BOOK REVIEW – The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

A man comes up to you and tells you that everything is “going to be okay”. That, “none of what is about to happen is your fault”. Do you run? Or do you fight?

Paul Tremblay is known for his novels like A Head Full of Ghosts, and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. His novels feature chilling, mysterious stories, with an almost supernatural element to them. But his newest novel, The Cabin at the End of the World is so well written, it may might actually be my favourite of his novels so far.

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PLOT SUMMARY

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”(goodreads.ca)

This was a whirlwind of a read in the two days that I read this book! Totally engrossing, thrilling, edge of your seat kind of novel.The descriptions, dialogue, and thought processes from the characters leave you wanting more of this terrifying & strange encounter, but also leaving you too scared to turn the page in fear of what might happen.

I think so many important themes were intertwined within this story and it’s characters, and it really opens up a discussion for faith, survival, hope and trust. It’s got that typical, what are the lengths you’d go to save your loved ones type of feel to it… but then it takes your heart, and stomps all over it. Wen, Eric and Andrew are such raw, relatable characters in the novel, that relating with them makes you feel even more paranoid once Leonard begins conversing with them. It’s hard to review this novel in fear of spoiling something – but by the end of the book, I felt almost exhausted from the paranoia and curiosity of the plot (in a totally good way).

A novel instilled with mystery, chilling dialogue, intense emotion, and paranoia, The Cabin at the End of the World is perfect for those that love a good thrilling story!

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay will be hitting stores on TOMORROW, June 26th, 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

 

BOOK REVIEW – All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire

ALL THE LITTLE LIGHTS

RATING: 4/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: May 29th 2018

Do you remember your first love? That rushing feeling you get when you meet someone who understands everything about you, and is willing to support you through anything? All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire was a sweet story about young love, tenderness, but also has elements of mystery, darkness, and curiosity.

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PLOT SUMMARY

The first time Elliott Youngblood spots Catherine Calhoun, he’s just a boy with a camera, and he’s never seen a sadder and more beautiful sight. Both Elliott and Catherine feel like outcasts, yet they find an easy friendship with each other. But when Catherine needs him most, Elliott is forced to leave town.

Elliott finally returns, but he and Catherine are now different people. He’s a star high school athlete, and she spends all her free time working at her mother’s mysterious bed-and-breakfast. Catherine hasn’t forgiven Elliott for abandoning her, but he’s determined to win back her friendship…and her heart.

Just when Catherine is ready to fully trust Elliott, he becomes the prime suspect in a local tragedy. Despite the town’s growing suspicions, Catherine clings to her love for Elliott. But a devastating secret that Catherine has buried could destroy whatever chance of happiness they have left.(www.goodreads.ca)  

MY THOUGHTS

The book begins with a young Catherine Calhoun and her father in their backyard burying their poor dog. Catherine is crushed and heartbroken, along with her father, meanwhile her mother seems to be distracted by her own thoughts. With this, I was immediately drawn to the family dynamic within the Calhoun household – something seemed eerie, and curious about their nature.

Across the street, young Elliott Youngblood is staying with his Aunt for the summer and sees Catherine from across the street… and falls in love immediately. All he strives for is to get to know Catherine. I found this so endearing about Elliott as a character, and found myself rooting for him during all his thought processes since meeting Catherine. Fast forward a couple of chapters, and Catherine and Elliott become best friends, and he promises her he will come back every summer for her. By the end of that summer, Catherine is faced with a tragic situation, and Elliott leaves her behind – or so it seems. When Elliott returns, him and Catherine are both seniors in high school, and Elliott still determined to win her back.

But, beneath all of that… a mystery is brewing inside the Calhoun household, and Catherine is determined to keep it a secret from everyone.

That is probably my favourite part of the book since I’m an avid mystery genre reader. The way McGuire was able to intertwine aspects of teenage love and a mystery within a creepy, almost gothic-like household. Within the dialogue and character development throughout the book, you begin to wonder what exactly is going on with Catherine and her family, and how her life can possibly get better. Although it was mainly a love story between two strangers, which is outside my normal read – I really enjoyed this book! Catherine & Elliot we’re such relatable and endearing characters, and I enjoyed cheering them on throughout the book, and found it so interesting to see this mystery unfold.

If you enjoy reading mysteries, but also love the YA/love story genre, this book may just be for you!

You can find All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire in stores now!

MEET THE AUTHOR – Wendy Walker

What would it feel like to be in a constant competition with your sister and mother? Or struggling in a battle with your emotional memory?

Wendy Walker explores the topics of narcissism, judgement, and memory in her two novels, All is Not Forgotten and Emma in the Night.

Emma in the Night is an eerie mystery surrounding the lives of Emma, Cass, and their mother – Mrs. Martin. The relationship the three share is strange to the say the least. For starters, Emma and Cass never call their mother “mom”, but call her by Mrs. Martin. Already there, a separation has been created between the mother and her daughters.

Mrs. Martin is probably the most interesting character in this story. She is a self-involved, narcissistic mother who is always creating some sort of competition between her and her daughters. 

One night, Emma and Cass leave their house, and are never seen again. Until three years later, Emma shows up without her sister… and so begins the investigation of what happened to Emma, and where in the world is Cass?

I loved this novel when I read it just a few short weeks ago. The irritating yet interesting mother, and her odd relationship with her two daughters was intriguing to me that I just wanted to keep on reading. I only wish there was a separate book dedicated to Mrs. Martin!

Wendy Walker was a former family law attorney in Connecticut, who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She’s edited multiple stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul before writing her debut psychological thriller All is not Forgottenfollowed by Emma in the Night. Her first novel All is not Forgotten, is being adapted by Reese Witherspoon and the Pacific Standard!

I was so excited to be able to ask Wendy Walker a few questions! Check it out below:

Who’s your favourite author?

 

I really don’t have one favorite. I love different books by different authors. Denis Lehane’s Mystic River, for example, was a favorite. And I really enjoyed AJ Flynn’s Woman in the Window this past year. 

Favourite book or genre to read?

 

I read mostly in the suspense genre to stay current and also because I am asked to blurb a lot of books! 

When was the moment you realized that you loved literature?

 

When I was in grade school and there was a reading contest over the summer. I was very competitive and read over a dozen books. I can recall understanding the feel a well-told story for the first time that summer. 

You were a former family lawyer and seem to have such an amazing educational background in law! What made you decide to start writing fiction novels – specifically, psychological thrillers?

 

I really wanted to do something that allowed me to spend time with children and decide how best to use my time. I knew I was a good story teller so I started writing!I wrote for many years before my agent suggested I try my hand a psychological thriller, and it turned out to be the perfect fit for my writing style and skills. 

What gave you the inspiration for your debut novel, “All is not forgotten”?

 

I read an article in the New York Times about memory science and how certain drugs were being used to alter the emotional component of traumatic memories in soldiers. The article suggested a possible use in civilian life and I immediately thought about the implications of this for survivors of crime. That became the basis of the novel.

How do you feel to see that your first novel is being adapted to the screen by Warner Bros and Reese Witherspoon?

 

It is incredibly validating to have people of that caliber interested in my work! 

I recently read your second novel, Emma in the night, and I loved the complex relationship between the two daughters and their mother – more specifically, I loved the theme of narcissism that you chose to tackle within your story. What made you pick that?

 

Having worked as a family law attorney, I learned a lot about personality disorders, including narcissism. I found it fascinating and knew it would make the perfect undercurrent for the novel. Most people don’t know about the fragile inner core that narcissists typically have, and it was my hope that I could bring this out in the book. 

I loved the ending in the novel, but I can’t help but think that there are so many more underlying issues within Emma’s character and psyche. Did you find it difficult having to wrap up the story?

 

Yes, of course! With a complex, twisted ending there are always many things to explain and wrap up. The final chapter is always the hardest because everything has to get pulled together so the reader does not feel confused or betrayed by the twist. 

Did your writing process change at all when you began writing your second book?

 

Not really. I write when my kids are out of the house. That’s it! I make myself sit down and utilize that time. I outline the plot and the chapters and have deadlines for completing them. If I didn’t do this, my days would be easily filed with a million small things that always need to be done! 

Can we expect any more books from you coming up?!

I just finished my third thriller. I love it and can’t wait until it comes out in 2019! 

Do you have any advice for young writers out there?

 

Keep writing. Take advice from people in the business. Don’t get stuck with a story that may not be right for the market if you are trying to write commercial fiction. Ego and pride can get in the way and lead you down dead end roads. So be smart about what you write and how you write it so that you can get past the gatekeepers and into the hands of readers!
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Thank you for your time, Wendy! We look forward to your new book in 2019!
Until next time bookies,
Sam A.

BOOK REVIEW – The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY

RATING: 5/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: May 29th 2018

A dysfunctional family, a quiet troubled protagonist, a mystery ensuing, and secrets revealing – these are the makings of Ruth Ware’s newest novel. Ruth Ware is famous for her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10 and her most recent, The Lying Game. Her novels portray strong, independent female protagonists that are challenged by mysteries and thrilling situations. But, The Death of Mrs. Westaway may be her best novel yet, and it’s most definitely my favourite Ware novel thus far.

PLOT SUMMARY

Harriet Westaway—better known as Hal—makes ends meet as a tarot reader, but she doesn’t believe in the power of her trade. On a day that begins like any other, she receives a mysterious and unexpected letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but she also knows that she can use her cold-reading skills to potentially claim the money.

Hal attends the funeral of the deceased and meets the family…but it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and that the inheritance is at the center of it… (simonandschuster.ca)

The book starts off with a 1994 diary entry from an unknown narrator. Shortly after, the first chapter begins and we are introduced to Hal. A quiet, black haired girl trying to live her life as best she can after experiencing a tragic loss. Immediately you can tell that Hal is lonely, troubled, confused and lost when it comes to her personal life. Couple of chapters later, Hal receives a letter stating that her grandmother has passed away and she is now entitled to a large inheritance. But how could this be? She has no family, and no friends – all she has are a mountain of bills, an unaffordable rent, and a dead end job. The novel continues with Hal wondering if this was a mistake – could this letter be for a different Harriet Westaway? Or should she bite the bullet, go to the funeral, and get that money to pay for her financial woes?

This may seem like I am giving away too much here, but that’s not the case!!! There is SO much more to this story. The characters introduced later on all have such unique personalities and histories, and the dialogue was as if it was straight from an Agatha Christie novel.

If you haven’t ever read an Agatha Christie novel.. firstly YOU SHOULD! And secondly, Christie tells her stories solely through dialogue between her characters. The dialogue holds a majority of the story, rather than the story being set by description or thoughts from the main character, and I think that is my favourite thing about Christie AND this novel!

I read this book on an eight hour flight, and I absolutely devoured it! I loved Hal as a protagonist, and I loved each character. This is the kind of book you want to keep reading just to find out more about these characters and how they came to be who they are. This novel had everything I looked for in a mystery – great dialogue, great characters, relatable protagonist, and family secrets!

If you are looking for a lighter suspense novel, that is bursting with family secrets and mysteries, then this novel is for you!

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware will be hitting stores on MAY 29th 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and this does not affect my views , opinions, or thoughts on this book.

BOOK REVIEW – Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

LET ME LIE BY CLARE MACKINTOSH

RATING: 4/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: March 13th 2018

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When you think about psychological thrillers, suspense, and strong female protagonists – Clare Mackintosh is one of the authors to come to mind. And I can say with 100% certainty that she does it again with her newest novel – Let Me Lie. I first read her second book I See You, not really knowing that it was her second novel – and I absolutely loved it.. but then I read her very first book, I Let You Go, and was obsessed… it quickly became one of my favourite reads of 2017.

Her newest novel, Let me Lie, definitely did not disappoint in comparison to her first two novels. Where the first books were more serious, and thrilling, this book was lighter in suspense – focusing on family secrets, betrayal, and self discovery.

PLOT SUMMARY

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie… (Goodreads.com)

 I will admit that I found it a bit slow at the beginning (it could be my horrible reading slump I’ve been in for the last month). The characters’ introductions were thought out, with a gradual build up for the plot. After a few chapters, the story began to pick up, and I became immersed in the world of Anna Johnson, and her need to solve what exactly happened to her parents. As the story began to pick up, the twists and secrets were so shocking to me. I thought I had the mystery figured out, but I was completely blindsided – and that is what I absolutely love about crime fiction. Again, this is a much lighter suspense than her previous novels, which is perfect for those that aren’t particularly interested in a full on crime mystery. It was so easy to get close to the protagonist thanks to Mackintosh’s brilliant writing that I found myself rooting for Anna by the end. Although Anna’s familial situation was incredibly interesting and shocking to read, we can’t forget about another character’s POV… Murray.

Murray is a retired police officer who eventually works for the police with a desk job. Anna approaches him and confides in him that she doesn’t believe her parents committed suicide. Of course with his history in the police force, he became interested in the case and decided to take matters into his own hands before letting the rest of the police squad know. Not only is Murray’s thirst for continuing his policing career interesting, it’s his love for his wife, Sarah, who is battling with mental illness, that is the most intriguing to the point where it is heartbreaking to read. Although I loved Anna as a character, I really loved reading Murray’s side of the story. I don’t want to go on and spoil Murray’s story, but it’s amazing the way Mackintosh has the ability to write a story about ordinary, relatable people, in an unusual situation. Anna and Murray both showcase different sides of what a person will do to protect their family… and they manage to do so while being completely ordinary, and relatable characters.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read, and Mackintosh didn’t disappoint in the slightest. I was worried at first as I found it a bit hard to get into… but once those chapters were rolling I couldn’t stop myself.

If you are looking for a lighter suspense novel, with a relatable, and reliable narrator, then this novel may be for you!

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh will be hitting stores on MARCH 13TH 2018 at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and this does not affect my views , opinions, or thoughts on this book.

 

MEET THE AUTHOR – B.A Paris

Imagine being in a relationship where the outside is like a fairy tale, but the inside of it is like Hell on Earth. Or witnessing a potential crime and having the power to stop it, but you are slowly losing your memory and your mind…

A test of bravery, courage, and discovery of truth are both tried out in B.A Paris’ novels Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown

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I first read Behind Closed Doors last year not really knowing anything about B.A Paris. From the first chapter, even the first page, Jack and Grace pulled me into their obscure and somewhat dangerous world. Paris’ writing displayed the trauma Grace was facing, and the inhumane, yet heartbreaking mentality of Jake. This is one of those books that I just could not put down.

It followed a story of a couple – Jake and Grace who seemed to have the perfect relationship, the perfect house, and the perfect life. Was it true love? Then why are there bars on the bedroom window…

Then came The BreakdownCass is driving through a dangerous road in the middle of a storm, and witnesses a car on the side, with a woman in the driver’s seat. The same woman who showed up on the news the next day as a murder victim. Could she really have done anything if she stopped and helped the woman? And what about when Cass begins to forget the little things, like where she placed her keys, or what she had for dinner the night before? And eventually who she actually trusts?

I enjoyed The Breakdown much more than Paris’ previous novel simply because as a reader it felt like I was in the story – feeling the same feelings, and thinking the same thoughts – trying to figure out exactly what was going on. As I was reading through the novel, it really did feel like I, myself, was losing my mind and I couldn’t distinguish what was real and what wasn’t in the book. The writing was enthralling that once again Paris’ created a story that you could not back away from.

These two novels quickly made me a B.A Paris fan and I was a tad disappointed that I had to wait for her newest book to come out – Bring Me Back – set to release March 8th 2018. 

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A novel set around a young British couple who are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns, her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside… no one ever sees her again.
Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is his past. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

Sounds like an engrossing story, right?

I was absolutely ecstatic to be able to ask B.A Paris herself a few questions! Check it out below:

Who’s your favourite author?

I don’t have one, I have many, far too many to list here!

Favourite book or genre to read?

Again, I couldnt possibly choose a favourite. I have lots of favourite books – whenever I’m asked, it often depends on my mood at the time – and I like most genres, except horror and sci-fi.

I first read your book “Behind Closed Doors” about a year ago, and it was a book that I could not put down! Because of the complexity of the characters, and the uncertainty of what is happening plot wise, I was constantly on the edge of my seat (in a good way). What inspired you to write this book?

Some years back, I had a friend and her husband seemed to be very controlling.  I thought it would make a good subject for a book but it turned out much darker than I thought it would.

Where did you get the inspiration for characters like Jack and Grace?

From my imagination! I’m very glad I don’t know anyone like Jack.

Did your writing process change at all when you began writing “The Breakdown”?

My writing process didn’t change as such but it was a very different experience. With Behind Closed Doors I had no expectations of it being published, so I was writing for myself. With The Breakdown, I was writing for all those who had enjoyed behind Closed Doors, so there was a certain pressure to deliver the same kind of reader experience.

In the past you worked in finance and we’re also a teacher – what drew you to become a writer? More specifically, a fiction writer?

I always wanted to write but I thought I would write stories for children. I didn’t think I had it in me to write a novel until one of my daughters persuaded me to try.

Have you set any reading or writing goals for 2018?

Yes, to finish Book 4, which will be another psychological thriller. There are also another couple of writing projects I’ll be working on. My reading goal would be to get through my TBR pile or to read all the Game of Thrones books – but I doubt Ill ever achieve either!

What can we expect from your new novel, “Bring me Back” set to be released next month?

Bring Me Back tells the story of Finn, whose girlfriend disappeared from their car one night and was never found. Twelve years later, Finn begins to receive signs that she may still be alive – and has to confront his past.

Any advice for young aspiring writers out there?

Yes – never, ever give up. And that applies to older aspiring authors too! If I can do it, anyone can.

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Thank you for time B.A Paris – looking forward to your third novel in March!

Until next time bookies,

Sam

 

MY TOP 10 READS OF 2017

On a goal of reading 25 books for the year, I managed to read 55 amazing books!

I’ve always been an avid reader, since I can remember. But, as I entered the final years of high school, and went on to study English Literature in University, my reading for pleasure began to go downhill… and wow did I miss it! After finishing school, I decided to set a goal for 2017 and read 25 books.

With all the books I have read this year, I’ve decided to narrow it down to my top ten of the year… hopefully among this list, you’ll find a great book to read!

Let’s begin…

10. The Breakdown by B.A Paris

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This past year continued to shine in books with strong female protagonists that are involved in a mysterious crime, and by the end of the book, a surprise twist catches you off guard. This book definitely falls into that category in a good way. This was an addictive read! I remember finishing this in one sitting – I could. not. stop. This story follows a woman named Cass, who is driving home in the middle of the night in a terrible rain storm, on a road where she promised her husband she wouldn’t drive on. As she is driving by, she sees a car on the side of the road, with someone in sitting in the driver’s seat. The next day, Cass finds out that a woman has been killed… the woman she drove by just the night before. As Cass begins to question her actions (or lack thereof), she slowly begins to feel like she is losing her mind… 

Cass is such a troubled character, but I absolutely loved reading her story. As I continued reading, I began to feel like I knew what Cass was going through. It was as if she was stuck in a prison of her own mind, and she had no way to escape. I won’t continue on because I don’t want to spoil the story for any potential readers, but if you enjoyed Gone Girl, or Girl on the Train,  this book will not disappoint those cravings!

9. Lie to Me by J.T Ellison

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THIS. BOOK! Wow, this book is definitely one of my favourites of the year. This book is a story about Sutton and Ethan – a couple that seem to have everything that anybody could want in a relationship and in life. But, behind closed doors, as tensions mount between Sutton and Ethan, Sutton disappears. Of course, the prime suspect is her husband, Ethan. Ethan finds himself the target of all the gossip surrounding the disappearance of Sutton, and as police continue to investigate, they begin to unravel the truth of Sutton and Ethan’s relationship.

Ellison’s writing is brilliant and I love how she was able to offer so much detail in order to really understand the character. The plot line was well thought out – but I think my favourite part of the book is how in depth, and complicated each character is. They are all so troubled and there are so many secrets. From the first page to the last, I couldn’t stop reading about the lives of Sutton and Ethan. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellison on my blog in September which you can read here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/09/14/interview-with-j-t-ellison/

8. The Child by Fiona Barton

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THIS WAS SO GOOD!!! (I feel like I’m saying that a lot). Fiona Barton is just brilliant. This novel begins with the demolition of a old building site, and a construction worker comes across a small skeleton.. a skeleton belonging to a baby. Kate Waters, an investigative journalist begins immersing herself with the case to find out who is the baby and what happened to it..

The plot is so complex and intertwined with so many ideas, that you really don’t know how it’ll end. Not to mention how raw and real the main characters are. I love that Barton used each chapter as a perspective from each character – it was so interesting to see what they thought. Emma and Jude have a very interesting relationship that at times made me uncomfortable because of Barton’s amazing writing and dialogue.

I was ecstatic to be able to interview Fiona Barton this year for my blog, which you can read here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/10/12/meet-the-author-fiona-barton/

7. The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

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An amazing read by Atwood! Her other books were definitely challenging and more dry, but this narrative was particularly interesting in terms of the Republic of Gilead and what exactly happened to modern society for women to be stripped away of all their freedoms. The protagonist Ofred was relatable, and quite endearing. There were points where I got a little bit scared by the end, because of the setting Ofred is in, and how one little move by any woman, can threaten their life. It’s really interesting to compare this story with what’s going on around the world when it comes to equality amongst genders – especially this year. To top it off, after reading this book, I did watch the television adaption, and it stays so true to the novel, but still expanding on the world of the Handmaids. Atwood has done an amazing job taking modern society and twisting it into something that we wouldn’t imagine happening, but still is so realistic to read.

6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Different from my regular reads this year, but it’s an important story to read especially with everything going on in America between now and the last few year. It’s a heavy focus on racism, stereotypes, class divides and oppression. You hear about police brutality in the news almost every week, but it was SO interesting to actually read a story, and read a witness’ side and get a glimpse of their thoughts and feelings. I really liked Uncle Carlos as a character because he embodied both sides of black and white – at first he was a symbol of the “grey” areas in certain scenarios, but his true colours shined when he stood up for what was right. This was a really good read, and honestly I’d recommend it to EVERYONE – it’s an eye opener.

5. Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

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I absolutely love this series! A story about a wizard detective named Harry Dresden, who within each book, gets stronger and his powers and loyalty are constantly tested. There are 15 books in the series so far, and a 16th one hopefully to come out soon! I’ve read 12 books so far within the series, and I’d have to say the 12th book, Changes, is my favourite of the series. From the first page until the last, Dresden goes on a wild ride which tests his loyalty, patience, and strength as a wizard and as a human. Think of this series as a more “mature” Harry Potter series – but with more mortal interactions within the books! Such a good series, and I’m looking forward to reading the next 4!

4. White Bodies by Jane Robins

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Okay, this book took me completely off guard.. in a good way! This novel follows a story about twin sisters and their odd, and complicated relationship. Tilda was always seen as the prettier, popular one throughout her childhood, and as she becomes an adult, finds herself involved with a man named Felix. Everything seems amazing on the outside with these two, but of course, there are secrets behind closed doors. Tilda’s twin sister, Callie, notices Tilda shrinking under Felix’s domineering love. 

This book was a great psychological thriller! During the first half of the book I really didn’t know where it was going with it’s characters and plots… but the way Robins was able to tie everything together in the end was perfect. Tilda and Callie have such a complicated, and odd sibling relationship, and even stranger personalities as characters themselves. I would’ve loved to read a bit from Tilda’s perspective, but Callie is equally as interesting. Overall a great read, and once again, a book I’d recommend to any psychological thriller fans out there!

3. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

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This is hands down my favourite John Green book. There was a lot of hype around this one, so I was a bit reluctant to get it, but I caved – and I am SO glad I did. This books is about a 16 year old girl who tries to take matters into her own hands with her best friend Daisy when billionaire Russell Pickett goes missing.

I absolutely LOVE the protagonist Aza. She’s genuine and real, and Green perfectly captures what anxiety feels like through Aza. I’ve related so much to this wonderful story and all of its characters, and have even found some new favourite quotes. I honestly don’t think I have anything bad to say about this book. All I can say is, pick this up if you want to understand the mind of someone who lives with anxiety everyday.

2. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

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I read this just over a week ago, and it’s definitely one of my favourite thrillers. To say this was a good book is a complete understatement. This novel begins with a tragic accident – a young boy runs across the street, and gets hit by a car. The driver unfortunately drives away, and the boy is dead. The boy’s mother tries to cope with the sudden accident, and her past begins to creep up on her as well.

From the first page, the story immediately hooks you and gets you feeling guilty, sad, and angry for the poor little boy. As the novel continues, each of the characters continue to grow – I loved the character development in the characters, especially Jenna. Reading this book felt like I was sitting on the edge of my seat, and it was as if I was the woman in the story. Mackintosh’s writing is so personal and realistic that at times you forget you’re reading a book.

Now.. my FAVOURITE read of 2017 is…

 

1. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie

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I am a HUGE fan of murder mysteries/detective stories. Ever since I was little I would stay up very late either reading a Nancy Drew story, or writing a detective story of my own. The fact I never read an Agatha Christie novel until this year is SO SAD to me! I have missed out on so much!! This novel is probably one of the most popular stories out there, following a detective named Hercule Poirot who rides the Orient Express.. and in the middle of the night, one of the passengers is found dead. It’s up to Poirot to find out who is the killer among the train.


I really enjoyed this book! From the first page, I knew I’d be hooked – Christie’s writing is unique, in which she is able to perfectly showcase every characters’ personality without having to write a giant descriptive paragraph. I loved the fact that the majority of this book is based purely on dialogue – which gives a real feel of what each of the characters are like. I have a huge admiration for Hercule Poirot after this book! He’s witty, smart, and a different kind of detective compared to other crime or murder mystery books I’ve read! I’d definitely say that this is one of my favourite books.. and I am SO excited to read it again and dissect it a bit more and try to solve the crime on my own ;).

The year of 2018 is definitely going to be a year full of Agatha Christie novels!

I hope my top ten reads of 2017 was somewhat helpful if you are looking to indulge in a really good book!

Along with my top ten reads, there are a few books I’ve read this year that still deserve an honourable mention:

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Child Finder by Rene Denefeld 

(Check out my interview with her here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/10/04/meet-the-author-rene-denfeld/)

The Party by Robyn Harding 

(Check out my interview with her here: https://readwithsam.com/2017/09/07/the-party-with-robyn-harding/)

and

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

 

This was a great year, full of great books and the launch of my book blog! I’m quite proud of what I’ve accomplished this year, and I’m looking forward to the great reads and interviews 2018 will bring!

Meet the Author – Gale Massey

Imagine being called by your loved one for help… to dispose of a dead man’s body.

What would you do?

In Gale Massey’s debut novel, The Girl From Blind River, nineteen year old Jamie Elders must help her Uncle Loyal dispose of a man’s body, and help her Uncle cover it up. Things begin to get more terrifying when her Uncle decides to pin the murder on Jamie’s younger brother, Toby. Trying to to deviate away from her family’s reputation of liars, cheaters, thieves and convicts, Jamie needs to prove her brother innocent with a detective on her trail, and her inner criminal begging to come out..

A coming of age story set in the depths of a small town where illegal corruption and gambling ensue, Jamie Elders has to prove herself and clear her family’s name.

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Gale Massey’s stories have appeared in several different outlets including: the Tampa Bay Times, Sabal, Connotation Press, Seven Hills Review, and Walking the Edge. She’s been a Tennessee Williams Scholar at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a Standiford Fellow at Writers in Paradise. She is also the author of the booklet Grief-reminders for healing. The Girl From Blind River is her debut novel set to release July 10 2018.

In anticipation of her new novel, Gale kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her writing process and upcoming book:

Who’s your favourite author?

My reading preferences seem to change every few years. When I was in my twenties I couldn’t get enough of Agatha Christie. In my thirties Barbara Kingsolver wowed me. Annie Proulx, Daniel Woodrell, Elizabeth Strout, and  Marilynne Robinson fed my soul for several years. It seems these days though, I’m interested in reading debut novels. Along those lines I’m falling for voices like David Joy and Emma Cline.

Favourite book or genre to read?

I prefer grit and realism. Having grown up in a fairly impoverished town I like stories about rising from nothing and those usually involve a fair amount of grit and striving at basic levels of existence. Where All Light Tends to Go and Winter’s Bone are two of my most cherished reading experiences.

You’ve had some works published in newspapers, how was the change from newspaper writing to novel writing?

Writing human interest stories for the newspaper was key in developing writing skills. Getting published allowed me to know a few things. First, that I had something to say that interested other people. Second, what it feels like to have thousands of readers. It can be a scary thing but I got used to it pretty fast.

Where did you draw your inspiration from for your new novel?

Inspiration for The Girl From Blind River came from the difficult choice writers sometime face. I’d given up on a novel I’d been working on for several years. I was empty and feeling very down about it. I had the feeling that I’d run through all my good options and was at a dead end with my writing. This is how my main character Jamie Elders starts out in the book. Then a mentor suggested that I read The Queen’s Gambit. That book opened up so many possibilities for what a character can be put through and still rise. At the same time I was just beginning to learn about poker and Jamie started taking shape. Jamie is an impoverished girl with no options other than mad poker skills. It’s like that with some books. A character with so many possibilities appears in your psyche and you run with it.

Did you always see yourself becoming a fiction writer?

Someone recently asked when I knew I was a writer. My immediate answer was that I never knew that. I saw the power of words as a child, not that I read very much, but stories touched me and everyone around me. It’s why we went to church every Sunday, to hear stories. So I always knew I wanted to become a writer but it was and continues to be something I work very hard toward claiming for myself.

Do you plan on writing another novel any time soon?

Of course. I’m a hundred pages into a story about a young woman on the professional poker circuit. This novel explores the difficulties of being young and female and excellent at a craft but working within a male dominated field. There are obvious parallels to be drawn in our culture right now but being female in a patriarchal world has interested me since I was a child. I’d like to see girls grow up in a more fair minded world.

Any advice for young aspiring writers?

First of all, there are legitimate new writers of every age who need encouragement. My first advice is age old: READ. Read a lot. When you find a book that blows your mind dissect it. Find critiques that explain the book on a structural level and contemplate it. Find characters that you relate to on a soul level and seriously investigate why that character moves you. If you’re lucky enough to come across a teacher that gets you or what you’re trying to achieve, pay close attention. I could not have created this book without the many generous teachers and writers I’ve come to know. And persevere through the thousands of large and small disappointments that you’ll encounter along the way. And always, always celebrate the milestones.

 

Gale Massey’s debut novel, The Girl From Blind River is due out in July 2018 by Crooked Lane Books. Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group provides literary representation.

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Thank you for your time Gale – looking forward to your debut novel!

Meet the Author – Fiona Barton

THE WIDOW                      THE CHILD      

        5/5 STARS                              4/5 STARS       

MY THOUGHTS:

I remember picking up a copy of The Widow on a cold, but sunny December morning last year in Chapters, and reading the synopsis. The story immediately spoke to me and I knew I had to get the book. As I sat down later on that night and indulged into the novel… I.Could.Not.Put.It.Down. Chapter after chapter, page after page, every character was creepier and more interesting. I was so immersed into the world of Jean Taylor, that I completely forgot my own. I loved Barton’s writing, and as I finished the novel, I honestly was craving MORE. Jean Taylor’s husband was fascinating to me – and Jean just as equally intriguing. 

Then, Fiona Barton released The Child in June 2017, and I was ecstatic! I picked up the book right away, and again, sat down and kept on reading – chapter after chapter, page after page. Every character within the novel was interesting, and I honestly had no idea how the story would even end. The way Barton writes allows you to completely immerse yourself into the lives of her characters, and imagine what you would do in their scenarios. Her second novel absolutely did not disappoint, and I am looking forward to reading more of Barton’s writing.

I am a huge fan of thrillers/mysteries, especially with female heroines & protagonists, and Barton’s novels definitely do not disappoint my cravings. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fiona Barton has definitely become one of my favourite authors. Before writing her first novel, The Widow, Barton was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, and even won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. Her writing flows, and her characters have such depth, and her writing gives you the ability to go inside her characters’ minds.

Luckily, she agreed to do a little Q&A with me!

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THE INTERVIEW:

Who’s your favourite author?

It seems to change from year to year – and sometimes day to day as I discover new writers but constants are authors who take risks to tell stories in new ways. Kate Atkinson and Hilary Mantel are particularly inspirational. Mantel (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies) for the brilliance and vividness of her story-telling. She broke so many rules – and was criticized by some – but I was in her world from page one; Atkinson (When Will There Be Good News? And Life After Life) for her characters and showing me the power of a story told by many; and John Irving (Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany) for his sheer, bonkers, otherness.

Favourite book or genre to read?

Reading is my passion so I read widely and enjoy all kinds of fiction – literary, historical, crime, thrillers, kitchen dramas, short stories, epics, trilogies, romans fleuves – you name it. The book I wish I had written is Wolf Hall.

Has your writing progress changed at all after writing The Widow?

Hugely. I felt huge pressure starting my second book. The success of The Widow meant there were expectations for number two and a deadline from the first word, creating a completely different writing experience. For the first one, no one knew I was writing it so I could let it cook in my head, move sentences around a hundred times and leave it for weeks on end. But Book 2 was a whole other story (in every sense…). What I have learned from both experiences is not to rush to put words on the page – thinking time is as important.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your novels?

The people on the edge of a story, just out of the spotlight, have been my inspiration. They have a sort of invisibility that I find draws me into their world. I want to know what happens when the press pack leaves and the world stops watching. Because without witnesses or the distraction of the media scrum, masks cannot help but slip.

You were previously a reporter and a news editor. Would you say that being a reporter inspired you to become a writer?

To be honest, I had to unlearn an awful lot when I changed from reporter to fiction writer – you can’t put the whole story in the first paragraph in a thriller! But what I have kept from my journalism is a nose for a good story, and the wonderful cast of characters I amassed during those years.

For 30 years, I was watching and listening to people caught up in dramas, tragedies and conflicts. I squirreled away characters, snippets of conversations, encounters and when I came to write the book, they were all there, ready.

When I read The Widow last year, I was so stunned at the complexity of the characters. As a reader, you’re geared towards hating the husband… but I found Jean Taylor the most perplexing. Where did you get your ideas for this couple?

As a journalist, I spent a lot of time in court. In the big cases, I would find myself watching the wives of those accused of notorious and terrible crimes and wondering what they really knew – or allowed themselves to know. 

I wanted to know how do you cope with the idea that your husband – the man you chose to spend the rest of your life with – may be a monster? Jean and Glen grew out of that fascination and took me on an unexpected journey.

Do you plan on writing another novel any time soon?

I am deep into book 3 now. Watch this space…

Would you like to see either (or both?) of your novels adapted to the big screen?

Both The Widow and The Child have been optioned for television – very excited but not counting my chickens…

Any advice for young aspiring writers out there?

Two pieces of advice stick out: Writing is not just about putting words on a page. Ideas have to cook first. And: hold your nose and write (thank you Hallie Ephron!)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Fiona! Looking forward to your next book!

Stay up to date with Barton’s latest project at her website: http://fionabartonauthor.com

Until next time bookies,

Sam

Meet the Author – Rene Denfeld

THE CHILD FINDER

4.5/5 STARS

Imagine getting lost in a forest in the middle of winter… and suddenly waking up in a cave like environment with a strange man hovering over you? Imagine being so young, and so innocent, that you don’t understand where you are, and result to convincing yourself that you are living a story right out of a book.

Rene Denfeld’s newest book The Child Finder is eerie, thrilling and a book of hope in some ways. When young Madison goes missing while with her parents, Madison’s parents hire Naomi, a private investigator but known as “The Child Finder” to find their daughter.

Denfeld is an inspiring writer, and was the chief investigator at a public defender’s office and worked with hundreds of cases that included sex trafficking victims and innocents in prisons. She has also been a foster adoptive parent for the past twenty years.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE CHILD FINDER:

I really enjoyed this book. It took me just a few days to finish because I couldn’t put it down. I loved how it would change between different character perspectives – it offered a very creepy, thrilling feel and kept feeding my hunger to find out what exactly happened to young Madison. The writing in this book was beautiful, but simple enough to understand human nature, and how PTSD can truly alter a person’s life forever. If you are a fan of thrillers/mysteries, I would definitely recommend this book! A must read for 2017 for sure!

Denfeld was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me regarding her highly successful book! Check it out below!

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Q & A:

Who’s your favourite author?

Like many writers, I read voraciously. I have SO many favorites, I’m hesitant to start listing them all. I go through kicks where I will read all the works by one author, or return to old favorites. It’s not unusual for me to read a favorite book several times. I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections lately. One recent one is Margaret Malone’s PEOPLE LIKE YOU. For all time faves I might say Margaret Atwood, Jane Smiley, Louise Erdrich, Ken Kesey, Cheryl Strayed, Kia Corthron, Donald Pollock, Viet Nguyen…okay, I’ll stop!

Favourite book or genre to read?

I love all genres. There is so much to learn from other writers, whether it is nonfiction, literary fiction, memoirs, straight reporting, books of essays or short stories—and of course poetry. I love poetry and it probably shows in my novels. 

You’ve written quite a few books over the years… has your writing progress changed at all?

My writing changed dramatically when I went from nonfiction to novels. I was a decent nonfiction wrier, but fiction is where my true voice came pouring out, full of warmth and magic and wisdom. I love creating the characters of novels, and creating an exciting plot. Writing fiction for me is a joyous experience that brings out the best in me as a writer and person. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your novels?

I’ve been deeply inspired by my work and other life experience, including adopting my children from foster care. I have a very difficult background, and so I am able to explore such issues in my novels with authenticity and compassion. I try to write real characters—the kind of people you would really meet. They feel that real to me.  

You’re also a licensed investigator in Oregon which I find so cool! Would you say that being an investigator inspired you to become a writer?

Absolutely! To date I’ve worked hundreds of cases, from sex trafficking to death row exonerations. Every day people tell me their stories. They welcome me into their lives, and I get to help them. That’s profoundly inspiring. I get to witness and experience things that few people do, and writing is an opportunity for me to tell those stories and truths. For instance, I have witnessed so much redemption and healing in my work. In The Child Finder I show how people can save themselves and others, and our vast capacity to survive.
 

In your recent novel, The Child Finder, Naomi is an investigator that specializes in finding missing children and giving parents a sense of relief… is Naomi based on you at all?

She’s younger, and specializes in missing children. But a lot of the procedural stuff she does comes from my own experience. It was a fun part of the novel to include the real, nitty-gritty shoe leather investigation techniques. I like to say 99% of investigations is diligence. It’s knocking on door after door. It’s getting people to open up and talk. It’s finding forgotten records. Mostly it is keeping at it until you find the truth. In that way Naomi and I are the same—we are dedicated to finding the truth. But she is a much different person in other ways. I wanted to create a character that lived and breathed apart from me. 

Some Russian “fairy tales” were used in The Child Finder, are you a fairy tale fan? What would you say is your favourite?

Oh, I love fairy tales. I grew up immersed in them as a child—I would escape into my own made-up fairy tales. One of my childhood favorites is in The Child Finder. It’s called the Cow-Tail Switch. I was raised in an African-America neighborhood, and our library had a collection of such fables. I was greatly influenced by African and African-American fables as a child.

How has being an investigator, a writer, and a foster-adoptive parent changed you as a person?

It’s humbled me, and made me see the beauty in the struggle, the joy in the process. For every harm I have witnessed, I have seen countless acts of people being good. The volunteers, the teachers, the readers, the writers, the neighbors—our world is full of people who care, who want to help. Those people exist. As I write in The Child Finder, our future needs to be led by people who “have walked on the side of sorrow and seen the dawn.” 

Do you plan on writing another novel any time soon?

Fingers crossed—yes! 

Any advice for young aspiring writers out there?

If you write, you are a writer. Anyone can be a writer. Look at me. I was an abused child and homeless. But it takes lots of work. So my advice is this: read widely and read well. Good reading leads to good writing. Practice, and practice some more. Create a life outside your writing because that life will be your solace and inspiration. Find the magic. Roll around in life and come up covered with joy.
Rene – thank you for sharing your amazing talent with the world and for the work you do for humanity outside of writing.
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