Category Archives: Fiction

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I went into this thriller with low expectations, and that at the very least I sought to be entertained even if the story was rubbish. But I was PLEASANTLY taken aback. Local Girl Missing is approved. A few months ago (or could’ve been last year) I started reading The Sisters – same author but her debut – and DNF’d it since the plot was going nowhere. I don’t remember much else. I think debuts are tricky, it’s either a hit or miss in any genre. Although I find that authors who write mystery or crime dole out books like it’s nobody’s business 📚 There’s more where that came from, so to speak.

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Local Girl Missing is about Frankie, a Londoner, who goes back to the seaside town she grew up in. What pulls her back to the town is a phone call from her best friend’s brother and news that parts of Sophie have been found. Sophie went missing 18 years ago and is believed to have been murdered. If you know anything about my reading tastes, I (capital l) Love mysteries set in small towns brimming with secrets. The story is divided between Frankie’s POV and Sophie’s diary and is thoroughly creepy as it leads up to the day when Sophie goes missing.

I enjoyed the novel a lot and flew through it. Not gonna lie, Frankie was a little annoying and immature at times. The ending was truly wtf, I didn’t see it coming at all. I’m now curious about Claire Douglas’ latest novel ‘Last Seen Alive,’ and I see it has amazing reviews on goodreads. Yay! I highly recommend Local Girl Alive if you’re going through a reading slump or just want to read a quick-paced thriller with a satisfying ending! 

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Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (3. 5 stars) 

This was my first Agatha Christie novel! ❤️ My brother has been recommending Agatha Christie to me since a decade – no kidding. I really wanted to watch the movie which motivated me to pick up Murder on the Orient Express.

The novel is set entirely on a train travelling from Istanbul to London. Hercule Poirot, “the world’s most famous detective,” is aboard and as expected crime and mystery follows at his footsteps. On a snowy night, a man is found stabbed 12 times. There are a dozen travellers (now suspects) in the coach. What I loved about the novel was Poirot’s witticisms, the interrogation scenes, the backstory, and the final reveal. Agatha Christie’s writing is precise and to the point. So is the structure of the book.

My preference is towards seedier crime novels with modern settings, and Agatha Christie leans towards respectable or classic crime. I’ll definitely be picking her novels up in the future when I want a cozy read. After I finished reading Murder on the Orient Express I went to watch the movie a few hours later. It was lovely! I was from riveted start to finish and even though I knew what the suspense was I was still invested and entertained. Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job at directing and playing Poirot. I have no idea why the reviews online aren’t that favourable… I was not disappointed at all, this was a clean-cut mystery with a fantastic ending.

I’d highly recommend Murder on the Orient Express, both the novel and the film adaptation.

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Review)

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⭐ ⭐

Well, this was a load of crap.

I haven’t changed my mind even after sleeping on it. After reading the last page, all I could think was how unfinished the story felt. Also, plot… hello? Nada. The Book of Strange New Things is a “science fiction” novel that is about Peter Leigh, a Christian pastor, who leaves his wife Bea behind on Earth and goes on an intergalactic mission with a company named USIC. He reaches planet Oasis and is ready to spread the word of God to the native population.

There is some semblance of direction and plot in the first 180 pages but after that, it’s boring. It’s annoying. The love story between Peter and Bea falls apart quickly once they’ve separated. The emails they write one another are fucking tragic. Bea whines about earthquakes in (I don’t even remember) Nepal and tsunamis and how people are dying and there’s no chocolate in Tesco’s. Boo hoo. Peter couldn’t give any fucks either and writes back infrequently, angering his wife. At one point I wanted Bea’s character to die so the emails would stop.

Peter on the other hand is loving Oasis. To be honest, I did enjoy Michel Faber’s world building and descriptions of the new & alien planet: the days are long, the air seems ‘alive’ and moves differently, the rain travels in swirly dots, and the Oasan’s are strange looking creatures who can speak a little English. I thought Faber’s attempts to demonstrate the Oasan’s language was juvenile and stupid. The s’s and t’s were represented by weird symbols. Peter is the Oasan’s third pastor, the first two having gone ‘fully native’ and run away. I thought the story would have an element of mystery and maybe  have some sinister aspects. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Coming to the writing, it’s not bad. Michel Faber can certainly write. He explores ideas and aspects of humanity but that couldn’t hold the plot together, which is a complete and utter mess. From what I read online, this might be Faber’s last fiction novel. He wrote The Book of Strange New Things as a way of dealing with the passing of his wife to cancer. He felt distant and alienated, because during the time his wife was suffering he enjoyed a lot of success in his career when his novels were turned into a tv show and movie. I still haven’t changed by mind though, this was an insanely boring novel. You might want to skip this one. 

Mystery/Thriller Reviews #2: Her Every Fear & Friend Request

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Trashy 3-star thrillers are my jam. A few months ago, my best friend read and hated (or expressed dissatisfaction for) The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson and proceeded to spoil the whole plot for my entertainment. It was silly but I was intrigued anyway, I really wanted to read Swanson. Her Every Fear was marketed as a “Hitchcockian Thriller” and… I was sold. Think, Dial M For Murder and The Talented Mr. Ripley but not as sensational.

The story goes like this: Kate and Corbin are apartment swapping cousins. Anxiety ridden, Kate is somewhat relieved to escape from her nightmarish past in London and live in a new city (Boston). The night she arrives at the apartment complex, Corbin’s next door neighbour Audrey has been found murdered. This novel had the potential to be great noir but Swanson shoots down the suspense fairly early on and the leftover plot is predictable.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall is my more recent read and I definitely enjoyed this more. I might be biased but imho, women authors write better domestic thrillers. Friend Request – as you’d have guessed – involves Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account two weeks ago and haven’t looked back since. It honestly feels good to be rid of it & Laura Marshall is brilliant at describing just how soul-sucking social media is. The blurb on the front reads: “Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?” YES. The timeline flicks between 1989 and 2016 and is about Louise, a single mother in London, who carries a deeply tragic secret involving her classmate. There were many satisfying twists at the end which I did *not* see coming. A brilliant whodunit!

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This was a lovely little read! The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a historical paranormal-romance set in England during the 1920’s. Maybe I’m overreaching but I’ll use Simone St. James’ novels as palate cleansers in the future as her other works sound just as cozy and easy to get through as The Haunting of Maddy Clare… I don’t usually pick up paranormal novels but I do love ghost stories, especially at this time of year.

Sarah Piper is a young woman looking for work in London. Through the agency she works for Sarah is hired as an assistant to Alistair, a self proclaimed ghost-hunter. He writes and investigates ghost hauntings around England. The village of Waringstoke beckons them with the strange case of Maddy Clare, a servant girl who ‘lives on’ as a poltergeist. They (along with Matthew, Alistair’s other assistant) investigate Maddy’s past, as something clearly tragic occurred. I won’t spoil one certain aspect that I loved in the plot, but I felt like Simone St. James was paying a nod to Daphne du Maurier.

I loved the atmosphere – small village, secrets, the forest – and of course, the relationship between Sarah and Matthew is swoon-worthy. I also enjoyed reading the descriptions of Alistair’s and Matthew’s experiences as soldiers during WW1. Now these are aspects of the book I didn’t vibe with: the “mystery” was quite an easy one to solve and during the ending, Sarah got very close to ‘damsel in distress’ territory. Despite these minor flaws, I enjoyed reading The Haunting of Maddy Clare immensely! 

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Review)

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⭐ ⭐

I’ll say it: The Other Boleyn Girl is straight up historical chick-lit. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with chick lit or romance, they’re just not my genres of choice. I picked up a second-hand copy of The Other Boleyn Girl many years ago with the intention of reading it soon. Indeed, I was still very excited when I started reading it. As I’m sure everyone is familiar, the novel is set in Tudor England and is about the Boleyn family’s rise to power under King Henry VIII.

Despite being set in the 16th century, the language Philippa Gregory uses is extremely simplistic and easy. As a reader, I didn’t feel transported to that era. There was very little talk about the Tudor culture or politics. The plot mainly centred around Henry VIII’s relationships with Mary Boleyn and later, her sister Anne. Philippa Gregory paints her characters in very black and white terms & there are no nuances. The King is represented as a child-like tyrant, Mary is fair-haired and follows the rules (a quintessential good girl) whereas Anne is dark-haired, ambitious and arrogant – she pays for this dearly later on. 

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I get it, women led pretty shitty lives back then and family ambitions trumped personal happiness. The thing is, The Other Boleyn Girl didn’t have to be 700+ pages long. A huge chunk of it could have been edited out because there were tons of repetitive scenes and dialogues. We get it Anne, you hate your sister! In the end, the plot became a tiny bit more fast paced and interesting with more darker themes such as witchcraft. Overall, this novel was surprisingly monotonous and bereft of any sense of the 16th century.

Side note: Having seen paintings of Henry VIII, he’s certainly not a looker and in his later years he was obese and suffering from health issues. But, I actually laughed out loud at Philippa Gregory’s descriptions of Henry in the latter part of the novel as having “piggy eyes” and being “a fat invalid”. I wish I was making this up… *cringe* 

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Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ (2.5 Stars)

I had high expectations for Her Body and Other Parties based on the blurb and reviews I’d seen floating around the internet. After I read it, all I could think was “meh” but no, I don’t think this is a bad collection of short stories. It just didn’t work for me. This book has elements of eroticism, queerness, horror, feminism, science fiction and magical realism – a seemingly perfect read for October… 

“Many people live and die without ever confronting themselves in the darkness.”

“The Husband Stitch” was my favourite story of the bunch. I didn’t know this but the story is based on a creepy story called The Green Ribbon. I interpreted this story as a feminist tale having interesting themes like body autonomy and self-worth. The second story “Inventory” is set in a dystopian world riddled with plague in which the narrator recounts her sexual adventures. “Eight Bites” and “Real Women Have Bodies” are horrific explorations of society’s obsession with thinness. Unfortunately, I didn’t ‘get’ or enjoy the other stories in Machado’s collection.

The women in these stories are multifaceted: some are beat down (literally and otherwise) and some rise above their predicaments. Some women encounter ghosts of their pasts or society’s present, and some women get consumed by their own madness. Carmen Machado is amazing at writing and writing ideas but I didn’t adore her plots. Her Body and Other Parties is shortlisted for the National Book Awards 2017, so it’s worth checking out if the blurb piques your interest.