Posted in Rachel Sanderson

Mirror Me by Rachel Sanderson

Synopsis:

Abbie Fray has moved with her family from Sydney to Derrington, a country town where everybody knows everybody and the mobile reception sucks. She’s left behind her best friend, her school, and her favourite bakery. She thinks her life can’t get any worse.

Then she makes a terrifying discovery.

Abbie looks just like Rebecca O’Reilley, a girl who was brutally murdered in Derrington a year earlier. And it doesn’t take long before Abbie learns there’s more connecting them than just appearance.

Not even a budding romance with the kind, quirky and gorgeous Zeke is enough to stop Abbie’s curiosity about the murder developing into a dangerous obsession.

Who is sending Abbie anonymous threats?

And why does she keep dreaming about the scene of Becky’s death?

As questions mount, Abbie only knows one thing for sure: she must find out what really happened the night Rebecca O’Reilley was killed.

But what if the truth is closer – and deadlier – than she could possibly imagine?

Review:

The book’s description makes it pretty difficult to understand from the beginning the type of story you’re dealing with. Is it a thriller? A fantasy? A paranormal mystery? What I definitely knew is that Mirror Me will float somewhere in the large category of Young Adult books and since I had a few years long obsession with this genre, I was curious to go back to it after so long and see if it’s still my cup of tea.

I guess Mirror Me was a lucky choice, because I honestly didn’t roll my eyes as many times as I was imagining I would be. Yes, it has a few details that seem a bit too much, but if I’m being honest, I think those have to do more with the typical teenage mentality in general rather than with the author’s writing.

Despite starting from a clearly improbable plot, the storyline develops into a very realistic way compared to the general tendency of YA novels. No absent parents, no wild adventures, no sudden crazy love hits (a mild crush is definitely acceptable and expected), no huge dramas. The storyline is calm and down-to-earth, with all the ups and downs that you’re expecting when it comes to a life changing move across the country during the most challenging years of a teen. A teen who now has to deal with an additional issue that turns her even more into an outsider.

I did like the pragmatic relationships between the characters, both when it comes to family and friends, I liked the no-nonsense portrait of the heroine and how balanced her behavior remains, although she’s confronted with more and more challenges and she often feels that she’s losing her mind.

The twist in the last chapters doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The author inserts enough clues during the pages to give you a strong suspicion about who might be the culprit. But the background story that represents the real motive is astonishing and impossible to guess beforehand.

Entertaining without becoming addictive, Mirror Me will be a light read that you will probably enjoy. It doesn’t have any imperfections that would make it an unpleasant story, but in the same time, it also doesn’t come with anything spectacular to make you fall in love with it.

Posted in J.K. Rowling

The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling

Synopsis:

The Ickabog is a fairy tale, set in an imaginary land, which J.K. Rowling says is ‘about truth and the abuse of power’. It was written as a read-aloud story, but it’s suitable for seven to nine-year-olds to read to themselves. The story will be translated into a number of other languages and made available on the website shortly after the English language version appears.

Review:

The Ickabog is a fairytale described as suitable for kids 7 to 9 years old, but if we already learned something from J.K. Rowling’s famous children’s books is that once you’ve started the first pages, you will be compelled, no matter how old you are.

The storyline starts in Cornucopia, one of the greatest and luckiest kingdoms that ever existed, ruled by a well intentioned, but naive and absent king. Following the story of two normal children, their parents and some not so innocent royal advisers, we witness the decay of a once magnificent kingdom and the ever growing mold that roots from corruption, incompetence and fear of speaking out. It’s somehow a story that would still be a valid metaphor if used in any situation, whether we’re thinking about countries, companies, schools or any society in general. Because wherever there’s a group of people, there will always be a fight between right and wrong, between morality and corruption, between the common good and individualism.

Although much more simplistic and obviously, much shorter than any Harry Potter novel (don’t get too excited and give yourself unrealistic hopes, no, it’s nothing similar!), one thing that I found the two stories have in common is how easily they make you care for their characters. In The Ickabog, in a much smaller number of pages, Rowling still plays with your feelings like a puppeteer manoeuvres his marionettes. You will experience every single emotion, from joy, to hope, to fear and frustration and you will despise some characters with an intensity that it will surprise you. Perhaps there is no magic in Cornucopia, but there is definitely something magical about this ability.

The only issue I had with the book is the age of targeted readers. The book’s official description mentions “7 to 9 years old” and honestly, I have no idea what kids these days are reading at that age. So I might be wrong when I’m saying this. But I just felt there’s so much pain and betrayal, so much unfairness and bitterness radiating from the pages of the book that somehow, the joyful moments or even the happy ending (no spoiler here, it’s a fairytale, what would you expect?) might not manage to erase the shadows left by the ugly parts. The main characters may get a somewhat cheery finale, but the sorrow and losses they suffered during the years are still shading their lives. Yes, there’s nothing more real than this lesson, but is indeed “7 to 9” the right age to dwell into this truth?

Posted in Anne-Rae Vasquez

Almost A Turkish Soap Opera by Anne-Rae Vasquez

Synopsis:

Adel and Kamil, two young good looking Turkish men try to immigrate to North America. Adel’s ruthless grand uncle arranges him to marry Yonka (his spoiled obnoxious cousin) in exchange for his immigration status in Canada. The problem is Yonka and Adel hate each other. The drama heats up even more when Adel has an affair with Nora, his beautiful English teacher which ruins Yonka’s plans. And to add to this, his best friend Kamil has a big secret of his own. How did his life turn into a Turkish soap opera?

Review:

Honestly, I have no idea what I was expecting when I started this book. I had it in my kindle for so many years that I don’t even remember purchasing it. But considering the title, I must have imagined I’d find a fun and somewhat ironic or mocking story between the pages.

The book is pretty far from that and the author might have peacefully removed the “almost” from the title, since this is definitely not “almost”, but “exactly” a soap opera. And unfortunately, not even a great one. Trust me on this, my generation grew up in the times when that type of tv shows were booming. I watched everything during those years, from the most crappy ones they made in the beginning to the more modern ones that didn’t kill your neurons while watching them.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the story is terrible, but it’s just very plain, predictable and lacking any grain of salt and pepper. You don’t get attached to the characters, you don’t really get to know them enough to care for them. The length of the book might be also one of the reasons for this, since it’s more a novella than a novel.

The one thing I did appreciate was the way the author portrayed the new generation born in a very traditional society. Although young and more or less independent, a vast majority of the youths are still deeply attached to the old mentalities. For years, I would have thought this wouldn’t be possible, that “young” equals “modern” and “open minded”, until I started interacting with an international community and discovered how wrong I was and that the environment and traditions have an enormous impact on one’s personality. Bonus points for the author for doing such a great job in describing this concept.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only thing that I enjoyed. Yes, I was expecting the novella would be a light and easy read. But the concept of soap operas is to get you addicted, to end each episode with a cliffhanger, to make you wish for more. And that’s precisely what Almost A Turkish Soap Opera fails to deliver.

Posted in Gregg Olsen, Uncategorized

Lying Next To Me by Gregg Olsen

Synopsis:

No matter what you see, no matter what you’ve heard, assume nothing.

Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are vacationing in Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend. It’s the perfect getaway to unplug—and to calm an uneasy marriage. But on Adam’s first day out on the water, he sees Sophie abducted by a stranger. A hundred yards from shore, Adam can’t save her. And Sophie disappears.

In a nearby cabin is another couple, Kristen and Connor Moss. Unfortunately, beyond what they’ve heard in the news, they’re in the dark when it comes to Sophie’s disappearance. For Adam, at least there’s comfort in knowing that Mason County detective Lee Husemann is an old friend of his. She’ll do everything she can to help. She must.

But as Adam’s paranoia about his missing wife escalates, Lee puts together the pieces of a puzzle. The lives of the two couples are converging in unpredictable ways, and the picture is unsettling. Lee suspects that not everyone is telling the truth about what they know—or they have yet to reveal all the lies they’ve hidden from the strangers they married.

Review:

I have no idea how many months passed already since I’m in this “psychological/domestic thriller” loop, but for now, the attraction for this genre looks just as strong as when it started and it’s still bringing me joy and excitement. So here we are, with yet another mystery that I finished in just two-three days: Lying Next To Me.

There’s not a single character in this book that doesn’t look deceiving and shady. Even the only one which seems pretty clean in the beginning will make you change your mind later. As for all the rest…no chance they won’t make you squint suspiciously to anything they do, say or even think! This is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects. When it comes to this type of books, usually the authors prefer to mislead you into thinking that their characters are innocent and later to shock you by revealing their true nature. But Gregg Olsen makes everybody look guilty. You doubt everyone, you detect all the lies they’re telling both to themselves and to the others around them and yet, you still cannot put all the puzzle pieces together.

I normally don’t even try to unravel a mystery and just enjoy the ride as it comes, but this time I was convinced that I discovered the murderer way before reaching the final chapters. So I was completely surprised to see that in the end, I was and I wasn’t right in the same time. I did get a part of the puzzle, but only to notice that I missed a whole other bunch of it.

I enjoyed the whole story, the characters’ double faces, the imperfect matches, the apparently untied threads that the author leaves here and there.

What I definitely didn’t like was the rushed ending, the way everything looks fast-forwarded. There’s a constant cadence during the whole book, not to slow, not to fast and in the end, everything escalates in an unnatural way. I guess the author’s intention was to raise the reader’s pulse and the adrenaline levels but it felt unnecessary and unflattering for the whole story. All of a sudden, you’re witnessing this abrupt evolution of some of the characters and therefore, the whole story’s development looks forced and hasty. That’s actually the only reason why I dropped my rating from 5 to 4 stars so besides this annoying aspect, the story was a great and engrossing read.

Posted in Joanne Serling, J.D. Serling

Good Neighbors by Joanne Serling

Synopsis:

In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.

Review:

First things first: this is not a thriller. It might be described as one, it might even give you the illusion that it is, at least in the first pages. But slowly, slowly, you will understand that it’s not. By definition, a thriller is suppose to…mm… thrill you? To surprise you? And Good Neighbors has a good start in building that required tension. But somehow, chapter after chapter, the tension just dissipates somewhere in thin air, leaving you with a deflated balloon that hisses embarrassingly instead of popping with the glorious bang that you’d expect.

Buuuut…. There is a big “but”. I did actually enjoy the book. I can’t say I was “thrilled” (pun intended) to go back to it each time I interrupted my reading sessions and it did take me a while to finish it because of this reason. But weirdly, I liked the dark colors the author uses to paint her whole story. The slow action didn’t disturb me, the lack of suspense didn’t feel like a flaw. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain feeling of apprehension, only that it’s not as concentrated as I was expecting when I read the synopsis.

I also loved how dark, somehow rhythmic and melancholic the protagonist’s voice was, as well as how lyrical Serling’s style is because of the abundance of verbless clauses. Few authors surprised me during the years with a very unique writting style that would be worth reading even if they’d write a grocery list, but I think J.D. Serling might actually be one of them.

And my-oh-my, I couldn’t wait to write this review only to share this one thing with anyone who’s reading it: the deeper the writter digs in the heroine’s mind and soul, the deeper you feel she went into your own. There’s nothing wrong with the protagonist. Realistically speaking, she doesn’t do or act in any wrong ways. But in the same time, there’s something disturbing, there’s something that feels somehow too personal and hidden. Or, perhaps, that’s exactly the issue: that it should be concealed and yet, there it is, out in the open, a truth about each one of us that we never acknowledge even to ourselves. You will find that ugly part of yourself in one of the protagonist’s thoughts. Perhaps when she’s thinking about all the ways she wishes her kid to be different. Or when she’s judging her own husband. Or when she’s not such a good friend as she likes to think. When she is not saddened about somebody else’s unhappiness. When she throws money to cover the guilt of lacking the proper feelings or taking the right actions. When she avoids responsibility just because her comfort zone is warm and nice. We all do things like these. We all have dirty sides that we refuse to look at. We all know they are there, despise them, feel guilty about them and yet, do nothing to correct our ways. Maybe because unconsciously, we feel they are irremediable, maybe they are our souls’ diseases that cannot be cured.