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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Book Review: Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire

Closer Than You Think

Closer than you think book cover

Title: Closer Than You Think
Author: Lee Maguire
Series:
Broken Minds Thriller #1

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: October 22, 2018
Publisher: TCK Publishing


Synopsis:

In the first instalment in this “Broken Minds” mystery series, we’re introduced to Dr. Bryce Davison, a psychologist with his own broken mind.  His marriage is on the rocks, his insomnia is threatening his livelihood, and now he has a stalker. Someone who’s been watching him for a long time and is determined to destroy his marriage, his career, and his mind…

Plot

Dr. Bryce Davison is a mental health professional.  When he realizes that he has a stalker, the list of potential suspects is quite long.  This makes for an interesting mystery. I could immediately tell that the author works or has worked in the industry, because the writing has an authentic feel that permeates through the setting, the plot, and the way that Bryce talks about his career and his patients.

Maguire jumps right into the story with little explanation as to who the characters are. This made it a little difficult to get into and to understand. (For instance, it took me a few pages to figure out that “Max” was his dog).  That said, it’s definitely worth pushing through those first few chapters, because the excitement starts up pretty quickly and doesn’t let up for the whole book.  There are many twists and turns that make this book a one-sitting read.

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Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood

the hazel wood book cover

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books


Synopsis:

Alice has never met her grandmother, infamous fairy-tale writer Althea Prosperine.  Althea earned her fame decades ago by penning a single collection of fairy tales about a strange place called the Hinterland.  Afterwards, she isolated herself in her enormous estate, the Hazel Wood, cutting herself off from the rest of the world.  Alice has spent her seventeen years of life on the road; her mother moves them from place to place as mysterious bad luck seems to follow them wherever they go.  But when Althea dies, Alice’s mother is happy. Ecstatic, even. She says they can finally settle down and place roots in New York. But this decision might have been a tad too hasty.  Alice’s mother is kidnapped by someone who claims to be from the Hinterland.  Now Alice must team up with a fellow classmate–Ellery Finch–who just so happens to be an expert on the stories that her grandmother wrote. Together they will go to the Hazel Wood and uncover the truth about the Hinterland

Plot 

The Hazel Wood reads like a fairy tale, but set in a gritty, modern world with iPhones, baristas, and high school classes.  Melissa Albert writes with a beautiful, lyrical style that is quite unique. Because of this, I was able to get into the head of the protagonist, Alice, quite quickly. I found myself understanding her and her predicament almost immediately.   

The plot and pacing of this book is phenomenal.  Albert lays out clues like bread bread crumbs, but I still didn’t know where they were leading until the twist smacked me in the face. That twist. Omg. Now I know why people were raving about this book last year. I’m doubly embarrassed for not reading this sooner. But how are you supposed to know what books are ‘must-reads’ until after they’ve already been out for a bit? 

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Book Review: The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta

The Lost Coast book cover

The Lost Coast Book cover

Title: The Lost Coast
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Genre: Fantasy, Literary, LGBTQ+
Date of Publication: May 14,  2019
Publisher: Candlewick


Synopsis

The Lost Coast is a highly literary coming of age tale of a group of teenage witches, self-named the Grays.  Their leader, Imogen, has gone missing, and they’ve tried nearly everything to find her. But when Danny moves to town, she brings with her a unique type of magic that might just be what they’re looking for, in more ways than one.

~My Thoughts~

This book is beautifully written, and the words are like poetry on the page.  It reminds me a little bit of a literary version of an 80s movie, with a bunch of lost kids trying to find their place in the world, but in this book, they’ve found their place–with each other.

There are many different points of view expressed throughout the book.  We get a lot of chapters from Danny’s point of view, and others from the Grays’, but we also get the perspective of the other high school students, which provides context for why the Grays feel so out of place in their little, traditional town.  To reinforce themes of magic in the book, Capetta occasionally provides the point of view of the trees and the ravens, which could be groan-worthy, but it somehow works.

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Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Beautiful Bad Photograph

Beautiful Bad book cover

Title: Beautiful Bad
Author: Annie Ward
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Park Row Books


Synopsis:

Maddie and Ian meet in southeastern Europe, fall in love, and move to suburbs in Kansas to raise their son, Charlie.  After a mysterious camping accident, Maddie starts going to therapy, where she gradually reveals to her therapist what her life is really like.  Told in three timelines, the events of Beautiful Bad lead up to the horrifying events that occur on “The Day of the Killing”…

Plot

Beautiful Bad is at its heart a psychological thriller, but it does have elements of military fiction and drama thrown into the mix. At times the book is set in different parts of the globe, giving the book an international feel that is uncommon in typical domestic suspense novels.

Annie Ward uses three plotlines across three different timelines to tell this story.  One is set years before the main events of the book, when Maddie and Ian first meet.  Maddie, who is living in Bulgaria, writing for Fodor’s travel guides, frequently visits her best friend, Joanna, in Macedonia, despite the political unrest in the region.  She meets Ian at a bar, and they gradually fall in love.  This is my least favourite storyline, which, unfortunately, makes up the bulk of the book. The “will they or won’t they?” dance goes on a little too long for my liking.

The second plotline is set in the months and eventually the days before “The Killing”.  Maddie is seeing a therapist who is helping her with her issues.  Not long ago, Maddie fell while on a camping trip with Ian and their son, Charlie, and she doesn’t remember what happened. She has a horrible scar down half of her face, and the police at the time were convinced that this couldn’t have been an accident…

The third plotline is set on “The Day of the Killing”, and we follow police officer Diane as she answers a call to a potential domestic violence case. These scenes are the least frequent in the novel.  They provide readers with the reminder that something horrible is going to happen in this beautiful home in the dreamy suburbs of Kansas…

Beautiful Bad has lots of twists and turns.  The ending is downright shocking.  I love a good book that lays out all the clues for you in plain sight, yet you still don’t see the twist coming until the very end.

Characters

Maddie is an intriguing main character.  When she hit her head on the camping trip, there was some brain damage, causing her to forget what had happened. Ward takes the amnesia and unreliable narrator tropes seen so frequently in psychological thrillers, and she puts a new spin on them. In the months before the killing scenes, Maddie’s therapist has her do writing therapy.  Maddie’s answers to the writing prompts provide a peek into her past and tell us why Maddie is the way she is.  Her therapist accuses her of “catastrophizing”, which is all too apparent in the answers that Maddie provides to the questions.  This personality ‘quirk’  makes for a fascinating protagonist.

Maddie’s former best friend, Joanna, is also a compelling character. While Joanna has dedicated her life to aid in Macedonia, doing whatever it takes to ensure that much-needed supplies make it across the border of a country in turmoil, she isn’t quite what you would expect. She doesn’t come across as a stereotypical do-gooder, who’s sweet and caring and willing to always do what’s best.  She parties a lot and the author hints that she’s partially in it for the danger, not just to help people.  Although we don’t get any chapters from her point of view, Joanna is a well-fleshed-out, unique, and interesting character, which is uncommon in secondary characters in psychological thrillers.

While most of the book is from Maddie’s perspective, we do get some pivotal scenes from Ian’s. His chapters contribute significantly to the narrative, revealing his thoughts, motivations, hopes, fears. Without them, we would only have seen Ian from Maddie’s point of view, and the story would have been severely lacking. These scenes add something special to the book, and at the risk of spoiling any twists, I’ll leave it at that.

Beautiful Bad Photograph

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a thrilling psychological thriller with a lot twists and turns and a surprising conclusion.  Set in exotic locales like Macedonia, Iraq, and Kansas (just kidding on the last one), Beautiful Bad is a unique take on the genre, which should not be missed by seasoned fans and new readers alike.

starstarstarstar

*Thank you to Park Row Books for the ARC for review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Women’s War by Jenna Glass

The Women's War

The Women's War book cover

Title: The Women’s War
Author: Jenna Glass
Series: The Women’s War #1
Genre: High Fantasy
Date of Publication: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey


Synopsis:

In this patriarchal, high-fantasy world, women are used by royals as bargaining chips and are valued only for their ability to reproduce.  But the tables have finally turned. A curse has been cast, one that allows all women to choose whether or not they want to bear a child.  Women have finally regained some control over their lives, but the battle has just begun.  Many men will do whatever they can to keep their power.

Plot & Characters

Touted as a feminist high-fantasy, The Women’s War does not disappoint in this regard.  This curse that is cast upon all the kingdoms gives women some semblance of power, but of course, men still seek to control them.

The novel follows several women over the course of the months following this curse that befell all the kingdoms.  Each of the women is in a different stage of life – whether eighteen or the ripe old age of forty, and each of them experiences different levels of oppression. Each woman is controlled (to varying degrees) by the men in her life. These women’s journeys, while quite different in plot, are also eerily similar.  It’s fascinating to watch their characters develop over the span of this 550-page book.  However, because there are so many different characters living in different kingdoms, they can be hard to keep track of, which does slow down the pace of the book.  The individual chapters are a tad too short, giving you a taste of what is going on with one character before switching over to the next, which can add to the confusion. Although a lot happens in this book, this is not a quick read.

While there are several main female characters in this story, I will focus on three: Ellin, Alys, and Jellin.  When her family is tragically killed, Ellin becomes the new Queen of Rhozinolm.  Having a female sovereign has precedent in her land, but the men of the council seek to manipulate her and seize the throne for themselves.  Alys is a forty-year-old widow with a gift for magic, which before now she was unable to use.  She hopes to use magic to make the world a better place for her children.  Jellin is Alys’s eighteen-year-old daughter who must use her wits to avoid marriage to an unsavory man.

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Book Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn

The Huntress Book cover reading

The Huntress book cover

Title: The Huntress
Author: Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction,Thriller 
Date of Publication: February 26, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks


Synopsis

Nina Markova was a female bomber pilot in World War II.  Badass, reckless, and a little crazy, Nina was a member of an infamous regiment called the Night Witches, which comprised solely of women fighter pilots.  But when Nina crosses paths with a Nazi murderess, The Huntress, she barely manages to escape with her life.  After the war, she joins forces with Nazi hunter Ian Graham to hunt down the elusive Huntress…

Plot

The Huntress follows three seemingly disparate storylines across the length of the book.  Told from three unique POVs, the three stories are also set at different times – one before and then during World War II, one that begins a year after its end, and one set in 1950.

Nina is a Russian pilot, and, according to the book’s blurb, the main character. The novel follows her in the years before joining the Night Witches, revealing to the reader just how harsh it was to grow up in an isolated rural region in Russia. But when she joins the Night Witches, she finds her true love – the sky.

Ian Graham is a former British war correspondent turned Nazi hunter. He works with his partner Tony to find and capture Nazi war criminals. After taking down numerous bad guys, he decides to target the one he’s really after–the Huntress–the woman who murdered his brother.

Jordan McBride is a Bostonian teenager whose father falls madly in love with a secretive German woman with a mysterious past. Her father marries this woman, Annelise, adopting her child as his own, but Jordan can’t fight the sneaking suspicion that Annelise isn’t quite what she seems. A burgeoning photographer, Jordan is always looking to snap pictures of her family. But why won’t Annelise let her take her picture?

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