Review: Unwind

Book Title: Unwind
Author: Neal Shusterman
Reviewed By: Chelsea
Series: Unwind #1
Genres: YA, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Goodreads

Date Read: 03/13/17
Pub Date (Reissue): 06/02/09

5 STARS


In America after the Second Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, a parent may choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process called “unwinding.” Unwinding ensures that the child’s life doesn’t “technically” end by transplanting all the organs in the child’s body to various recipients. Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound.

I’ve been letting this book process in my mind for many days now and I still don’t know where to start. This is an older book, one that has been held in highest regards by many for almost a decade now, so whenever I read a book like this I feel awkward and useless writing a review. What could I possibly say to do this book justice that hasn’t been said yet? I’m not even sure there are words to describe just how undone this book made me feel. It’s rare that I find myself emotionally involved in a book these days; I mainly read mystery/thrillers or YA sci-fi/fantasy and neither of those genres tend to hold deep, moving stories of this kind. The only way I know to describe how this book made me feel is that it wormed it’s way so deep inside my body that it touched my soul. My brain felt so jumbled it didn’t know whether I should cry, vomit, or give a standing ovation, so it just kind of snorted. If you read the tiny blurb above then you know that there isn’t much given away of what this book really is, other than touching on the fact that it’s premise is truly horrifying. While I’m not planning on giving away any major spoilers or plot points, if you’re wanting to go in completely blind, I recommend stopping right here and grabbing the book. If you are wanting to get a little more of a feel of what this is before you dive in, keep reading on.

” The Bill of Life”

The Second Civil War, also known as “The Heartland War,” was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue.

To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as “The Bill of Life” was passed.

It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies.

The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.

However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively “abort” a child…

… on the condition that the child’s life doesn’t “technically” end.

The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called “unwinding.”

Unwinding is now a common and accepted practice in society.

 Wow. It’s a little hard to swallow, yes? When I initially saw this page I thought “Geez, a little dramatic. I’m not sure how he’s going to make this seem realistic, but I’ll follow along and keep an open mind.” He made it realistic people. When I think of how utterly disturbing an “unwinding” would be, I found myself riddled with all types of questions. What happens in an unwinding? Will we be privy to a procedure? Is this going to be highly graphic and full of blood and guts? How is this being marketed as a YA novel? This book is recommended for ages 12 & up. Here’s what I found out after reading this book; yes, we find out what happens specifically in an unwinding and are privy to one, but just one, and it is highly disturbing in the most subtle way. What surprised me the most though was the lack of graphic violence (aside from one major scene near the end). The reason this book is so utterly brilliant is due to the fact that the author has left most of the highly disturbing factors vague; he knew for each reader, what would move us the most, would be different and has given us the opportunity to let our imagination carry us where he couldn’t take us with too much structure and detail.

“I was never going to amount to much anyway, but now, statistically speaking, there’s a better chance that some part of me will go on to greatness somewhere in the world. I’d rather be partly great than entirely useless.”
-Samson Ward

 This book is structured so well; it has all the elements of a complex, highly intelligent read while also being written in a way that is easy for anyone to connect with and understand. The story is divided into seven parts, each told from multiple views, but mainly from three. Connor is a trouble maker from Akron, OH that becomes AWOL while running away from his impending unwinding. Risa is a ward of the state and is set to be unwound due to the lack of space in the institutions housing orphans. She is a musician but not deemed talented enough to be considered cost effective in keeping around. Lev is a tithe; these are children conceived and raised specifically to be unwound once they reach the age of thirteen. These three lines converge at a specific event and begin what I like to consider the first part of our journey. I won’t give away anything else, but we ride lots of ups and downs with these folks. The ending was satisfying in the sense that it clearly is left with the assumption of a series following, but there isn’t a giant cliff hanger where you feel pressured to pick up the next book immediately. In fact, I’ve seen most people choose to read this as a standalone and not continue on. Either way, this is a book that is worth your time; it’s far from your typical, sometimes flimsy YA novel. There was actually a good bit of “real life” research that went into this story; Shusterman found various news articles surrounding stem cell research that helped form a base for his fictional story to be crafted around. I know this because I took the time to look up each link he provided and, by George, they are real! And horrifying!

 “You can’t change laws without first changing human nature.”
-Nurse Greta

“You can’t change human nature without first changing the law.”
-Nurse Yvonne

Words can’t convey how important this novel is. Yes, it’s highly disturbing, horrifying, and a place our mind doesn’t even want to venture to, but this book touched on so many issues in our current state of affairs world wide and is surprisingly still relevant after nearly ten years. Stem Cell Research, Cellular Memory, Reproductive Rights, the afterlife, faith, and morals; it’s all discussed in this book. I found myself constantly pondering all of the above and how it relates to humanity. As a parent, this was a hard book to stomach. It brought an all-too-real sense of terror over me that I couldn’t shake, and still haven’t. The Roland scene was one where I had to put the book down, wipe the tears from my eyes, and process before I could continue on to finish. The reason this book can even have the potential of being beloved by so many is this: amidst all the horror and unspeakable evil the plot is founded on, there is a constant glimmer of hope in the horizon. It’s a beautiful thing folks. Change. Community. Forgiveness. It’s all there, and that’s why I’m going to recommend this book to literally everyone I come in contact with. I could ramble on for weeks about this book, but I think it would be better if you just read it for yourself. I’m also planning on continuing the series, so I’ll try to provide insight into whether or not it’s worth investing in the long haul or just soaking up this treasure by itself.

*I’d like to thank The Literary Box for providing my copy; it was an absolute pleasure to return an honest review.

*In case you missed it, you can find my full review and unboxing of the subscription this book was included in HERE!

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Review: The Lost Woman

Book Title: The Lost Woman
Author: Sara Blaedel
Reviewed By: Chelsea
Series: Louise Rick #6
Genres: Crime Fiction, Nordic Noir, Mystery, Suspense
Goodreads

Date Read: 02/07/17
Pub Date: 03/10/17

3.5 STARS


A housewife is the target of a shocking, methodical killing.

Shot with a hunting rifle through her kitchen window, the woman is dead before she hits the ground. Though murdered in England, it turns out that the woman, Sofie Parker, is a Danish citizen–one who’s been missing for almost two decades–so Louise Rick is called on to the case.

Then the police discover that the woman, Sophie, had been reported missing eighteen years ago by none other than Eik, Louise Rick’s police colleague and lover. Impulsive as ever, Eik rushes to England, and ends up in jail on suspicion of Sofie’s murder. Unsettled by the connection, and sick with worry for Eik, it falls to Louise to find the killer in what will become her most controversial case yet…

I haven’t seen much in the way of the original series covers, but the book jackets for Sara Blaedel’s US books are fantastic. They draw you right in and have a clean feeling that is extremely appealing to the eye, while also containing fantastic stories inside that have you hooked throughout. Blaedel is a pro at not only including a fantastic case (usually some form of murder mystery or missing persons event) but drawing you in with her reoccurring characters and their personal lives as well. While I believe this is her most gorgeous cover to date and this entry had a lot of things going for it, The Lost Woman wasn’t quite up to par with what I have come to expect from a Louise Rick book.

Once again, the author has created an atmospheric and almost cinematic backdrop for our story; it’s one of the things I love most about reading her books. I always feel like I’m immediately consumed by another world, and there is always a dark and heavy oppression that is commonly felt with these nordic noir novels. I was lucky enough to have a chunk of time to pick this up while my kids napped on a day with nasty weather; talk about a perfect time to read noir! Three hours later, my kids were waking up and I had finished the entire book. I can’t speak for everyone, but my problems did not lie within the pacing or the ability to hold my attention throughout.

If you are a fan of the series, you will likely still find these components in tact and enjoy the comfort and familiarity of Louise as a professional, but my problems mainly stemmed from her relationship with Eik. I found many of the same issues with this section as my friend Melissa (find her review HERE), mainly in the lack of credibility given to L & E’s relationship and the issues that arise. Here we have a couple who the author has slowly brought together and are currently in a happy, healthy relationship. After a turn of events in this book however, it made me wonder how happy and healthy it truly could be after the actions and reactions surrounding their personal relationship here. I understand people hide secrets and that some books focus on unearthing those, but that wasn’t the set up for this situation; it was more just a lack of communication between the two that felt, well… awkward.

The case and mystery surrounding “the lost woman” was fairly strong in my opinion, and while I felt the ending was slightly underwhelming, it was well written and riddled with emotion and some seriously thought-provoking content. Those with a trigger for things related to suicide may want to skip this one, although it’s not overly graphic as a topic. Even with the issues I had relating to this story, I still feel Blaedel is a strong author that I will continue to follow, as I love this series dearly and want to see where she takes it. Fans of the series will still find a comfortable familiarity with Louise in this book and will appreciate some of the loose ends from previous books being wrapped up. Overall, really glad I read this one and did enjoy it; I just wished for more dialogue between Louise and Eik (as Melissa mentioned above) and hope to see some sort of progression in their personal life moving forward.

*Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing and Abby @CrimeByTheBook for putting this one on my radar!

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Review: The Diabolic

Book Title: The Diabolic
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Reviewed By: Chelsea
Series: Diabolic #1
Genres: YA, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Fiction
Goodreads

Date Read: 03/08/17
Pub Date: 11/01/16

3.5 STARS


Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The girl who has grown up by her side and who is as much as sister as a master. There’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have – humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire…

That cover is shiny and gorgeous, right? It’s initially what made me start oogling this book from afar and keeping it on my radar for months before finally taking the time to read and review it. I finally had a legit excuse to jump on the bandwagon once my Literary Box copy arrived, and while I’ll go into more detail below, I was so grateful I chose to read their copy with the author’s notes inside. This detail made the difference in my final star rating, which I decided to round up to a 4 on Goodreads in case you don’t follow me there. While I did find some inconsistencies and had a few issues, overall this was a highly enjoyable read! I think what had me flipping back and forth was knowing this is yet ANOTHER YA fantasy series in a sea of YA fantasy series and initially it’s what caused me to pause before picking this up to begin with. To it’s credit, this book was much more engaging and enjoyable than I was anticipating from the reviews I read early on; it’s clearly a book that has encouraged healthy debate which I’m always glad to see.

“Did he who made the lamb make thee?”
-William Blake, “The Tiger”

 Let’s start at the very beginning. I really appreciated the immediate insight we receive into just who and what a diabolic is. We learn early on that our narrator is called Nemesis and that all diabolics receive fun, intimidating names, such as Enmity, Hazard, and Anguish. These beings are not human and are created for the sole purpose of bonding with an owner, meaning they form a connection to protect only that one human at any and all costs. After we fast forward a bit to present day, there was a good chunk of the book (about 75 pages I’d say) with a great info dump to catch us up to speed. I struggle with these as they have become a staple in most YA Fantasy fiction; the first in the series contains infamous info dump instead of slowly building it into the story. I think this is just a personal peeve of mine, as it’s clearly up to the author to do as they choose and I know a good number of readers who love this aspect and want to gain the world building knowledge as quickly as possible. Once I got through those pages though, I couldn’t put this down! It was exciting, and fun, and had plenty of twists I didn’t see coming, especially in the final 25%. I greatly appreciate the great dedication to detail and complex layering Kincaid went to in order to ensure the story was necessary in an already saturated market.

“Ages ago, humans beings progressed technologically at an exponential rate. We expanded into space; we left Earth and traveled the galaxy. And then the same thing happened that always does-we grew lazy. We had technology we stopped learning how to use. We let machines think for us, act for us. The supernova and rise of the Helionic faith merely worsened a problem that already existed. Our ancestors sought knowledge, but we, their descendants, glorify ignorance.

That above was my favorite quote from the entire book. Ok, so we don’t have machines taking over like in The Terminator, but how easily we could apply that last bit to today’s time. I always enjoy a plot that involves the banning of books and knowledge; this was a seed that was planted and investigated in this first book that I’m really hoping is more fleshed out in the following chapters of the trilogy. Even if it comes in an allegorical form, how important is it for us to take a step back and recognize how easy it is for us to become lazy with our technology and our need to make sure our learning never ceases. This book was progressive in many ways, but especially in the sense that women and men have equal chances of ruling and flourishing in leadership roles. I wouldn’t say this novel had huge amounts of diversity, but I would chalk that up to the fact that people altered their appearance for basically every scene, as this was part of their culture. The romance was fairly strong and there wasn’t the typical, dreaded love triangle, although there were a few twists in that department and the ending left me wondering who we can trust and how this story will end in the long run. There was a bit of poetic justice that I appreciated for including a bit of diversity in the love department as well. *Insert vague intrigue here!*

I think my only major issue with the plot is in the description above on the book jacket, so not a spoiler. We know going into the book that Nemesis and her diabolic kind are incapable of emotions, feelings, etc, yet Nemesis finds herself developing all of those things. We are literally pounded over the head for 150 pages with “I am not capable of feelings or love. I am programmed like a robot.” And then boom, out of nowhere Nemesis has feelings and emotions like it happened overnight. Why? How? None of this was really described or explained. Again, maybe this will be further explored in the remaining entries, but I was slightly bummed that I’m told for half the book one thing and then there is an immediate 180 that I was expected to believe without questioning.

The reason I decided to go with a 4 instead of 3 star rating on Goodreads was simply due to the influence the author’s notes had over me. For those who missed it, I was sent a YA review crate from The Literary Box by Quarterly Co. that included this book in it. S.J. Kincaid was this quarter’s curator, meaning her book was featured, along with 2 books of her choosing, and The Diabolic came full of post it notes with her personal annotations inside. After experiencing this form of reading, I wish I could pick up all my books this way! I cannot stress how insanely pleasing it was to have insider information that other readers didn’t get to experience. I was able to hear out her explanations of why she chose to write things a certain way, what her family’s reactions were to certain plot points, and how things were re-written to keep certain people alive and kill off those initially meant to not die. Sorry, if you want in to you’ll have to order the box, but I highly recommend doing so! Overall, this was a strong start to the series that I only think I’ll grow more fond of as I continue on.

*Many thanks to Alinn for providing my box for review; it’s been a pleasure sifting through it and reviewing the products!

** In case you missed my initial review of the unveiling of The Lit Box I was sent, you can find that review HERE!

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Review: River Road

Book Title: River Road
Author: Carol Goodman
Reviewed By: Mary
Series: None
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Fiction

Date Read: 03/10/17
Pub Date: 01/19/17

3 STARS

Nan Lewis—a creative writing professor at a state university in upstate New York—is driving home from a faculty holiday party after finding out she’s been denied tenure. On her way, she hits a deer, but when she gets out of her car to look for it, the deer is nowhere to be found. Eager to get home and out of the oncoming snowstorm, Nan is forced to leave her car at the bottom of her snowy driveway to wait out the longest night of the year—and the lowest point of her life…

The next morning, Nan is woken up by a police officer at her door with terrible news—one of her students, Leia Dawson, was killed in a hit-and-run on River Road the night before. And because of the damage to her car, Nan is a suspect. In the days following the accident, Nan finds herself shunned by the same community that rallied around her when her own daughter was killed in an eerily similar accident six years prior. When Nan begins finding disturbing tokens that recall the death of Nan’s own daughter, Nan suspects that the two accidents are connected.

As she begins to dig further, she discovers that everyone around her, including Leia, is hiding secrets. But can she uncover them, clear her name, and figure out who really killed Leia before her reputation is destroyed for good?

Have you ever watched a movie and shouted at the screen for the character NOT to (fill in the blank with a multitude of bad decisions) open that door, investigate that strange noise, talk to the police without a lawyer, etc.? I can’t be the only one. You know you do it too. That is exactly what I found myself doing throughout RIVER ROAD. The main character suffers from a few afflictions, guilt and depression, which leads to drinking to numb the pain and the guilt, which leads to self-doubt, then denial about her self-doubt, which ultimately leads to a series of AWFUL DECISIONS.

I struggled through RIVER ROAD not because it was poorly written or suffered a slowly paced plot line, on the contrary. I enjoyed the style with which the author delivered the story through revelations and recall of memories. I loved the way she interjected humor through unspoken thoughts. I found myself holding my breath and jumping out of my seat when suspenseful moments built up and then exploded.

I struggled, because the main character, Nan Lewis, an intelligent, talented, empathetic college professor, continuously found herself tangled in complicated, incriminating and dangerous situations entirely due to her inability to heed good advice and make sound decisions. I struggled through the book, because I spent so much time questioning Nan, knowing full well she couldn’t respond, but I continued questioning her none-the-less…What ARE you thinking?! Did you NOT just hear him say stay put, keep your mouth shut?! Why are you so INTENT on doing things YOUR way?! It’s obviously NOT working! And my newly discovered grievance, my frustration with this character has compelled me to end my sentences with dual punctuation, UGH!

Aside from my overwhelming desire to shake Nan and scream at her to get it together, RIVER ROAD was full of suspense and never ending plot twists. I pride myself on my super sleuth abilities and always try to figure out who the culprit is in a suspense novel. I have to admit, I figured out the villain early on in this novel, though I questioned a few times whether I had overlooked someone as a suspect as there were many red herrings to choose from. Though I was confident in my villain choice, the why and the how took me much longer to figure out, so my interest never wavered.

In fact, I found one of the most compelling aspects of RIVER ROAD was that even when the plot line was slightly predictable, it was still gratifying because small details were revealed during those times that I didn’t even realize I had been craving. I did love the way my mind veered off into deep consideration of possible outcomes based on some of the issues that the book brought to light. RIVER ROAD made me remember the age-old saying: “Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone.” Reputations can be destroyed by mere rumors, but some believe that every rumor starts from a kernel of truth. One thing Nan Lewis and I do agree upon is this: Words are powerful.

I give RIVER ROAD 3.5 stars and given my tumultuous relationship with the protagonist, I strayed from my wine rack and found that this book pairs well with a soothing Hot Toddy…heavy on the whiskey.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was my pleasure to provide an honest, unbiased review.

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Blog Tour: Cursed

Book Title: Cursed
Author: Thomas Enger
Review By: Chelsea
Series: Henning Juul #4
Genres: Crime Fiction, Scandinavian Literature, Police Procedural, Mystery
Goodreads

Date Read: 03/03/17
Pub Date: 05/01/17

4 STARS

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

Ever since I started my blog last May, I’ve found myself opening up to new experiences I thought I’d never try. One of those would be accepting books to review in the middle of an ongoing series; I am a Type-A, need to have all the facts and be 100% in control of my reading monster or I get antsy. What if I missed out on something important? What if I’m not getting all the little subtle, inside jokes? What if I’m not familiar with enough of the characterization and a bomb is dropped and MY LIFE IS RUINED?!?!?!?! *Gasp* Can you believe people say I’m dramatic? I never broke this cardinal rule until Karen Sullivan began tempting me with shiny, pretty, deliciously perfect books. Orenda Books is one of those diamond in the rough publishers that started small and is growing exponentially due to the high quality reads they offer. If you are ever going to trust someone enough to jump into a series midway, let it be Karen. Here’s why…

Once again, I’ve picked up an Orenda Book to review because they are like crack. I’m loving the selection of nordic noir that they have to offer; each book keeps to the same characteristics I love in the genre but has their own personal quirks that make them individually so delectable. Cursed was my first read by Thomas Enger and certainly won’t be my last. Guess who is the proud “owner” of his first 2 books in the series via her library? 🙂 While I feel confident anyone can pick this book up to read as a standalone, the engaging writing style and suspenseful plot immediately caused me to crave going back and seeing what all I’d missed involving Henning Juul and Nora. I’m sure if you’ve read any other reviews surrounding this book you’ll realize there is a huge WOW moment in the last few sentences. The hype for once is worthy; the ending shocked me to the point I actually gasped out loud. Well done!

I think the hardest aspect to digest and most worthy plot point is not even the mystery surrounding Hedda Hellberg’s disappearance, but the conflict and suffering amongst Henning and Nora in the recent loss of their son. I believe most parents would agree that to lose a child is the greatest horror imaginable, and the reader can taste the despair and anguish this complex pair are experiencing. I found the multiple threads of storyline all highly entertaining, but this intimate and almost sacred suffering is what brought me to my knees while reading this book. Writing about such a heartbreaking subject can’t have been easy, but the author does it well and installs a firm sense of humanity and mortality to turn this simply from reading a book into having an experience. The plot was steady; I would say it focused more on characterization than high octane action. This gave the novel a meaty, hearty sense of fulfillment that more detail oriented readers will appreciate.

Overall I was highly impressed with my first Enger experience. I’ve heard from multiple fans that each book in the series is fantastic and easily devoured in their own way. From the stunning cover, to the atmospheric descriptions, all the way to that final page, I felt engaged and drawn into the story. The translation flowed very well and I did not feel anything was lost from one end to the other. I’ve lately been savoring these dark, emotional nordic noirs and think it’s due to the fact they have all come from the same fabulous publisher! If you are thinking of giving this series a try but aren’t sure where to begin, feel free to pick up Cursed (book #4) like I did, or start at the beginning of the series with Burned (book #1); you can’t go wrong with either route. Just know if you pick this one up, you’ll be insanely covetous for book #5 like the rest of us! Maybe we can start a support group for readers with Henning Juul Hangover? That’s a thing right?

*As always, many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for hooking me up with the absolute highest quality fiction. It was an absolute pleasure to take place in the blog tour!

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Review: Gone Astray

Book Title: Gone Astray
Author: Michelle Davies
Reviewed By: Chelsea
Series: DC Maggie Neville #1
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Suspense, Mystery, Thriller
Goodreads

Date Read: 03/06/17
Pub Date: 03/24/16

5 STARS

When a Lesley Kinnock buys a lottery ticket on a whim, it changes her life more than she could have imagined . . .

Lesley and her husband Mack are the sudden winners of a £15 million EuroMillions jackpot. They move with their 15-year-old daughter Rosie to an exclusive gated estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving behind their ordinary lives – and friends – as they are catapulted into wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

But it soon turns into their darkest nightmare when, one beautiful spring afternoon, Lesley returns to their house to find it empty: their daughter Rosie is gone.

DC Maggie Neville is assigned to be Family Liaison Officer to Lesley and Mack, supporting them while quietly trying to investigate the family. And she has a crisis threatening her own life – a secret from the past that could shatter everything she’s worked so hard to build.

As Lesley and Maggie desperately try to find Rosie, their fates hurtle together on a collision course that threatens to end in tragedy . . .

Money can’t buy you happiness.
The truth could hurt more than a lie.
One moment really can change your life forever.

When I was offered a review copy of Gone Astray, the only review I had actually read featuring it was from my friend Kate @ Bibliophile Book Club and she really enjoyed it, so I knew I would as well. I’m actually glad I didn’t look into this one too much before reading it; I’ve really been favoring blindly reading most books these days and it’s been an eye opening experience. I was able to go into this debut with absolutely no expectations; I simply knew it was a crime fiction novel and that it was the first in a new series featuring a FLO named DC Maggie Neville. I was a little worried once I saw the book was 450 pages; that’s quite hefty for a thriller and I thought there might be too much fluff to pad the page count. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve flown through a book that thick; the font is large with short chapters so the pacing flows well throughout and doesn’t feel stilted at any point.

What made this book stand out among other police procedurals was not the criminal plot itself; yes it was fantastically done and I had none of the twists figured out, but the side story with Maggie was what fully captured my attention. So many books in the crime fiction genre are fully focused on the case; the authors want us to be shocked and in awe of the brilliant surprises, but most fall short of being truly excellent because they miss out on this important aspect. The reason I am so drawn to authors like Robert Bryndza, Angela Marsons, and Karin Slaughter are due to their enormous talent in developing their re-occuring characters (and to be quite honest, their minor characters and villains as well). My connection with those representing the police force in these stories is the only way for me to have a 5 star reading experience in the genre, and Michelle Davies achieved that goal IMO. Upon finishing the book I found myself excited and eager to continue on with Maggie and her crew; her story was just as complex as the plot involving the crime which I hope will carry over into the next book. I was so keen on reading the next one that I ordered Wrong Place (book #2) before I had even finished Gone Astray!

If you enjoy a good crime thriller that goes beyond surface level story telling, please give this a go. I loved how the author was able to fully captivate my attention without needing an overabundance of blood, gore, and graphic violence. In fact, there isn’t a lot of graphic content of any type in this book; there is some necessary violence and descriptions of wounds but nothing as brutal as most of us are used to. The beauty of this story is how the author uses other ways to horrify and shock us. This novel will appeal to the reader who is more concerned with detail and characterization; please don’t misunderstand though, this book is anything but boring. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I got that special feeling reading this that I have gotten in the past when I have found a new favorite author to follow. So very grateful to have had this one fall on my radar and am super excited for my next book to arrive so that I can continue on with Maggie.

*Many thanks to Francesca Pearce at Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy across the pond; it was an absolute pleasure to provide my honest thoughts and feedback!

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Review: Oak & Mistletoe

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Book Title: Oak & Mistletoe
Author: J.Z.N. McCauley
Reviewed  By: Chelsea
Series: Oak & Mistletoe #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Fiction
Goodreads

Date Read: 03/04/17
Pub Date: 10/11/16

3.5 STARS (Rounded up to 4 on GR)

 

Catherine Green, along with her twin sister and older brother, travels to Ireland on a college graduation trip. Her vacation takes a permanent turn when she lands her dream job at an art and history museum on her beloved Emerald Isle. She meets a handsome stranger named Bowen, an expert of sorts on local ancient studies. Though their first meetings are turbulent at best, Catherine finds herself drawn to him.

Unaware that she is the key to breaking a hidden curse, Catherine unleashes the evil madman Conall and his druid followers, imprisoned since ancient times. Tragedy and loss ensue, sprouting within Catherine the deep seeds of rage that thrust her onto the damaging path of vengeance. Confused by the enigma that is Bowen, his mixed signals, and her own feelings, she is swept away with him on an unexpected journey surrounded by myth and long-forgotten knowledge. In order to stop the evil plans of Conall and his reunified army, Catherine must entwine her fate with peril. Her survival is trivial to her as long as Conall dies. She’ll do whatever it takes.

I know I tagged this book as Young Adult, but I almost feel it should go under the New Adult category, even though that has a bad connotation for some readers. Most NA books these days tend to be Erotica of some sort (which this was not); however, the main characters featured here were in their mid-twenties and the plot gave us the same feeling as a YA Fantasy, which I found really exciting and a bit unique. The age difference, plus the setting of Ireland is what initially drew me in to wanting to review this book and I’m really glad I read it. If I thought I wanted to visit Ireland before, I now know I have a burning desire to get there as soon as physically possible.

The plot here is where I was a bit torn; I felt I wanted a little more depth and detail, as it was a fairly short and quick read, but it was very well written and complex. Knowing that this is book one in the series I’m confident the author will give us even more in the next read, and I’m truly hooked to the point I’m excited to move on to book 2 (coming fall 2017). I found myself absolutely caught up in the descriptions of the setting; this book was so atmospheric that I wondered if McCauley is a native of, or has lived in Ireland at some point. I was highly impressed with the amount of research behind, and accuracy of the mythology and history involving Irish culture and found myself googling quite a bit to check if pieces were true. This lady knows her stuff, and if I ever had a question surrounding Ireland she’s the first person I would call. Maybe she can be my road trip buddy! 🙂

The pacing was extremely fast here, and if you enjoy a different kind of Fantasy with a YA feel I would highly recommend picking this one up. There are so many books in the genre that are focusing on the future with a Sci-Fi aspect that I think it’s refreshing to read something with an “old soul” feel to it. This truly has all the appeal of historical fiction without feeling “boring” or “dated”. I’ve always been a fan of the tales of old in various cultures, and this was a shining example of how to incorporate those tales for a younger audience who wouldn’t usually give this type of read a go. I’m very excited to see where the next book goes, as it left me wanting more (I wouldn’t necessarily call it a cliff hanger, but it did leave a void that needs filling). Many readers who are looking for a less mainstream read will enjoy Oak & Mistletoe.

*Many thanks to the author for providing my review copy; it was a pleasure to provide an honest review. 

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