Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Stillhouse Lake (Rachel Caine)

Caine, Rachel - Stillhouse Lake #1

★★★★★★☆

Title: Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Fiction/Thriller
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.

This is such a thrilling read and definitely one of the better ones in the genre that I have read, though to be fair I do not read that many!

I immediately felt connected to our main character Gina, or Gwen as she is now known was. I completely understood why she reacted to events the way she did. Her paranoia was completely understandable and clearly justified. Being a mother myself, her desire to protect her children at all costs rings true and the author manages to make every single aspect of her character believable.

The tension is sustained throughout this novel and like the main character I suspected pretty much every single character as being not quite what they seemed. I loved the fact that this novel made me feel as unsettled and nervous as the characters themselves. Besides, descriptions of serial killer Melvin Royal are absolutely spine chilling. 

The novel ended on one hell of a cliffhanger and since I already had the next book in the series on my Kindle, I moved straight onto that one.

6 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Song of the Sirin (Nicholas Kotar)

Kotar, Nicholas - Raven Son 1 The Song of Sirin

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Song of the Sirin (Raven Son #1)
Author: Nicholas Kotar
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
First published: 2014
Edition: Kindle e-book

An evil omen clouds the sky. A song of lore returns. Can one man’s quest save the world?

Voran can’t help but believe the rumors. As blight ravages the countryside and darkness covers the sun, the young warrior of Vasyllia hears of an ancient spirit that devours souls. He feels powerless to fight the oncoming devastation until a mythical creature entrusts him with a long-forgotten song. Legend has it that such a song can heal the masses, overthrow kingdoms, and raise humans to divine beings…

Armed with the memory of the song, Voran must hunt down a dark spirit before it achieves its goal of immortality. His quest takes him through doorways to other worlds and puts him on a collision course with seductive nymphs and riddling giants. With each step of the journey, the strength of the villainous spirit grows, as does Voran’s fear that the only way to save his world… is to let it be destroyed.

The Song of the Sirin is an epic fantasy retelling of the Russian fairy tale Prince Ivan and the Grey Wolf.

This series has been on my TBR since I first heard about it in 2014. The synopsis simply spoke to me. I finally decided to read it. I feel a curious mixture of slight disappointment and hope.

Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first. I felt the writing, especially early on in the book, felt clumsy and it did not flow well. I felt I was just thrown in the story and I was told things, but I was not getting time to get to know the characters and to understand their motivations. This feeling remained througout this first novel in the series. It felt a bit haphazard at times and there was quite a bit of telling rather than showing.

However, the story did pick up and I really enjoyed the folklore and the actual story it was telling. I was starting to warm towards our characters in the end, but I wish that had happened sooner. Towards the end there were glimpses of beauty in the writing as well that make me want to pick up the next book in this series, because there is clearly so much potential here. 

I will be continuing the series. This book was probably more interesting than its bare rating suggests, but I feel right now this is where it sits in my head.

I should mention that there are strong religious themes, so if that is something you are not comfortable with, this may not be for you. It did not bother me personally, as it really felt part of the folklore this fantasy world was based on.

4 out of 7 stars. 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Life After Life (Kate Atkinson

Atkinson, Kate - Life After Life

★★★★★★☆

Title: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction/Literary  Pages: 611
First published: 2013
Edition: Massmarket Paperback, published in 2014 by Black Swan

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

It took me a while to read this novel, but in the end I can safely say I loved it. The idea of writing a novel about different outcomes of the same life is so interesting to me and this story was really well executed.  I guess we all have that feeling of déjà vu sometimes and this one takes that to an extreme. I enjoyed that a lot. 

A large part of the novel takes place against the looming and present World War II, normally not a favourite setting  for me, but in the concept of this story it really worked for me.

I felt really connected to Ursula, our main character, and I really enjoyed many of the side characters as well. They were varied and interesting. I loved the essence of Ursula, which shines through in every life she lives.

The hops through time were a little confusing at times, but I never remained confused for that long.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this novel to anyone who would care to read it, as I was really enjoyed it a lot. I will definitely be picking up more books by this author. I loved her writing.

6 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: A Princess in Theory (Alyssa Cole)

Cole, Alyssa - A Princess in Theory

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Genre: Fiction/Adult Romance   Pages: 389
First published: 2018
Edition: Kindle e-book

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

As I continue on my journey to find an adult romance I could actually really love, I picked this novel as I had heard so many good things about it, Unfortunately this did not quite work for me.

The writing style was fine and I quite liked our female lead, Naledi, who was sassy and smart. I also enjoyed the fact that our main characters were African, which makes a nice change from your stereotypical romance novel heroes and heroines unfortunately. However, the rest of it was just ok for me. The plot was utterly ridiculous, which to be honest I would not have minded, if it had caught my imagination, but it did not manage to that unfortunately.

The love scenes were pretty uninteresting and uninspired and the romance itself left me a little cold. I certainly did not dislike this, but I am not interested in continuing with this series. A lot of readers seem to love this book, so clearly it works for others, but I found it a bit lacking. 

Oh, by the way,  the novel mentions Disney and  Disney princes rather a lot, and it is marketed as a modern Cinderella story. Maybe if you are into that sort of thing, you may like it better than I did.

4 out of 7 stars. 

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Educated (Tara Westover)

Westover, Tara - Educated

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Educated
Author: Tara Westover  Narrator: Julia Whelan
Genre: Non-Fiction/Autobiography/Memoir
First published: 2018
Edition: Audio book

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected.

She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist.

As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home.

*

After listening to the last words of this audio book, I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. Tara’s life story is completely alien to me, but I felt her struggle as she fought to emotionally free herself from her family and upbringing.

At the same time I feel like this is not a book I would read again. Not because I did not like it, but because it did not leave a lasting impression on me. I love a good memoir, but I like to come away from them feeling like I have somehow gained something new and valuable from it and I am not sure this one did that for me.  I do not think the hype helped this memoir. It may have made me expect a bit too much.

Having said all that, I do like reading about a different life experience and listening to this on audio was the right decision, even if I did not always enjoy the accents the narrator used for the male characters. I have no complaints otherwise about the way this memoir was told.

If you are interested in listening to or reading Tara’s story, it is definitely worth your time. It just may not blow your mind.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Italian Woman (Jean Plaidy)

Plaidy, Jean - The Italian Woman

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Italian Woman
Author: Jean Plaidy
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction   Pages: 385
First published: 1952
Edition: Paperback, published by Arrow in 2006

When Catherine de’ Medici was forced to marry Henry of Orleans, her’s was not the only heart broken. Jeanne of Navarre once dreamed of marrying this same prince, but like Catherine, she must bend to the will of King Francis’s political needs. And so both Catherine and Jeanne’s lives are set on unwanted paths, destined to cross in affairs of state, love and faith, driving them to become deadly political rivals.

Although I appreciated the story this novel told, based on true facts, it simply was not told in a compelling enough way for me.

When a story takes a formidable character from history, such as Catherine de Medici in this case, you know you should be in for an interesting read. In places this novel was fascinating, but overall it was too much like reading non-fiction. It felt a bit clinical and distant in the way biographies I have read on similar topics can do. In fact, it made me think I may want to read a biography on this infamous, but very interesting woman. Maybe that would suit me better.

I enjoy historical fiction and when they are based on actual people from history I don’t mind if their story is embellished or dramatized. In fact, I tend to prefer it. This was ok for me and I do not regret reading it, but unfortunately  I am unlikely to read more from this author,

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Sparrow (Mary Cecilia Jackson)

Jackson, Mary Cecilia - Sparrow

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Sparrow
Author: Mary Cecilia Jackson
Genre: Fiction/YA/Contemporary   Pages: 360
First published: to be published 17 March 2020 by Tor Teen
Edition: E-book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

Though Savannah Rose―Sparrow to her friends and family―is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed―“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”―will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever….

I feel conflicted on this book. I respect what it does and the subject matter is close to my heart.

I feel like the subject matter, a toxic teenage relationship and its aftermath, is a very important one and in that regard I think this is one of those books that I feel is worth reading for every teenager. In large parts of the books this was handled well. I liked both main characters, though sometimes the change of POV jarred a bit, mainly because they did not run smoothly into each other.

The pacing of this novel and the way the storyline was plotted out, felt a little uneven to me. Some things were not explained well enough and others a bit too much. I feel like some important events in the narrative were glossed over.

I did like the friendship between our main characters, Sparrow and Lucas, and their friend Delaney, but at the same time I wanted a bit more from it and I felt some of their friends could have been fleshed out a bit to make it an altogether stronger friendgroup.

Despite the issues I had with the above, I enjoyed this read and I am glad I read this novel. I would still happily recommend it. I think with a bit of fleshing out in the right places it could have been an excellent read.

5 out of 7 stars