Book review: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter


Title: The Good Daughter

Author: Karin Slaughter

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 13th July 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy smalltown family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – Pikeville’s notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.
Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself – the archetypal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again – and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatised – Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case which can’t help triggering the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried for ever …
 

My review:

The Good Daughter starts with a horrific murder which is suggested to leave a mark on sisters Charlotte and Samantha forever. The first chapter stuns with intensity, suspense and mystery. However, what I didn’t know at the time is that the rest of the book follows suit with some parts even more thrilling than the preface.

“I’ve got to figure out before I die whether I want to be happy or I want to be right.”

After reading the first chapter I knew that I would be hooked and would not be able to put this book down until the end. There was too much unknown which I felt I wanted to understand immediately and although we had only been given a glimpse into Charlotte and Samantha’s lives, I instantly felt a connection to them and a need to find out how the tragic events affected them. Needless to say I got what I wished for as the story line unfolds in a chilling  and vivid manner with flashbacks, retellings and snippets of an even more gruesome act of violence that follows.

As far as character growth goes I can undoubtedly agree with other fans that Karin Slaughter is one of the best in the genre. I often find it hard to connect with the main characters in Thrillers as very often the author decides to focus on the plot, however I found myself invested in Charlotte and Samantha’s story lines right from the beginning. It was incredibly interesting to see how their fates after that day twenty-eight years ago took entirely different paths not only based on the event but also their reactions. There was even room to explore the complexity of father-daughter relationships as Samantha is soon reunited with her father, Rusty, after years apart. On the complete opposite end there was also variety in the characters one might expect to find in a small town in southern USA, however still explored with dignity and integrity.

Upon reflection I feel like there was not enough depth in the parallel story line which dominated the present-day plot. The characters involved in the trial were diverse and the hints given throughout on what happened were just enough to keep the reader interested. However, it felt like the backstory rather than the main story line at several points throughout the book. Towards the end a few shocking twists were dropped which shifted the focus from the sisters’ relationship to the current murder investigation and it was at this point where I finally felt like both story lines were as relevant and significant as each other.

Karin Slaughter managed to get just the right balance of complexity and tragedy in The Good Daughter. I was impressed at how the book felt slow and long-winded yet intense and sharp at the same time. This delicate mix gave way for a superb thriller with many wonderful characters and a plot thickened with suspense. This was my first book from this author in years and I was quickly reminded of why she is one of the finest in the genre.

Book review: The Passengers by John Marrs


Title: The Passengers

Author: John Marrs

Genre: Science Fiction/Thriller

Publisher: Ebury

Publication date: 1st April 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

The new gripping page-turning thriller from the bestselling author of THE ONE – soon to be a major Netflix series.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two – who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem?

My review:

In an alternate universe driverless cars have become a popular form of travel. Technology and expertise have created what appears to be a safer and more efficient way of getting to places and it is thought that fewer accidents happen as a result. However, their safety is put to the test when a hacker decides to test the power of the authorities when he warns the public that eight cars have been reprogrammed to crash into each other in several hours time. What follows is an intense and remarkable story line which follows all eight passengers as they are informed of their fate in the most twisted circumstances.

The concept behind The Passengers seem simple at first yet it is cleverly plotted and developed which ultimately results in a gripping and evolving story line that is difficult to break from until the very end. The narrative is engrossing and fast-paced and the plot moves from one twist to another with ease. At no point did I feel bored or detached from the story line, in fact I found myself rushing through each chapter keen to discover the passengers’ fate. The pace felt ideal, with just enough room for character growth but also fast enough to make the reader feel like they are speeding down the motorway in one of the cars.

The focus jumps from one character to another as we are introduced to the events leading up to the crash. Each passenger has a unique background and, although it was easier to relate to some more than others, the variety of controversies that the author brings up, from infidelity to death, felt both daring and exciting. Being able to relate to each character on a deeper level created a very realistic reading experience and I had to reassure myself several times that I was not trapped in one of the self-drive cars with a passenger. Although the concept may seem engaging, it is ultimately the characters which made this book truly special for me.

John Marrs doesn’t disappoint with his latest release, in fact this is easily one of the best thrillers that I have read this year. The mixture of a thickened plot, diverse characters and an exciting setting created a masterpiece which will linger in my mind for a long time.

Book review: Dear Lily by Drew Davies


Title: Dear Lily

Author: Drew Davies

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 17th May 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

“Dear Lily,
It’s me, Joy, your much wiser and (very slightly) older sister. I thought I’d start a new tradition of letter writing – now that we’re long distance.
On the plane over here, I began to cry in seat 21C. I think the magnitude of it finally hit me, after everything that happened…
I haven’t even unpacked yet – the only thing I’ve taken out of my suitcase is Harville, your beloved childhood teddy. Sorry for stealing him, but I need him more than you do. Every time I look at that little brown bear I think about our childhood. Remember that dance we made up to Annie’s ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’? (Remember the broom choreography?)
I’m also sorry for abandoning you – I’ve always been your agony aunt, and a buffer in your infamous shouting matches with Mum. But I had to leave, Lily, I had to.
Anyway, I’m here now. I’m here to start over, and to face up to the past. I want to learn to laugh again, and to find someone to love who will maybe even love me back. You always told me I was just getting by, not actually living, so I’m finally doing it. Wish me luck, little sister.
Love,
Joy x

My review:

Sometimes authors manage to perfectly capture in words and feelings what the average adult goes through and Drew Davies certainly managed to do this with ease in Dear Lily. This book made me laugh, reminisce and wonder and that is exactly what I was hoping for when I decided to read it.

Dear Lily is told through a series of letters and this format cultivated an even stronger connection between Joy and Lily. Each chapter represents a letter that Joy writes to her sister Lily soon after her decision to move to Denmark. Not only were the letters insightful and wonderful but also allowed for discussion of some difficult topics that people usually don’t like to bring up face to face. It is somehow so much easier to do so in writing and this manifested itself as the chapters and letters evolved and the conversations become deeper as it Joy opened up to Lily and shared everything on her mind.

The characters are incredibly witty and genuine. Several times throughout the book I felt like I either was Joy or I could be a very good friend of hers as her struggles of living life in a foreign country started to develop one after another, very similar to my experience living abroad. So many of the cultural differences such as difficulties to make friends and attempts to understand her colleagues at work were sincere and extremely well incorporated. As each new letter was introduced I felt an even stronger connection with Joy and a willingness to keep reading and find out the original reason she decided to write these letters to her sister.

Unfortunately, I had a feeling very early on into the book about what really happened to Lily and I was right. This didn’t interfere with my experience while reading this book however I didn’t feel enlightened once details on Lily were revealed towards the end. If I have to be picky this would be my only concern with this book as all other factors worked wonderfully together to create a truly captivating read. The writing is excellent and the story is heartfelt and beautifully told. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to connect with the narrator and to those readers who thrive on passing through a range of emotions during their reading experience.

The Liebster Award

Studious Saturday

Happy Saturday! It’s going to be a rainy weekend here and so I am really looking forward to spending the majority of my time reading in bed. This week’s Studious Saturday post is a tag which has been really fun to complete.

What is The Liebster Award?

“The Liebster Award is an award that exists only on the internet and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The earliest case of the award goes as far back as 2011. Liebster in German means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.” – The Global Aussie

Rules:

  • Say thank you to the person who has nominated you for the Award.
  • Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
  • Nominate 11 people
  • Ask the people who you have nominated 11 questions

I’ve been tagged by Emer who has proposed the below questions. Thanks so much for tagging me, Emer! These questions really made me think and reflect which I love!

  1. If you had the power to talk to and be understood by any animal, what animal would you choose and why? – Dogs because I would love to have a dog one day and it would be extra special if we could communicate not just through actions but words as well.
  2. If you could spend a year living in another country where would you choose and why? – I’ve already done this twice before but only one was a choice. If I had to move again I would probably choose Switzerland because I fell in love with the country when I visited last year and it is one of the few places I have been to where I can see myself building a life.
  3. Would you rather be the best player on a terrible team or the worst player on a great team? – Tricky question but I think that I would prefer to be the worst player on a great team because I would be able to learn a lot from my teammates and improve enough to become like them.
  4. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Explain your reasoning. – No because they are both different shapes. A hot dog is like a sandwich but it is not a sandwich. You could also argue that nachos are pizza because of the topping and technically if you ignore the size they are something like a pizza but that doesn’t make them a pizza, same with hot dogs and sandwiches.
  5. Do you like to read the book before you watch its film adaptation? – Yes! I almost always read the book before watching a movie.
  6. What is your all time favourite TV show? – Friends is by far my all time favourite TV show. I’m currently rewatching it from the beginning and realising all over again how much I love it!
  7. Do you have any special or unusual talents? – I am quite a good ballroom dancer after having been dancing for over 15 years. I wouldn’t say that it’s unusual because there are many ballroom dancers across the world but it’s definitely a special for me!
  8. What strange food combinations do you enjoy? (Mine is scallions in milky tea… yes I know it is weird!!) – Yes, that is quite weird! My favourite food is strawberries and I eat them with anything I can find.
  9. If they were making a film of your life who would you like to cast as yourself? – It’s a tough question but I would probably pick Mila Kunis because she has a background of various cultures and languages and a story similar to mine and if they made a movie of my life I would like that to be the running theme.
  10. What would you do if you were invisible for a day? – Travel! The temptation to sneak into any flight would be too much so my first stop would be the airport.
  11. What three books would you recommend that everyone read? – A Thousand Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Quiet by Susan Cain and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I tag:

MeggyIngeYvoManiMarinaEllieAshToyaMeaghanShrutiDee

My questions are…

  1. If you could pick anywhere in the world to be right now where would you pick and why?
  2. Do you have any pet peeves?
  3. Do you ever skip to read the last few pages of a book to find out how it ends?
  4. If you had to keep only one physical book in your home which book would it be and why?
  5. What is your opinion on audiobooks?
  6. Do you have a favourite quote that you like to live by or follow?
  7. What’s the first thing you like to do when you get back home from a busy day?
  8. Imagine you wake up one day only to realise that you are famous. Would you love it or hate it?
  9. If the world from Fahrenheit 451 ever becomes a reality how would you react and what would you do?
  10. Is there a book that made you fall in love with reading?
  11. If you met your five year old self right now what advice would you give him/her?

All the people tagged deserve this award and I hope that they enjoy answering the questions if they choose to do it. (No problem if not!) If anyone else decides to do this tag and answer my questions please let me know as I would love to read your answers!

Book review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Scribner

Publication date: 6th May 2014

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

“Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My review:

All the Light We Cannot See follows Marie-Laure as she moves away from Paris with her father at the age of six, and Werner, an orphan who is struggling to find his place in the world as he joins the forces in Nazi Germany. The reader joins these two characters on their incredible journey as they try to survive the war each in their own way. Both characters are well developed and likable enough for the reader to form a true bond and I felt eager to follow their journeys.

Written in short alternating chapters of each character’s POV, the plot feels almost feels too linear and I wondered why the author chose this style several times as I was reading the book. My favourite part was by far the moment when their paths cross as this was the closure I needed from the beginning and I finally understood his decision of writing the book in this style.

As far as storytelling goes, no words can do this book justice and Anthony Doerr deserves all the awards. Only a few other authors come to mind when it comes to telling a heartfelt story from start to finish but none manage to do so with as much ease and finesse. Although the scenery is almost always dreary and somber as the war spreads through France, the feeling of hope is so deep rooted in this book that it makes for a very raw and real reading experience.

My pet peeve in Historical Fiction is short chapters as I feel that there is not enough depth to the narrative and not enough time to truly engage with the scenery and characters. I definitely felt that way as I read this book and I would have preferred longer chapters focusing on each character rather than small snippets into their lives until their reunion. I could have carried on reading past the ending as by that point I was so invested in both characters and would have enjoyed reading whichever way the story developed.

It is no wonder that All the Lights We Cannot See is the Goodread’s Historical Fiction win of 2014. This book is moving, exciting and incredible. If you decide to read any Historical Fiction book, even if it is not your choice of genre, I am sure that you will not be disappointed if you make it this one.

Summer Sweatalong Book Tag

Studious Saturday

This week’s Studious Saturday post is a tag which has been really fun to complete. Thank you, Lori, for tagging me! If you don’t follow Lori yet you should definitely take a look at her blog!

The Rules

  1. Link back to the original creator of the book tag (thebookwormdreamer).
  2. Start off with telling us your favourite season and why it is/isn’t summer!
  3. Tag five friends to take part.
  4. Enjoy!

My favourite season: Winter

I definitely do not enjoy the stifling summer heat here in Madrid. If I have to pick a favourite season it would most likely be winter because I always associate it with Christmas and New Year’s celebration which I love because I spend them surrounded by family. I also like being wrapped up and watching the snow fall from indoors (although we don’t get much of it around here).

Don’t Stop! A book you couldn’t stop reading:



Circe was just too good to stop reading and I had to force myself to leave it several times in order to not miss my stop and arrive to work on time!

You’re a cheetah – A book you read in just one day:



I remember starting this book during a flight and trying to rush and finish it but failing to do so. I then proceeded to finish it as soon as I arrived home.

Couldn’t let go – A book you reread straight away:

None! I don’t reread books.

Calm it down! A book that got your heart racing:



Twisted sure did get my heart racing on several occasions and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end.

Second best – A sequel you read faster than the first:



I am a huge fan of Cara Hunter’s writing and read the third book in the DI Adam Fawley series right after it was published!

Books on fire! A series you read straight through:

It only took me around one week to read Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series and I still remember the excitement of finishing one book and starting the next. This series is by far one of my favourites.

Midnight Madness! A book that kept you up late:



I stayed up very late several nights in a row trying to finish The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It was tough because there are so many little details that end up being key to the story line so I was skipping pages and turning back to check facts the entire time.

 

I won’t tag anyone this time but I really encourage everyone to do this tag. It is so great to look back on books that we hurried through because they were so brilliantly written!

Book review: Devotion by Madeline Stevens


Title: Devotion

Author: Madeline Stevens

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Publication date: 15th August 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Summary:

“Ella Crawford is 26, lonely, and so broke that she seduces strange men when she suspects they’ll buy her dinner. Her fate changes the day she begins nannying for a rich and beautiful Upper East Side mother. Both women are just 26 – but unlike Ella, Lonnie has a doting husband and son, artistic talent, and old family money. Ella is mesmerised by Lonnie’s girlish affection and disregard for the normal boundaries of friendship and marriage, but resentment grows too, alongside this dizzying attraction.
Crackling with sensuality and heart-quickening suspense, Madeline Stevens’ searing debut novel explores themes of class, aspiration, female friendship, sexuality, and obsession.

My review:

Despite a strong start, the story line in Devotion lacked focus and the characters failed to impress as they engaged in several events that were purposeless and not really explained. I expected Devotion to explore a wide range of topics related to class, opportunity and friendship, which it did to an extent, but was ultimately left questioning the plot and each character’s intentions.

As soon as Elle starts her new job as nanny to Lonnie and James’ son, it becomes clear that her world is about to change drastically. It is not long until she realises that they lead a lifestyle she can only hope to mirror some day and this concept, together with Lonnie’s mysterious and bold nature, is enough to drive Elle to obsession. For me this aspect felt somewhat sluggish as most of the first half of the book was spent analysing Elle’s thoughts and reactions with little background to her previous life. Introducing Lonnie’s thoughts through her diary entries was a successful way of delving into her world of secrets and regrets and I was hoping to experience the same through her manuscript but unfortunately it felt too detached and irrelevant to the main story line.

There was little direction and focus on the plot which ultimately led to further indifference and disregard for the characters. I spent the first half of the book trying to understand the path the author wanted to take with these characters and setting and the second half of the book puzzled at the turn of events during the scheduled holiday. I struggled to understand the final few chapters which felt disjointed from the story line and also a little sudden and rushed.

This book raised some key issues related to friendship and the difference in class and lifestyle but fell short of my expectations. I would have preferred a deeper focus on the plot and an insight to Elle’s past as a way to connect with the main characters and understand their purpose.

Devotion is out to buy now!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.