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Monday, July 31, 2017

Review: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Woman No. 17
This is a story of two women. Lady, a writer currently separated from her husband. She hires a nanny, S, to help take care of her younger son Devin. Her older son, Seth, also lives in the house. As a mute, Lady is very protective over him and defensive to a fault. As S starts to become part of the family, her lies eventually catch up to her. Told alternately from both women's perspectives, we see Lady's insecurities in dealing with her writer's and S's continued art performance and the reasons behind both.

Personally, while the story read fine, I just didn't get it. Nobody was likable in this book - except perhaps the youngest son, Devin, and that's just because he's pretty innocent and a just a kid. I couldn't wrap my head around a few things re S's "performance" and how she was getting away with so many different things. It read slow in certain parts and I guess I was expecting something more to happen. It just seemed a little bit all over the place for me. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it just didn't quite do it for me.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 28, 2017

#allthebookreviews: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed @jennie_melamed ‏ @littlebrown #bookcult #gatherbook

Gather the Daughters
by Jennie Melamed
Little Brown

Well hot damn. Debut novels are KILLING it this year.  This one is in my top 5 for the year for sure - probably even in my top 3.  I love books about cult life and this one hits my sweet spot with a 1-2 punch that is keeping me wide eyed even now!  

Big thank you to Little Brown for our copies in return for our honest reviews.

Goodreads Synopsis:

NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers--chosen male descendants of the original ten--are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly--they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers' hands and their mothers' despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed's novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.

My Thoughts: 

OK guys and gals - Iet's get right to the skinny, shall we?  This book is FANTASTIC!  Debut novel? WHAT?!  So well written.  Divided into four parts, one for each season, we begin with Spring and end in the Winter.  Once a girl has her first bleed, the next summer becomes her Summer of Fruition, where she (along with the other girls going through the same thing) group together with a group of boys to find their husbands.  From there they are then married and she's allowed to have two children.  Once the children are old enough to bear children, they (now grandparents) take their final draft and die (if they are no longer considered useful to the society).  Forty is considered ANCIENT.  This is their life.  Boys are celebrated and girls are a necessity to a means.  Rules are to be followed from Our Book or have the wrath of the ancestors upon you.  The children rule during the summer (before fruition) and stay outdoors, fighting for food and shelter while the adults are relegated to their houses.  For the rest of the year, however, the opposite is true.

There are so many nuances to this book that I don't even know where to begin.  While there is not much that disturbs my dark mind, if you don't like to read about child abuse or incest, this may not be the right kind of read for you.  This is definitely a somber, dark book and well worth the read for those who are so inclined to like the ominous intellect. And I certainly do.  When one of the girls witnesses an act that makes her question the rules of the island, it starts an uprising from the girls that threatens everyone's existence. The underlying "what else is out there" remains constant in not only the children's thoughts but in the reader's as well.  What exists outside of this island?  Are the wastelands really set on fire?  Or are other people living their lives in a completely different way and they're just set apart.  Are the adults lying?  In my mind, it felt like a cross between M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

I want to live in this author's mind.  I loved every page of this book.  I wonder though, is a sequel coming or is this a one off?  I'm happy with the way it ended but it definitely left room for more information - and I would happily pick that up if ever it should come.  Take a chance on this book, everyone.  It's quite the read.  

Jessica's Thoughts:

This book was completely a cover request from me. I saw this beautiful cover and I needed it. Then I read the description and there's mention of a cult? Count me in! GATHER THE DAUGHTERS by Jennie Melamed is about an isolated island with a colony of families - they fled there just before the country was incinerated into a wasteland. 

These families built a society on a small island - a society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and "the strict rationing of knowledge and history". There are strict rules as to who can leave the island - known as the Wanderers - are the male descendants of the original ten. While they can leave, the daughters of these men are considered wives-in-training.  With their many traditions, one is that when the first sign of puberty hits, they are to face their Summer of Fruition. This is a time when they get to live wildly and free of their parents.
After young Caitlin witnesses something truly horrifying, she feels that she must tell others. Not just because of how awful it was, but because it completely went against their laws and way of life. Upon learning of the events, Janey Solomon steps up to find the truth. Janey is slowly starving herself - this way she can avoid showing that she's maturing. Once matured then she will immediately be forced into marriage and then down the path to having children until she's no longer useful. She is determined to find the truth about the island and she knows that the men are hiding something from the girls. Will she be able to save the rest of the girls from their fates?
I'll say right off the bat, this book depicts a lot of events and actions that not all readers will be able to stomach. Lots of incest, sexual assault, and domestic violence. While unpleasant to read, it really sets the tone to show the reader how truly horrifying this cult is. I commend the author, because she did her homework on the psychological effects these have on the victims, and it definitely shows. One thing I couldn't believe was how when the women were considered "no longer useful" they had something called their final draught and then they died.

Melamed's writing is incredible and she created a book where you just couldn't put it down because you wanted to know the next unspeakable things the men were going to do. We read through the eyes of four different girls, 
Vanessa, Caitlin, Janey and Amanda. You instantly connect with these girls and feel for them. Knowing what they'll have to endure after their summer of living freely really sets the tone. Reading through their eyes in regards to the events they witness and experience is captivating.
I have seen a few titles that people have compared this book to, and I'd say the only one I agree with is THE HANDMAID'S TALE. So, if you're a fan of that book and can stomach the acts that I previously mentioned, then this compulsive read is definitely the book for you this summer.
I give this one 5/5 stars!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal @sheena_kamal @wmmorrowbks

The Lost Ones
by Sheena Kamal
William Morrow

A debut novel with a kick ass flawed protagonist!  Please scroll below to read the author's essay regarding how this book came to fruition (it's worth the read!) and then scroll futher to see #CJSReads thoughts on this book.  We all agree and give it a collective 4 stars!

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It's late. The phone rings.

The man on the other end says his daughter is missing.

Your daughter.

The baby you gave away over fifteen years ago.

What do you do? 

Nora Watts isn't sure that she wants to get involved. Troubled, messed up, and with more than enough problems of her own, Nora doesn't want to revisit the past. But then she sees the photograph. A girl, a teenager, with her eyes. How can she turn her back on her? 

But going in search of her daughter brings Nora into contact with a past that she would rather forget, a past that she has worked hard to put behind her, but which is always there, waiting for her . . . 

In Eyes Like Mine, Sheena Kamal has created a kick-ass protagonist who will give Lisbeth Salander a run for her money. Intuitive, not always likeable, and deeply flawed, Nora Watts is a new heroine for our time.


I'm sharing with you, readers, the essay from the Author that was included as an insert in the galley I received.  I thoroughly LOVE this essay and how she came to write this amazing debut novel.  Take the time to read through and then continue afterwards for the reviews from the #CJSReads team.  

"With the line "I've had some personal experience with the blues," Nora Watts burst out of my imagination and onto the page.  Nora, a woman with a terrifying past, a complicated identity and an artist's soul.  A former blues singer who trouble seems to follow around like a horny stray dog that she'd picked up along the way.  What other music could capture a woman like that?  What better character to write about for my first novel?

The blues became the key to Nora, and it was also the key to my book.

Suddenly, with this musical cue, I understood her and I knew what her story would be.  She is a product of an often misunderstood land, a mash-up of fractured identities and influences that I hadn't seen represented in popular fiction before.  I don't know how else to explain it, but she excited me.  With Nora, there are no easy answers.  Only difficult questions, and the vexing woman at the center of a girl's disappearance.

With little more than an idea, I moved across the country, from the east coast to the west, to see if I could write a book.  I was familiar enough with film and television writing to recognize structure.  What I had was a bit of light plotting, and a character who wouldn't allow herself to sing anymore.  Everything else I left up to the obvious way my mind works, and the moody atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest.

Back in Toronto, I'd been going nowhere fast.  I had long since abandoned my political science degree and youthful forays into social activism.  There was a creative drive to me that couldn't be ignored any longer.  I dabbled in acting and film and television writing.  I had been a professional actor, stunt double (for children, because I'm a hobbit), extra, devious Muay Thai practitioner, paid note-taker and television researcher.  Nothing was panning out.  I was stuck in a rut, repeating the same old mistakes, constantly putting myself on the line and only hearing "You have to pay your dues" in return.  It didn't feel right anymore and, quite honestly, I was bored.

So I packed up my life and moved to Vancouver.

It wasn't by chance that I chose the rainy west coast as the setting for THE LOST ONES.  I had been to Vancouver once before during one of its famous wet winters.  I was supposed to stay a few months but managed a few weeks before I threw in the proverbial towel. Not knowing any better, I had stayed in the worst part of town; the downtown eastside.  I was shocked at the conditions when I got there.  Three weeks of filthy streets, rainy skies, soggy clothes and I'd had it.  But something about the experience stuck with me, perhaps it was a seed of an idea that took another several years to fully germinate.

Several years later, living in Vancouver was still a struggle but the rain and the blues kept me writing.  This story, from inception to publication, has been about place and music - and the price that a woman must pay in order to save a girl who is the living embodiment of the darkest chapter of her past.  As I work on the sequel now, I am still consumed by Nora.  She represents one of the most passionate love affairs of my life, and I'm so excited to share her story with the world."

Sheena Kamal holds an HBA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness.  THE LOST ONES is inspired by this and by Kamal's most recent work as a researcher in to crime and investigative journalism for the film and television industry.

Find her here:

My Review:

Nora hasn't had the easiest life.  She lives a solitary existence, trusting no one and working for an investigative company where she puts her talents to use.  In one of her interviews, she finds out that the girl she gave up for adoption 15 years ago has gone missing.  In her search for her, the past creeps up on her, her sobriety gets shaken and she has to confront the man that almost killed her.  Just how much more can this poor woman take?

I'm so blessed to have read so many GREAT debut novels this year and this is no different!  It especially spoke to me after reading the author's essay on how she came to write this book and how she incorporates her own experiences into this. I highly recommend you read this if you can (I have posted it on my blog).  The nuances she brings to Nora and her experiences made me fall in love with this flawed protagonist.  For me this was more of a character driven book and I was hooked.  The further you read, the more layers you find to Nora's characters and to see her progress, decline and try to come to terms with things far buried was quite the ride.

The other members of the "cast" were hard to like (which is fine by me!).  Nora's sister is deplorable (though I can almost see her point of view), Brazuca (her AA sponsor) is a bit out there and does this stay-away-from-me but I'm-here-because-I-care thing, her bosses are lovable and trusting and the only stability in her life outside of her dog, Whisper, who chose her one day and became her lifeline.  Whisper is quite the character herself with her own issues and I LOVE her! 

Overall a fantastic debut from Sheena.  Not only does she weave a tale, but she really integrates the history of Canada and the social issues involved, giving the reader a full sense of her knowledge.  I truly look forward to more of Sheena's work as I only see great things coming our way.  And if you haven't interacted with her via social media, you really should - she's quite the delight!   

Jessica's Thoughts:

THE LOST ONES by Sheena Kamal was previously released in the UK under a different title, EYES LIKE MINE. This thriller, set in Canada, follows a woman on a bleak mission to find the daughter she gave up 15 years ago. Will she be able to make it through the streets to find Bonnie?

The story begins with a phone call - a call that Nora Watts has been dreading since the day she gave up her newborn for adoption, 15 years ago. Bonnie has disappeared, and with her record of running away, the police aren't looking for her. Her adoptive parents are completely desperate, so they reach out to Nora in a last ditch effort. 

Having been apart of the foster system then having to fend for herself on the streets, Nora sets out with nothing but her dog, Whisper, to go find Bonnie. On her journey through the streets of Vancouver to the icy mountains of the Canadian interior, she must face the events of her past in order to find her daughter. Her searching leads to a conspiracy and Nora soon finds herself in danger - she endures this all to find the girl she wishes was never even born. 

Nora is a character you grow to love. For all of her flaws and what she's endured in her past. Throughout the book we get flashbacks and get to see the events that lead to her deciding to put Bonnie up for adoption right after she was born. My only real complaint about this book was the pacing. It started really fast and drew me in, then there was a portion in the middle of the book where it slowed down a lot and started to lose me. I'm glad I kept going though, because I ended up really enjoying the book! Kamal did a great job with the scenery! I'm not Canadian, but being in Minnesota I'm basically Canada and it's fun reading books where it's set somewhere different.
Overall, if you want a great mystery and psychological thriller with a lovable anti-heroine, then this is the book for you!
I give this 4/5 stars! 

Sam's Thoughts:

When the phone rings, Nora is expecting another work phone call; instead, she is surprised to hear a man on the other end stating his daughter is missing. Nora’s daughter: the baby she gave up fifteen years earlier cannot be found. Grappling with not wanting to get involved and wanting to be helpful, Nora struggles until she sees a picture of the girl. The girl with eyes just like her. Once she is on the case, Nora is thrown into the past; the past that she has worked hard to forget and danger that she has longed to escape.

The Lost Ones, previously published in the UK under the name Eyes Like Mine, introduces a brand new anti-heroine with flawed, recovering addict, Nora Watts. Working as a PI and journalist, Nora finds herself caught up in the case of her missing daughter, a daughter she had given up years before. Along with the help of her ex-sponsor, her employers and her sister, Nora begins the hunt for her daughter and gets wrapped up a parallel crime when one of her co-workers is murdered. This upcoming mystery thriller by Sheena Kamal will have you glued to the pages and flipping rapidly to understand how all these moving pieces fit together.

Much of the novel is spent discussing and rolling out Nora’s backstory. In fact, the search for the missing daughter, Bonnie, almost becomes secondary to rolling out Nora’s character. I, for one, loved this. Between learning about her seedy upbringing and her tempestuous past (her rehab stints and her addictions), Kamal lays out a complex character that takes the entire novel to unfold. The author’s notes at the end make it seem like this will not be the last novel for this character and I am pleased. Nora was very likable; her vulnerability, wit and scarred personality made her incredibly relatable and appealing.

I also loved the setting of this story. Call me biased, but this one is set in Canada. As a Canadian blogger, it is so nice to be able to see a novel set in your country! The plot points discuss certain issues that are very prevalent in Canadian society. Specifically focusing on Aboriginal issues as Nora comes from mixed race heritage. There is discussion surrounding the of assimilation of Native cultures and the missing Aboriginal women. I loved seeing this develop throughout the pages.

My only complaint with this title was that I found that it dragged at times, especially in the middle of the story; this one hit the ground running and I wanted the novel to keep its momentum and be a little faster paced.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a twist with their protagonists and an anti-heroine to root for.    

4 Stars 

Big thank you to William Morrow for these copies in return for our honest opinions.

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: Till the Dust Settles by Pat Young @py321_young @bloodhoundbook

Excited to be launching off the blog tour for Till the Dust Settles by Pat Young.  

Book Description:

The lives of two women who never meet are about to collide.

Lucie married young. Her husband has become abusive, controlling and violent.  Having lost everything as a result of the marriage, Lucie decides it is time to walk away.

As she leaves the house on the morning of September 11th, heading to a job interview at the World Trade Centre and the promise of a new life, the unthinkable happens.

On a street in New York, choking on the dust, Lucie stumbles upon an opportunity for a new life.

She thought the grass would be greener. But starting again is never that simple…

Sometimes, what lies ahead is even more deadly. 

My Review:

Set from the day of the 9/11 terrorist attached on the Twin Towers, we are put into the lives of two women.  Lucie, a Scottish immigrant, who ends up in an abusive marriage and Miss Gillespie, a woman out to take full advantage of the situation have their lives intertwined when Lucie accidentally picks up Gillespie's purse in the rubble and gets mistaken for her.  Her decision to continue the deceit propels her in a collision course that makes her abusive marriage seem tame.

A tale of conspiracy, abuse and how one wrong decision can alter the course of your life, this is book regarding the 9/11 attack and the course of two lives from that day forward.  I had a few issues with the book but overall a solid debut effort.  I think it's hard to read about anything related to 9/11 and, just for my own personal preference, put into fiction something that was such a traumatic part of millions of lives - it just feels a bit off.  In looking at this book in terms of writing, the author does a fantastic job of setting up the story line, plot twisting and bringing everything together.  Some things didn't seem quite so plausible, but then again, fiction and plausibility don't always go hand in hand.  And while I typically don't mind so much in most stories, it's the subject matter that keeps me from appreciating this book the way I should.  Maybe I should've considered that before accepting a copy to review.   However, I always try to keep an open mind and get extremely surprised most of the time.  This time, I feel I just couldn't get past it - and that's just my own personal feeling.

I will say that if you love conspiracy and domestic thrillers and the what-if story line taken from an event that rocked the world, this would be suitable for you.

Author Bio:

Pat Young grew up in the south west of Scotland where she still lives, sometimes. She often goes to the other extreme, the south west of France, in search of sunlight.

Pat never expected to be a writer. Then she found a discarded book with a wad of cash tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the person who lost this book?’ she thought, and she was off.

Pat knew nothing of writing, but she knew a thing or two about books, having studied English, French and German at Glasgow University. A passion for languages led to a career she loved and then a successful part-time business that allowed her some free-time, at last. 

Pat had plans, none of which included sitting at her desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days she has to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, she can go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.

Pat writes psychological thrillers. Till the Dust Settles is her debut, from Bloodhound Books.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips @vikingbooks @ginphillips17

Fierce Kingdom
by Gin Phillips
Viking Books

This told-in-real-time thriller about a mother and son trapped in a zoo will have your heart racing with the turn of each page.  See what #CJSReads had to say about this 

Synopsis from Goodreads:

An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

My Review:

Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, are enjoying a day at the zoo when they realize it's almost closing time and they better get moving or else get trapped inside.  As they head towards the exit, Joan notices a gunman and several people bleeding on the ground.  Luckily, Joan is well versed in the zoo.  This serves her well as the sun goes down and she tries to hide her and her son who is growing increasingly bored and hungry.  

Told in real time from 4:55 pm to 8:05 pm, this is a unique and thrilling ride showcasing the bond between mother and son, the basic need to survive and the moral dilemma of making hard choices in order to ensure that survival.  I had the hardest time putting this book down.  Told mainly through Joan's perspective, we do get glimpses into the minds of a zoo worker and one of the shooters.  It's spine tingling to get into the mind of someone who is having fun spree killing animals and people and reminds me of my abnormal psych classes where we learned of sociopathic and homicidal behaviors.  

I disagree with comparisons to the book, Room.  While I did enjoy that book and the perspective from a child, this book is above and beyond that one in my opinion... but the theme of the bond between a mother and her child is clear.  I absolutely loved the banter between Joan and Lincoln and all the little nuances the author brings forth with his special language and the unspoken moments between him and his mother.  I felt my heart racing with each moment and just so VERY involved with each turn of the page.  And quite frankly, if you're going to keep references Scarecrow & Mrs. King, well, how can I NOT like it?! (Am I showing my age here?)

While the subject matter is all too realistic these days, sadly, I applaud how the author really sucks you into the story.  The writing is beautiful.  A particular moment with the colobus monkey never leaving the side of one of his own was very touching for me.  It showed how while Joan is in her own world thinking of her son's survival more than anything, that the actions of the shooters are terrifying not only the humans, but the animals as well.  And quite frankly, I tend to be more sad about these events. I will say that there were some loose ends and I can't say more than that without spoiling anything.  However, for me, it just gave more to the authenticity of Joan's struggle.  

Jessica's Thoughts:

FIERCE KINGDOM by Gin Phillips is one of those books that was getting a lot of hype, and for good reason! This book isn't completely a thriller, but it's an emotionally charged suspense novel. As a mother, how far would you go to protect your son?

Joan and her young son Lincoln are frequent visitors to their local zoo. They know the layout and have their favorite secluded areas. She and Lincoln go to their favorite place - a shady enclosure in the woods at the edge of the zoo. As Lincoln plays, Joan is keeping an eye on the time - 4:55pm - the zoo will be closing soon. 

Then an unexpected explosion happens. Joan recognizes it as gunfire. As she tries to keep calm so she doesn't send Lincoln into a panic, she picks him up and beelines it to the only exit (the front doors). As she makes her way there, she comes across the other visitors. The armed men have been on a killing spree and Joan realizes she needs to use her knowledge of the zoo to keep her and Lincoln safe. 

Phillips does an incredible job bringing the readers through the emotional ringer. This book is told "in real time". We start at 4:55pm and the book ends at 8:05pm for an action packed and nerve wracking read. This book had me completely drawn in, I needed to find out what Joan's next move was going to be! How was she going to avoid being caught by the gunmen? We even got a glimpse inside the mind of the killer which only improved upon the eeriness of the book. 

While this was incredibly suspenseful, I wouldn't categorize it as a cat and mouse thriller. I definitely enjoyed this one and for a shorter story, it really packs an emotional punch! If you want a good suspenseful, character driven, and emotional read, then this needs to be on your list!

I give this a solid 4/5 stars!

Sam's Thoughts:

I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips, for MONTHS; I had read multiple posts during the blog tour for the UK release and it shot right up to the top of STAFF PICKS at Chapters-Indigo upon its release in Canada, but since the US released it later on in July and I was reading it with Jessica and Chandra for one of our July #cjsreads picks, I held off for as long as possible!  Now that I have read the title, I feel as if the hype is justified but feel like this book absolutely left me wanting more.

Let me break it down.

The novel opens with a mother (Joan) and her young son (Lincoln) enjoying an afternoon at the zoo.  Lincoln is talking a mile a minute, Joan is making lists in her head and as they head out of the zoo for the evening, Joan hears a popping sound.  Something is absolutely wrong and this is made clear when Joan sees the bodies.  There is a shooter in the zoo and the shooter is not just hunting the animals.  Scooping up Lincoln and running, Joan must try and protect him from the evil that lurks.

The general premise was absolutely gripping; I was hooked from the first pages of the book.   What a different setting for a thriller!  I felt like the zoo backdrop added an extra layer of unpredictability as our protagonist had to not only worry about the human danger but also the danger that comes from nature.   Phillips also does an excellent job at making her characters realistic and relatable.  I was genuinely concerned for their plights and found myself continuously asking myself what I would do in such a situation.    I also felt like Phillips did an amazing job at developing her secondary characters.

Now, my struggle with the book is hard to discuss without giving any spoilers but I did have quite an issue with an aspect involving a baby.  I felt like I didn’t get any resolution and I felt quite a bit of anxiety surrounding this small bit of plot.  I also struggled a lot with the ending.  Again, hard to explain without providing spoilers but it really didn’t leave me satisfied.

Overall, I felt like Fierce Kingdom was a stellar piece of fiction and would recommend it to anyone looking for something fast paced and engaging.   Gave it 4/5 stars!     

Big thank you to Viking Books for these copies in return for our honest opinions.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware @gallerybooks @ruthwarewriter

The Lying Game
by Ruth Ware
Gallery Books / Scout Press

🎆 Happy Publishing Day! 🎆

See what Jessica, Sam and I had to say about Ruth Ware's latest!  
Scroll past our reviews for a special Q&A with Ruth herself!

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister...

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.  

My Review:

They met at boarding school: Isa, Fatima, Kate and Thea. Kate and Thea teach newcomers, Isa and Fatima, The Lying Game. There are rules to be followed and points to earn. This game makes many enemies for them, but they don't care - they're a fearsome foursome to be reckoned with and as long as they have each other, they don't need anyone else. An unfortunate incident surrounding the death of their art teacher (Kate's father) has the girls expelled from school in their final year. They promise to always come if one sends a message, "I need you." And years later, they get one from Kate and head back to the area where they all met. Seems their past is catching up with them when a body turns up.

I've been a fan of Ruth Ware since In a Dark, Dark Wood and Woman in Cabin 10 so I was more than thrilled to receive an early copy of this book. I love Ruth's writing style - the short chapters, the concise back and forth in time and the characters that she creates. She did a remarkable job of reminding us of our childhood friends and how our "cliques" felt powerful and the bond that you create with them. This particular book had me flipping pages with a need to know urgency. But then I found myself quickly losing interest. Told strictly through Isa's POV, I didn't feel myself connecting with any of the characters. The ending was a bit rushed for me and the twist for me was that I saw the entire ending coming! I've seen a few people compare this book to the show Pretty Little Liars. Not my favorite show, which may be why this isn't my favorite book either. Hard to say! 

No matter what, I will always continue to pick up Ruth Ware's books. This is a moderately paced thriller that's an easy, quick read. While it didn't quite hit home for me like her other two books did, it may for you!


Jessica's Thoughts:

Here is the anticipated third book from Ruth Ware! THE LYING GAME is definitely different than her other two books (IN A DARK DARK WOOD and WOMAN IN CABIN 10) - I love her writing style and this one was very fast paced. If you're a fan of Pretty Little Liars then this will be on you'll have to look up!

We start out with a body being discovered by a woman walking her dog - when the dog jumps into the water to retrieve what appeared to be a stick and ended up being sometimes much more horrific. Shortly after the body is discovered, three old friends, Fatima, Thea, and Isa, all receive a text message they hoped would never come. Three simple words from their friend Kate, "I need you".

The four friends had met when they were in Salten boarding school. They were notorious for playing a game they called, The Lying Game. There were simple rules to The Lying Game:
Rule 1: Tell a lie.
Rule 2: Stick to your story
Rule 3. Don't get caught.
Rule 4. Never lie to each other.
Rule 5. Know when to stop lying.

This game had major consequences when they were all expelled in their last year of school. They were expelled under suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Kate's father - who was the school's art teacher.

This book had great pacing throughout. It's definitely one that sucks you in right away! This book is told completely through Isa's point of view. We're brought through events of their past and there were plenty of shocking moments. The ending though was kind of a let down in comparison to the rest of the book.

I think that I enjoyed this one more than IN A DARK, DARK WOOD and about on par with how much I liked WOMAN IN CABIN 10. If you want a lighter suspense book then I'd say this is perfect for you! A great summer read.
I give this one 4/5 stars!

Sam's Thoughts:

I’m just gonna come right out and say it.  I have never read a novel by Ruth Ware.  I know, I know, what kind of thriller lover am I?  I have them all purchased, sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently for me but I am a slave to my TBR pile and hadn’t been able to read them yet.  So, I was more than thrilled when #cjsreads made The Lying Game by Ruth Ware a July title.

The novel opens with a body being discovered and Isa, a new mother, receiving a text from her childhood friend.  A text she knows to always respond to.  A text she hoped she would never get.  Travelling to Salten, a boarding school she spent a year in, she meets up with Kate and two other friends who all went to the school; notorious in their time, they were known for playing The Lying Game.  A game blurred with reality, and soon, the girls realize that their past is not as buried as they had hoped.

From the first pages, I was pretty much hooked. It sort of had that chick lit, Pretty Little Liars vibe that I enjoy in a thriller.  Imagine Big Little Lies and a sort of darker Gossip Girl.  I really enjoy where I can get that sort of “feeling” from a piece of fiction for an adult, especially since it usually can only be found in the realm of YA.

I found myself flying through the pages, which were narrated by Isa, and was gripped trying to figure out what had went on in their past (which was also explored).  I had plenty of theories.   This one peaked for me in the middle, it had a sort of “SAY WHAT” moment and I was completely perplexed.

However, I found the ending to be a little lackluster.  It sort of went the tired and true route and I felt a little disappointed. 

Overall, I felt like this one was fast paced and juicy enough to be a perfect read for the beach.  I gave it a 4/5 stars!  

Big thank you to Gallery Books / Scout Press for these copies in return for our honest opinions.

Name: Ruth Ware
Where from: East Sussex, in the UK
Books written, blurbs. In a Dark, Dark Wood; The Woman in Cabin 10; The Lying Game (forthcoming)

Twitter: @ruthwarewriter

What does your writing process look like? P

People often assume that I write out of order, or spend ages piecing my books together, because they tend to be chronologically quite complicated (as with the back and forth timelines in IADDW, or the newspaper extracts and emails in Cabin 10). However the truth is that 99% of the time, I write as you are reading it, in that order. I just use my instinct about when to swap storylines / time frames.

How many hours a day do you write?

I have school age children, so I start after I have dropped them off at school, and stop when it's time to pick them up. It's a great way of focussing the mind!

What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process? Favorite part?

For me, the hardest part is when the book is completely finished - written, edited, typeset, printed - and you are waiting for it to come out. You can't do anything to change it, and you don't know whether people are going to love or hate it. That's always when the anxiety dreams start for me! The best part? That's really hard... I love the honeymoon stage, when you're just toying with a new idea and it seems like this could be The One, the best book you've ever written. And the bit where you type "the end" is pretty satisfying too. I also love the editing process, although this definitely isn't true of all writers!

How many unpublished/half-finished books do you have?

I am pretty tenacious and I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of unfinished projects I have. I don't tend to get started on an idea until I am pretty committed to it. Unpublished however is another story - I started writing book-length things when I was a teen, I think the first proper "book" I wrote was when I was about 13. It was a pretty terrible fantasy / sci fi epic. And I didn't really seriously try to get published until I was 30. So... you do the maths. That's a lot of projects in the bottom drawer in between!

Do you read your reviews?  Do you respond to them, good or bad?  Any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I try not to read them - not because I don't think they have anything valuable to say, or because I think I have nothing to learn, but because on the whole I think reviews are for readers, and on some level reading them feels a bit like eavesdropping. Also, they don't seem to make me a better writer. The good ones make me big headed, and the bad ones make me self-loathing, and neither of those mental states is very conducive to good writing, even when the reviews have a point. It's better for my writing (and my mental health) to figure these things out for myself.

What's the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My writing desk and chair. I was fairly broke when I bought them, and it was a chunk of change I couldn't really afford, but I was writing on the sofa before that and ruining my back, and every time I sit down at my desk, I remember why that was a good decision. A good big desk with room for a proper screen and keyboard, and a chair that properly supports your back, is an investment your body will thank you for in 5 years time!