Book Review & Meet The Author – THE WINTERS by Lisa Gabriele

THE WINTERS

RWS RATING: 4/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 16TH 2018

thewinters 

SYNOPSIS

A spellbindingly suspenseful new novel set in the moneyed world of the Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that can’t be escaped

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets—the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything. (Goodreads.com)

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First off, when I received this book from Penguin RandomHouse Canada, I fell in love with the cover!! (Yes, Guardian, I am going to comment on the beautiful cover because book covers are a perfect, artistic representation for both the author and the story, so tough luck). So, don’t be fooled by the beautiful cover of this book… because the story within is mysterious, obscure, and curious.

I opened up the book, read the first chapter, and was hooked

It starts off with the description of Mr. Winters, his castle, and his relationship with the protagonist. Then, it dives into the history of their relationship, and finally brings us to the present – the protagonist and Mr. Winters move into the Asherley Estate, and the protagonist meets his daughter – Dani Winters. Some creepy events take place, and the protagonist endures the bullying from her step daughter. This book had major Jane Eyre vibes. For those of you that don’t know, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is my favourite book, and I actually studied the book for a whole semester! After reading Jane Eyre, I read and studied Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

This book is a feminist and anti-colonial response to Jane Eyre. It describes Mr. Rochester’s marriage from the point of view of his mad wife, Antoinette Cosway. Antoinette is Rhys’ version of Bronte’s devilish madwoman in the atticAntoinette’s story is told from the time of her youth in Jamaica, to her unhappy marriage to a certain unnamed English gentleman, who renames her Bertha, declares her mad, and then takes her to England. Antoinette is caught in an oppressive patriarchal society in which she neither fully belongs to Europe nor Jamaica. Wide Sargasso Sea explores the power relationships between men and women and develops postcolonial themes, such as racism, displacement and assimilation. (Goodreads.com)

So, the reason why I bring this up is because The Winters is so alike to both of these beloved novels/stories: a strange estate, an independent woman who fell in love, an odd, rich gentleman with a secret past, and an eerie setting.

As I continued to read the story, the events taking place were getting spookier, stranger, and overall interesting. The most interesting part of the book, is that as a reader, we never find out the protagonist’s name. Through dialogue, description, thought process, her name is never spoken. I loved this part about the book because it added so much more mystery to the entire story. 

After reading this book, I was so lucky to have the author, Lisa Gabriele, come on RWS to answer a few questions! Check it out:

 

Who’s your favourite author?

I have to say Daphne du Maurier, and not just because my book, The
Winters, is inspired by her best known novel, Rebecca, but because of
the sheer range of her work. She has written speculative fiction,
historical fiction, suspense, horror, romance, essays and biography. But
there’s a through line and it’s her impeccable language and surprising
plots. She’s a damn great storyteller.

Favourite book or genre to read?

I have a new favourite book all the time. Right now it’s Less, by Andrew
Sean Greer, tied with Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid,
which you’ll be hearing a lot about before its publication in March, 2019.
I tore through both books recently, and they left me breathless and
excited about the possibilities of writing meaningful fiction that has
wide commercial appeal.

When was the moment you realized that you loved literature?

I say this all the time but I am a far more passionate and talented reader
than writer. I love writing, but I fell in love with literature as a reader
first, devouring them once I learned how to read, and I’ve never
stopped.

What made you want to be a writer?

It was such a natural progression, I don’t ever remember not writing.
Since I was eight years old it’s been a compulsion. I have filled
notebooks with short stories and have written in diaries well before I
ever published a thing. What truly makes me a writer is an inherent
need to work something out on paper, usually through made up people.
Or to bring to life the stories that seem to float in the ether around me.
Writing is also a form of entertaining myself, something I have always
enjoyed doing.

What inspired you to write your latest book, The Winters? While
I was reading it, I got MAJOR Jane Eyre vibes!

Funny you should say that. My book is a response to du Maurier’s Rebecca,
which itself was a response to Jane Eyre. My mother was the one who
introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie version of Rebecca first, and whenever I miss her I reach for it. In the fall of 2016, in the despairing days of the U.S. election, I bought some ice cream and threw in the DVD to drown out the bad news. But this time, instead of comforted, it left me feeling deeply uneasy. I had to remind myself that in Daphne du Maurier’s book Maxim de Winter killed his sexually rebellious first wife, a fact that Hitchcock, due to Production Codes at the time, erased. I suddenly felt this strong desire to avenge Rebecca and punish Maxim. So I guess you could say nostalgia inspired me to reread the book, but anger drove me to write mine.
I found it interesting that we never know the protagonist’s name in the book…what’s the reason? 

This was a trope I borrowed from Rebecca, which also has an unnamed narrator, mostly just to see if I could do it, write a book with a nameless narrator. Needless to say it was much harder than I thought it would be.

Did your writing process change at all when you began writing
more books?

Luckily, I have always been disciplined. I get up in the morning and have
breakfast and then just start writing. I write for four to six hours and
then take a nap. Then I try to exercise before supper. I keep my schedule
light when I’m writing, so I don’t break a mood. The thing that helps me
the most is having a deadline.

Can we expect any more books from you coming up?

Yes, I’m laying the tracks for my next book now, which I think will be in
the same suspenseful vein as The Winters, this one about an older
women, newly sober, who helps out a younger one, who may not be who
she says she is.

Do you have any advice for young writers out there?
Read like crazy, read everything. When you’re not writing, you must be
reading. And if you’re not reading, you must be writing.

 

Thank you Lisa, for coming on RWS to chat!

Gabriele’s novel The Winters, will be available in stores OCTOBER 16th 2018!

You can also visit her website: www.lisagabriele.com

MEET THE AUTHOR – Sonia Faruqi

THE OYSTER THIEF

RWS RATING: 3.5/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 2ND 2018

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SYNOPSIS

“It took her a journey across the ocean to learn what she knew of love and fear and hate, but the essence of it came to her in an instant, as she succumbed to the churning black depths of the deep sea.”

Coralline is a shy mermaid in the Atlantic Ocean whose idyllic life is ruined by an oil spill that gravely sickens her little brother. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir.

She encounters a human man, Izar, who’s left his life on land behind to find a cure for his dying father. He doesn’t tell her that his family runs Ocean Dominion, an enemy corporation whose ships plunder her waters daily.

Fate pushes the two of them together, even though their worlds are at odds. Accompanied by a colorful troupe of animals, Coralline and Izar travel through coral reefs and seabed cities, trailed by murderous adversaries and warring ships. Their secrets threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline remain with the world she knows, including her fiancé, or should she relinquish everything for a stranger who might betray her? And Izar holds a secret of his own—one that might cause him to lose Coralline forever.

Magnificent and moving, set against a breathtaking ocean landscape, The Oyster Thief is an enthralling fantasy destined to become a classic. (Goodreads.com)

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This is definitely different than my usual reads – but it was such a beautiful story! Faruqi has such a talent for building up such an incredible world through poignant, and fluid writing. Faruqi was able to eloquently create complex characters in a magical, underwater world. I loved reading Coralline and Izar’s adventures  through coral reefs, and Faruqi had such intricate details involved in this underwater world. This book is dreamy, refreshing, and heartening.

Sonia Farqui first made her writing debut with her book, Project Animal Farm. A novel about that the world’s food system inspired by her visit to a dairy farm. She dropped everything she knew, to travel and find solutions to benefit animals, health and environment. Now, Farqui has turned to imagination in her newest book, The Oyster Thief. 

I had the pleasure of having Sonia on RWS to answer a few questions! Check it out below bookies:

Who’s your favourite author?

People are often surprised when I say Ayn Rand. But I find her writing beautiful and I love how she combines purpose and art in her works, particularly Atlas Shrugged. Her life story is also inspiring—she arrived in the U.S. as a poor immigrant from Russia and became among the greatest literary voices of the last century.

Favourite book or genre to read?

I read across genres spanning nonfiction and fiction. Some books that have particularly resonated with me are The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.

When was the moment you realized that you loved literature?

I can’t think of one particular moment, but I’ve loved reading ever since I was a girl. I wrote my first stories when I was nine!

What made you want to be a writer?

I love lots of topics and have lots of interests. Writing is one of those interests, and also a way to explore my other interests through this channel of expression.

What inspired you to write your first book, “Project Animal Farm?”

One night, I arrived at the doorstep of a dairy farm looking for a rural volunteer vacation. I had no idea then that the visit would mark the beginning of a journey that would ultimately wind all the way around the world. Concerned by issues of animal welfare and the environment, I decided to search the planet for solutions. My journey took me from egg warehouses in Canada to dairy feedlots in the United States, from farm offices in Mexico to lush green fields in Belize, from villages in Indonesia to bustling cities in Malaysia.

Over the course of living with farmers, hitchhiking with strangers, and risking my life, I developed surprising insights and solutions—both about the food industry and myself.

What gave you the inspiration for your newest novel, “The Oyster Thief?” Why the change in genres?

The Oyster Thief journey began as organically as the Project Animal Farm journey. I wasn’t planning it. The idea of an underwater world fell into my mind on January 1st, 2015. It was a freezing-cold morning in Canada, and I wished I could escape into tropical waters. But it was too expensive to book a last-minute flight, so I decided to escape in my mind. With a cup of tea in hand, I started inventing an underwater world. 

I found that I really enjoyed disappearing underwater for hours at a time through the novel, and I hope readers do as well!

Did your writing process change at all when you began writing this book, compared to any writing you’ve done before?

I had the impression that nonfiction requires research and planning, and fiction doesn’t. Boy was I wrong about that! After spending about two thousand hours on my manuscript, I decided to throw it all out and start from scratch.

Making the underwater world feel “real” required considerable research, I found. The challenge, however, is that researching the ocean is not like researching things on land. Parts of the ocean are less known to scientists than the moon. And of the millions of species thought to live in the ocean, the majority are unknown to us. To get my bearings underwater and depict the deep blue as accurately as possible, I snorkeled, scuba-dived, swam with sharks, and pored over books and countless articles about the ocean.

All the animals and algae you’ll see mentioned in The Oyster Thief are true-to-life. Even the names of all the characters are scientifically grounded, drawn from the sea and the stars. The Oyster Thief is also current in its themes. For instance, the book contains a premise of underwater diamond mining that was fictional when I started the book but has, just last year, become fact.

Can we expect any more books from you coming up?

There may be a sequel to The Oyster Thief.

Do you have any advice for young writers out there?

Don’t be afraid to take big, bold steps, including starting over. 

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Thank you, Sonia, for coming on RWS to chat with me!

Faruqi’s debut novel The Oyster Thief, will be available in stores OCTOBER 16th 2018!

You can also visit her website: http://www.soniafaruqi.com

BOOK REVIEW – An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

AN UNWANTED GUEST

RWS RATING: 4/5 STARS

RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 7TH 2018

READ IF YOU LIKE: 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

 

A quiet hotel in the midst of Winter, contrasting personalities put together, and murderous events happening over the course of a weekend makes up this chilling and suspenseful murder mystery by Shari Lapena. Lapena is known for her novels, The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House – a mixture of dialogue with strange, unique characters, and mysteries that keep you guessing until the very end of the book. But, An Unwanted Guest is most definitely her best novel yet.

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PLOT SUMMARY

A weekend retreat at a cozy mountain lodge is supposed to be the perfect getaway . . . but when the storm hits, no one is getting away
It’s winter in the Catskills and Mitchell’s Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead–it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.
Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. And there’s nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm. (www.goodreads.com)

OPINION

This book would be the perfect winter read…cozying up by the fire, while it’s storming outside, and trying to figure out a puzzling mystery within this book. I loved the Agatha Christie vibe throughout this entire book. When I say that though, it’s got a more And Then There Were None type of feel. A bunch of strangers are together during a certain amount days, and slowly, one by one, a guest gets murdered.

When I first heard of Shari Lapena, it was November 2016, and I got her first book, The Couple of Next Door as an early Christmas gift. I devoured that book so quickly. And by quickly I mean I literally finished it in about seven hours because I was just dying to know how this baby went missing. The Couple Next Door had a lot of dialogue – more of “he said” then “she said” type of dialogue, which at times, began to get hard to read and a bit repetitive with no proper flow to the story, or the characters.

But this book has shown how much her writing has grown and flourished since her first one. Shying away from the “he said, she said” type of dialogue, Lapena carefully crafted together the dialogue between characters that made the book flow together perfectly! Page by page, chapter by chapter, I was eager to find out who was behind the murders, and by the end, Lapena did deliver and surprise with the big murder reveal.

The one thing I do wish this novel had was a bit more character background. I loved how each chapter had a different character telling their perspective and feelings, and some of those characters were so interesting, that I just wanted to read more about them!

An Unwanted Guest had themes of human survival and instinct, complex characters, and an incredible mystery!

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An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena is in stores 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 – Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

RATING: 4/5 STARS

CANADIAN RELEASE DATE: SEPT 4TH 2018

A heartbreaking read of revenge, justice, and the love of community. Backman’s Us Against You, the sequel to his highly acclaimed Beartown, is so well written, that the characters stay with you forever. Fredrik Backman is known for his novels like A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologies, and of course, Beartown. Fredrik Backman’s writing in his novels are so unique, that the characters are relatable to the reader, and the events that take place in his books are almost like they are true events.

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PLOT SUMMARY

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent. (Goodreads.com)

MY REVIEW

Backman is an incredibly talented writer, & that reigns true through each sentence of this book. Every character is carefully thought out, rounded, with ample growth shown throughout the book, not to mention they are mixed in with such an intense plot that leaves you wanting more.

Benji and Amat are probably the two most real, and heartbreaking characters within the book. Benji is an 18 year old boy, who’s best friend committed such a horrific act, left town, and now Benji is left to discover who he is and what he stands for. Benji is quiet, and so misunderstood, that he doesn’t even understand himself at times. But, I think that’s what makes him so endearing as a character, and so relatable. Amat is a 16 year old with such a profound love for hockey, but an even more intense love for his mother, and the search for truth and justice. Amat is a character that completely represents the right in a right or wrong situation, and even when the rest of the world is against him, he rises to the occasion with bravery. Both these characters in this book are so admirable on so many levels, and I think they both gave this book such depth.

It’s hard to review such an amazing book like this without giving anything away.. but all I can really say is that I was literally hooked from the first page, and with the dialogue between these interesting people residing in Beartown, I just couldn’t put it down.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman is now available everywhere at Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, Amazon, Google Books, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

TOP FIVE MUST READS OF SUMMER 2018

Orange leaves, the smell of cinnamon & pumpkin, crisp cool mornings, warm lattes… sorry, am I getting ahead of myself here, or is anybody else excited for Fall to begin?!

With just a few weeks left of summer, I’ve decided to pick my top five reads that I’ve read during the sunny, hot days! I hope that you enjoy these reads too to end off your summer reading – I am left STILL thinking about them. Here we go…

5. ALL WE EVER WANTED by Emily Giffin

allweeverwanted

SUMMARY

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.
Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.
At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

OPINION

I remember opening this book on a hot July morning by the lake, and I completely devoured this in that ONE DAY. I loved it! Now, this is a fairly typical opinion because I am a huge Giffin fan. Once I read her novels Something Borrowed and Something Blue on my two month Morocco trip a few years ago, I had to go find every book Giffin wrote at my public library and read them all in a month. But this one may have to be my second favourite Giffin, right after Something Blue.

My favourite thing about Giffin’s writing is her ability to jump from character to character in each chapter to offer a fresh, and different perspective. This really gives you a chance as a reader to form an opinion about every character, and where you stand on what’s right or wrong. I couldn’t stop reading about the lives of Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Giffin was able to take a complex situation in modern day, and give a thought provoking intake!

I really do wish we were able to read from Finch & Kirk’s perspective. I think it would have added a refreshing take on a scenario that seems to be too common. Nonetheless, the way the situation/dialogue was written had me so captivated – I just wanted to keep reading it!
This is a great summer read by the beach!

4. THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy

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SUMMARY

Vanity Fair calls it one of the most anticipated books of the summer. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Scandal’s Kerry Washington.

An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.
Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

OPINION

Ah, my favourite! A domestic thriller twisted with suspense. I loved this novel! It had everything I look for in a domestic thriller: dialogue between unusual, curious characters, a bizarre mystery, & a plot that made a full circle by the end – definitely caught me by surprise.
This was a book that was on my TBR the moment I saw it be announced, and it did not disappoint. This was another novel that I could not put down, and was completely immersed into the lives of the May mothers.

3. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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SUMMARY

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

OPINION

I know that this book is about a year old, so I am WAY behind! It was sitting on my TBR shelf for quite some time, and I don’t know what came over me to start reading. But I was really happy and thankful that I did! Definitely a different read than my usual mystery/suspense thriller, but it was just.so.GOOD. 

I was in awe! This book was wonderfully crafted, heart wrenching, and at times inspiring. I found Evelyn Hugo to be frustrating, yet endearing in some of the choices she made throughout her life. But… it must be so difficult having to live in the spotlight, with everyone in the world knowing every single thing about you. I couldn’t imagine not having any of my own privacy. I found myself at times having to remember that this is a fictional story – that’s how real and raw the dialogue and characters are! Easily one of my favourite books!

2. THE BUTTERFLY GARDEN by Dot Hutchison

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SUMMARY

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…

OPINION

So.. back to the mystery/suspense thrillers… this one may just be one of my favourite books I’ve ever read. I’m still sitting here thinking about it, trying to put my thoughts and feelings about this book into coherent sentences.

It was creepy, eerie, chilling, sad and beautiful. Hutchinson’s writing was unique, and while the story was written based on the victim, Maya’s retelling of her time in the Garden, it was wonderfully crafted. This book had me in chills, and at times tears on public transportation! This book messed me up in a good way. Maya retells the story of her time in the Garden, and she even gives the reader an in depth description of the “Gardner” and what he was like. And honestly, at times, the Gardner was humanized in a way where for a split second you actually feel bad for him. But then, you remember that he kidnaps young girls, tattoos butterfly wings on their back against their free will, and continues to do horrific things to them – all while taking care of them medically, nutritionally, and seeing them as his most prized possessions. I’m mad at myself for waiting this long to read this book, but it was so enjoyable with every page and chapter. I’ll definitely be getting the second and third book in this series!

*** This book does contain sexual violence that may be triggering to some readers.

1. I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK by Michelle McNamara

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SUMMARY

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” McNamara pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by McNamara’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.

OPINION

It was really difficult choosing this or The Butterfly Garden as my number one.. but it’s been so long since I’ve read a good true crime novel, that this book easily takes the #1 spot.

Riveting, creepy, & a “look over your shoulder” descriptive writing had me captivated in this read. I’m in awe of McNamara’s writing…she is talented no doubt. Her passion for true crime, let alone the strange case of the Golden State Killer bled through her carefully chosen words, and writing. What started out as a true crime blog, has now become a popular, must read book about a real serial killer.

The way she was able to describe the GSK’s crimes and how some of the living victims described what they saw and heard when the GSK entered their homes sends a chill up your spine. “Little eyes, in the dark, watching you…” I can safely say that reading this was most definitely a journey.
At times, I did find myself a bit confused in terms of the quick change in chapters, and the amount of people working on this case. BUT – the fact that this was real, the victims are real, the actions perpetrated by this monster were real, makes the deliverance of this story all the more terrifying. This isn’t just another fictional story about a killer, or a plot surrounding some domestic suspense, this a real story with actual encounters and descriptions from living victims. 

I find McNamara to be so inspiring – and it’s so tragic that she passed away before seeing the horrific GSK actually being caught.. thanks to her amazing work.

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So bookies, there it is! My top five must reads of the summer! It was very difficult to choose, and I spent a lot of time thinking about why I chose each one.

Will you be picking any of these up? Let me know 🙂

Until next time bookies,

Sam

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 – 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

 

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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Interview with Author Bobbi French

FINDING ME IN FRANCE

4/5 STARS

A few years ago, I spontaneously decided to travel to Italy and live there for 4 months. I don’t know exactly what came over me, but I was determined to do it, and determined to do it alone. I spent four months travelling on my own – living mainly in Torino (northern Italy), and making my way to Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, the mountains, and even a trip to Lyon, France. Sure, it was lonely at times, but I don’t think I would change the experiences I had for anything else.

Prior to leaving for Italy, I loaded up my Kobo with a bunch of books to keep me preoccupied on my flight to London, England, and of course, throughout my stay in Italy.

I managed to visit Dante Alighieri’s house in Florence, and even saw the exact room, desk, and chair he used to write his infamous Dante’s Inferno – one of my favourite books of all time! It felt so surreal being around so much history.

Then, I made my way to Venice, and visited Harry’s Bar, where Ernest Hemingway spent a majority of his time writing – of course, I had to take a shot of espresso and work on writing of my own – Hemingway style.

With all of the travel, I still managed to find time to get reading done. Everyday I’d visit a new cafe in the streets of Italy, and read a book. One of the books that inspired me on my trip was Finding me in France by Bobbi French. This was a story about a Canadian woman who decided to let go of everything she knew in North America, and move to the country side of France with her husband.

I remember walking the streets of Florence with French’s book in hand – and I can’t think of a happier moment than that.

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Luckily, Bobbi French graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions!

 Bobbi,

What is your favourite book? Oh my, that’s a tough one. I read well over a hundred books a year. I don’t think I could ever pick just one but The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields is up there as well as The History of Love and Middlesex. And I had a great time reading The Rules of Civility. I like so many, so it always depends on what I’m after in the moment. 

Favourite Author? 

Again, killer question. Maybe Carol Shields, her work is so arresting and real. 

In your book, “Finding me in France”, you left a familiar, Westernized life to go live in the outskirts of France with your husband – what drew you to this decision? 

Many things really—having lived such a structured life, college then med school then residency, straight into a big career in psychiatry with no real break to explore the world; an interest in other cultures and languages and a husband who had lived around the world; being in my early 40s, knowing that if I didn’t make a move, I’d turn around and fell like I’d missed the chance to do something interesting and unexpected and creative. So, all those factors worked together to lead me to decide to shake up my life and see what happened. It was quite an adventure.

Are you still living in france now?

No, I am back in Canada, have been for a while. For now, I’m in Halifax, Nova Scotia near my husband’s family and our friends, but who knows what lays ahead.

Of all the European countries you could’ve chosen to live in… why France?

Well, why not France, right? The wine alone is enough to draw anyone in. But really it was far less romantic and magical than it seems. My husband, Neil, and I had vacationed in Burgundy where we met some folks who were looking for help with their vacation property business ( and yes, I did work briefly as a cleaning woman). Neil spoke fluent French, the health care system is excellent, and so on. So, a beautiful place to start but also some practical benefits as well. The book details the decision pretty well I hope.

What is your favourite memory of living in France?

Oh, so many. A bonfire lunch with new friends in the countryside; a magical French and Russian candlelit poetry reading in a small bookstore in our village, Semur-en-Auxois; the smell of the chestnut fires in the fall; standing in the sun in the vineyards of Champagne; our neighbour’s small children calling over the fence for me to come play with them in the morning; wandering the streets of Paris at night. We have so many wonderful moments from our time there that it’s impossible to choose one over the others.

Are you working on another book?

Yes! I just finished a novel. I’ve never written fiction before, so I have no sense if it works or not. It has a similar voice to mine that’s found in Finding Me in France. Whether that works in fiction, well, we’ll see.

After publishing Finding me in France, did your writing process change at all?

Well, before Finding Me in France (the blog and the book), I’d never written anything apart from prescriptions, so I often have trouble seeing myself as a true writer. I’m more of a doodler and a storyteller, maybe it’s the same thing, I don’t know, so I’m not sure I’ve ever had a process. I can say that for both Finding Me in France and the novel, I simply sat at my laptop and tapped out whatever was in my head. Then I went back over it and picked away at it until I liked it or I felt I just couldn’t make it ay better. t do find that reading what I write out loud to someone, usually poor Neil, is incredibly helpful.

Do you have any advice for any young aspiring authors out there?

Hmm. Okay, maybe two things. One, read. Read anything and everything, different genres, books from different cultures and writers with vastly different perspectives. Get inspired and informed by the work of others, expose yourself to the full breadth of language and voice and style. And two, sit down and bang it out. If you start something, give it a middle and an end then revisit it. I always think just finishing something is a major achievement. 

You can follow Bobbi’s adventures on her website at: http://www.findingmeinfrance.com