Social Media Icons

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.

No comments

Leave a Comment