Latest Reviews

Book Review: The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
Book Review:  The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness – Maddie Dawson
Book Review:  Fractured / The Murder Game by Catherine McKenzie
Book Review:  Emotional Agility – Susan David
Book Review:  A Deadly Thaw – Sarah Ward

Book Review: Walk Into Silence – Susan McBride

walk-into-silence.jpgTitle: Walk Into Silence
Author: Susan McBride
ISBN: 9781503937628
Pages: 368
Release Date: December 1, 2016
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Crime Fiction
Source: Publicist

Summary

Detective Jo Larsen doesn’t think much of it when Patrick Dielman walks into her office and asks her to find his missing wife. After all, in a small town, people aren’t abducted. But as Jo starts digging into the case, she finds puzzles in Jenny Dielman’s past. Did the woman flee to escape a controlling husband, or is there something sinister in her past that has caught up with her?

Review

Winter is the time I like to curl up with mysteries, so when I first heard about Walk Into Silence I was intrigued. I’ve read a few of McBride’s other books before (though not her crime fiction), so I was eager to delve in and see what this book was all about. And I was surprised—not just by the twists and turns of the story, but how immersed I became in it. It’s really difficult these days for me to become utterly hooked on a crime novel just because I’ve read so many. But McBride’s story had me turning the pages quickly because of her wonderful characterization.

One aspect of Walk Into Silence that I loved was the number of major female characters. They are all imperfect, and not all of them are very likeable, and I loved that. You see so many different types of women in this book; there isn’t just one female character that has to be everything for every woman reading the book. McBride’s characters are well-developed, and even when you don’t agree with their decisions, you are emotionally invested in them.

If you’re looking for a satisfying crime novel to delve into this winter, look no further than Walk Into Silence. It’s well-written and engaging, and will keep you hooked. I’m not sure if it’s part of a series, but I was happy reading it as a standalone novel (though I hope there are more to come!).

Other books by Susan McBride

Little Black Dress
The Cougar Club

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Book Review: The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

Title: The Fate of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
ISBN: 9780062290427
Pages: 496
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher

The summary may contain spoilers for the previous novels in the Queen of the Tearling series. However, the review is of the entire series and contains no spoilers for the books.

Summary

It’s finally happened: the dreaded Red Queen has sent her armies to invade the Tearling. Queen Kelsea knows that her people don’t have a chance of defending themselves militarily; that’s why she gave herself up to the Red Queen’s forces, sacrificing herself to save her people. But things don’t go quite as Kelsea expects; she doesn’t expect her rival to be so human, so tormented, and the things she discovers disturb her. Will Kelsea be able to save the Tearling, once and for all, or will she succumb to the power of the Red Queen?

Review

I have a lot of feelings about the Tearling series. That’s not the most professional or objective way to begin a review, for sure, but it’s difficult for me to separate how I feel about the series from what I think about it; they’re intertwined. For example, in my head, I know that this series has serious flaws. It has plot holes, character issues, and storytelling problems, just to start. And yet, I don’t really care. I won’t hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend this series to everyone. My reaction to it is emotional, rather than what’s in my head, and I’m okay with that.

The main reason I love this series so much is because of Kelsea herself. Specifically, she is angry, and for good reason. She’s been deceived and lied to her entire life. She’s expected to save her people without knowing her history, with incomplete information, which is virtually impossible. Indeed, the bulk of this novel focuses on how our pasts influence our present. The evils we face today often have their roots in the actions of those who came before us.

The Fate of the Tearling focuses more on The Red Queen of Mortmesne than I expected, to its credit. It fleshed out the villain that has loomed over the entire trilogy. She becomes more than just an evil and malicious presence. Johansen never lets the reader forget that she has done horrible things in her quest for power, and is irredeemable as a queen, but a person? Who was she before she was the Mort queen, before her thirst for power because insatiable? It’s a very interesting character exploration.

I reread the first two novels in the Tearling trilogy before diving into The Fate of the Tearling, and it was a good decision. This book ties back so much to what came before, especially in The Invasion of the Tearling, and it’s worth refreshing your memory before delving into this novel. I’m not going to say a lot about how Johansen wraps up the series, except to say that while I’m not sure I loved her decisions, I do appreciate how daring, creative, and brave it was. Indeed, that’s a great summation of the entire trilogy—it’s not perfect, but in the end, it was great.

Other books by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling
The Invasion of the Tearling

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Book Review: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness – Maddie Dawson

Title: The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness
Author: Maddie Dawson
ISBN: 9781503939103
Pages: 372
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

After the death of her mother, Nina Popkin feels alone in the world. On a whim, she decides to go in search of her birth mother, the woman who gave her up for adoption. Will Nina find the family and sense of belonging she so desperately needs, or is that something that can only come from within?

Review

A Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness is a breezy novel featuring a flawed but relatable main character in Nina Popkin. Nina’s life isn’t exactly going smoothly, and she believes that finding her birth mother will solve all her problems. The reader knows that things aren’t quite that simple, and yet it’s easy to see why Nina craves some sort of stability. After the death of her mother, there’s nothing to tether her to the world she lives in. She feels alone. It’s understandable why she’d go out in search of something solid, something she can depend on.

It’s interesting to see how Nina relates to the world in A Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness. She’s so desperate for family, so sure that it’ll lead to some sort of happy ending, and she can’t see that happiness comes from within. It’s interesting to see her on her journey, as much as for her own personal struggle as how she affects those around her. The people in Nina’s life can’t help but be touched by her optimism and hope.

In the end, A Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness is a heartwarming story about the messiness of family. Family is what you create in your heart. It’s big and it’s not always neat and it doesn’t always check the boxes we expect, but it’s worth fighting for, as hard as we can.

Other books by Maddie Dawson

The Stuff That Never Happened

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Book Review: Fractured / The Murder Game by Catherine McKenzie

fractured-the-murder-game
Title: Fractured / The Murder Game
Author: Catherine McKenzie / Julie Apple
ISBN: 9781503937826 / 9781537316604
Pages: 362 / 340
Release Date: October 4, 2016 / November 1, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union / Self-Published
Genre: Psychological Thriller / Mystery
Source: Publisher / Author

Summary

Julie Apple Prentice and her family have decided to make a fresh start after Julie was being stalked because of her bestselling book. They’ve settled into a neighborhood that appears welcoming on the surface, but after a series of mishaps and mistakes, Julie realizes these people aren’t as friendly as they first seemed. When unexplainable things start occurring, Julie isn’t sure whether her stalker has found her again or it’s her neighbors conspiring against her.

In The Murder Game, Meredith Delay is a prosecutor and is handed a huge case that is ripped from the headlines: a man has murdered a fallen sports star, accused of sexually abusing a young boy, and claims that he did it while sleepwalking. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the man who is accused of committing the murder is one of Meredith’s friends from law school and the man defending him is her ex-boyfriend.

Review

You might be wondering why I paired these two seemingly unrelated books together to be reviewed, but they are actually connected—they’re by the same author. More than that, though, The Murder Game is the book that the main character in Fractured wrote, the one that led to her being stalked. It feels a little gimmicky (and unnecessary, as both books are strong enough to stand on their own two feet), but I actually appreciated the background The Murder Game gave me before picking up Fractured.

The Murder Game and Fractured are companion books; you don’t need to read both, or read them in any sort of order, to enjoy them. Fractured is a compelling psychological thriller, while The Murder Game is an intriguing mystery novel. I personally read The Murder Game before Fractured and was glad I did; there were elements of the former book that would have been ruined for me if I had read it after Fractured.

The two main characters in Fractured and The Murder Game, Julie and Meredith, respectively, are very similar, but they aren’t identical. Meredith is incredibly passive, allowing the world to act upon her instead of trying to take charge of her own fate. Julie is much less passive, yet her influence on the world appears to be destructive. It seems as though everything she touches falls to pieces, even when she has the best intentions. Her experience with a stalker has made her brittle, liable to break, rather than bend.

If you have an afternoon to spend reading, I highly recommend both these books. Individually, they are solidly good, but together, they create an fascinating portrait of Julie, the main character in Fractured.  I didn’t love the gimmick with the authorship, but there are a lot of great themes and layers to peel away in both of these books; if you’re looking for book club reads, put Fractured at the top of your list.

Other books by Catherine McKenzie

Hidden
Forgotten

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Book Review: Emotional Agility – Susan David

Title: Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life Author: Susan David ISBN: 9781592409495 Pages: 288 Release Date: September 6, 2016 Publisher: Avery Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help Source: Publisher Summary Sometimes, not confronting your emotions and taking into account how they affect your behavior can make it difficult to react to change […]

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Book Review: A Deadly Thaw – Sarah Ward

Title: A Deadly Thaw Author: Sarah Ward ISBN: 9781250069184 Pages: 384 Release Date: September 27, 2016 Publisher: Minotaur Books Genre: Crime Fiction Source: Publisher Summary When the body of a recently murdered man is discovered, it appears to be a routine homicide investigation for Detective Constable Connie Childs and her team. But it turns out […]

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Book Review: The Bullet – Mary Louise Kelly

Title: The Bullet Author: Mary Louise Kelly ISBN: 9781476769837 Pages: 384 Release Date: December 8, 2015 Publisher: Gallery Books Genre: Mystery Source: Publisher Summary Caroline Cashion is settled into her job as a professor in the French department at Georgetown University. She enjoys her solitary life and is thoroughly content with the way her things […]

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Book Review: Like a River Glorious – Rae Carson

Title: Like a River Glorious Author: Rae Carson ISBN: 9780062242945 Pages: 416 Release Date: September 27, 2016 Publisher: Greenwillow Books Genre: Historical Fiction, YA Source: Publisher Summary There have been casualties along the way, but Lee Carson has survived the arduous journey to California and settled down with her companions, eager to begin a new […]

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