He’s a boy scout, he does his chores on time, and he’s always eager to help anyone who might need his assistance.  But when he dies unexpectedly, a mix up causes him to find himself in hell.  Not only is he expected to stay there, but he is required to enter training to become the successor of the Devil himself.  Philip must learn to survive, but who can he trust? And, most importantly, will he still be the same person when–if–he gets out of this?

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