The Little French Bistro by Nina George

BLOG‘Learn to love what you do, whatever it is, and you won’t have any problems. You’ll suffer, but then you’ll feel, and when you feel, you’re alive. You need troubles to be alive.’

Marianne has been in a terribly unhappy marriage for over forty years. During a trip to Paris, she decides she has had enough, which leads to a terrifying event on the Seine. Soon after, the discovery of a lovely town in the Brittany region calls to her and she sets out on an unexpected journey. Upon her arrival she is charmed by her surroundings, meets a cast of interesting characters and slowly finds a life that she never knew.

This is a new release from the author of The Little Paris Bookshop, which once again takes us to beautiful regions of France, this time to lovely Brittany. It is a book about finding your happiness and how it is never too late to change your destiny and set off on a new path. The setting and the descriptions of towns and places is quite appealing, but I struggled to connect to the characters, particularly Marianne who comes across as one-dimensional and lacking real depth. There are a few subplots and without compelling characters it does feel like a bit much. In this case, I was just not the right reader for this novel. It is a book that will appeal to many readers, and if you enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop, this story may work for you as well.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: June 13, 2017.

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

BLOG“People must be terrified of losing all mystery. No one wants the complete picture, the whole story. It would leave no room for the fictions we need to tell ourselves about ourselves.”

Ava Antipova has always wanted to run away, and after a deep betrayal she finally sets off for Paris where she makes her home and creates a new life. However, the news of her twin sister Zelda’s death leaves her in shock, bringing her back to her childhood home and reuniting her with her troubled and fractured family. Ava feels things are not quite right and she cannot shake off her suspicions. She soon begins to receive letters and messages from Zelda herself that are clues to her whereabouts, leading Ava on a scavenger hunt to find her sister and the truth.

“I realize that I’m again filling in the chinks with fantasies, stuffing the cracks of absence with stories.”

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Dead Letters is a page-turning mystery that captured my attention from the first paragraph right up to the last page. The novel starts off with Ava telling the story of her and her sister, Zelda’s birth and how they received their names, which provides a great introduction to these two characters. The family in the story is deeply troubled and dysfunctional and it is not one of those books where you necessarily like the characters, but instead it is about being drawn into their chaotic world and anticipating as to how it will all unfold. I very much enjoyed the writing in this novel and the tone the author sets, which is a perfect balance of introspective and sarcastic. Overall, a compelling mystery that ponders our relationships with others and our relationship with ourselves.

“We sit quietly and I’m unsure of what else to say. We are in dangerous territory; we could reminisce, savouring the memories of when it was good. Get lost in what it was like to be young and stupid in love. But that would overwrite how things became, and how we left them.”

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

BLOGEric Thorn (@EricThorn) followed you”

Follow Me Back is a young adult mystery novel that tells the story of a girl struggling with agoraphobia, a famous pop star, and a connection that develops over Twitter. Tessa’s agoraphobia has confined her to her room, the one place she truly feels safe. She finds escape and solace in the fandom of pop star, Eric Thorn, and has developed a sizeable following on Twitter (@TessaHeartsEric), which she has dedicated to her love of the singer. Eric Thorn feels trapped by his fame and general lack of freedom, especially after the murder of a fellow pop star by a crazed fan, he is frustrated with the intense online fan world. His impulsive decision to troll Tessa’s Twitter account one evening leads to an unexpected connection of mutual understanding. However, their plan to finally meet in person takes a dangerous turn with a night neither expected.

This was an addictive little read. The book takes turns telling the story from Tessa and Eric’s perspectives, and interspersed throughout are police transcripts of the night in question, along with tweets and direct messages. All of this builds the suspense as to what happened and works well with the overall story. I did find that at times the timeline jumped forward too much, and with those jumps we miss what would have been great opportunities to really develop and relay the connection between Tessa and Eric. Also, the introduction of a particular character about sixty percent into the novel was a bit of a head-scratcher. With that said, this is one enjoyable, suspenseful, and fun read. It looks like Follow Me Back will be a part of a two book series, and with that ending I am hooked and ready for the next one.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: June 6, 2017.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

IMG_4707“Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.”

In her follow up to The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins is back with a story about two mysterious deaths in a town that is itself shrouded in mystery. A woman is found dead in the town’s infamous river, leaving behind her fifteen-year-old daughter. The fact that a young girl met the same fate not too long prior to this, raises many questions. But these are not the first such deaths, as there are stories of a number of women meeting their end in that river. Through the perspective of a handful of characters that are either connected to the deceased or part of the investigation, the story slowly unravels, revealing many long buried truths.

“No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.”

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As someone who was a big fan of The Girl on the Train (could not put it down), I was excited to see what Paula Hawkins would release next. I didn’t go into this new book with any particular expectations, just the hope of a good book and an interesting read. I was definitly not disappointed. There are certain aspects of this novel that are similar in  nature to The Girl on the Train, such as multiple character perspectives, unlikable characters, and the unreliability of memory. However, Into the Water has a very different feel and stands on its own. Each chapter provides the perspective of a different character, and as the novel progresses you really begin to get a feel for this small, unsettling town and its tragic history. Even though there are a number of characters introduced, I never felt lost or struggled to keep track of everyone, and piecing together all the ways everyone is connected was part of the initial intrigue.

I wouldn’t say this book is gripping or suspenseful, but rather more laid back and methodical in the way it slowly assembles the pieces and unravels the mystery. Into the Water provides an intriguing mystery, memorable characters, and a chilling and eerie tone that sets the stage for an enjoyable read.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

BLOG“She’s not exactly ill. Your only duty will be to watch her.”

Lib Wright is a nurse who worked alongside Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War. Her distinction as a Nightingale Nurse is what leads to her being hired for a two week assignment in a small Irish village. She does not know the details of the case and is in for a shock when she arrives at her destination. Upon her arrival she learns that her sole duty for the two week period is to watch over an eleven-year-old girl who will not eat, and has not eaten anything in four months, according to her parents. Many believe this claim to be a hoax, while many others look to the girl as a miracle. Over the two weeks, Lib is determined to discover the truth as the days pass by and the girl’s condition deteriorates.

The Wonder is a novel with a very intriguing premise. The mysterious circumstances regarding eleven-year-old Anna’s condition is what carries this story forward, and the author creates an eerie, Gothic atmosphere that is quite captivating. I did find the overall pacing of the novel to be slow… very slow. This made getting through the story a bit of a challenge and I found my attention wearing away from the words on the page. It is a unique and interesting premise, however I do wish the story itself had captured my attention as much as the initial description. Ultimately, The Wonder did fall a bit short for me.

*E-copy provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

IMG_4589“Difficult questions, simple answers. What is a community?

It is the sum total of our choices.”

This new novel from Fredrik Backman may be his best yet. Beartown is a thought-provoking and emotional story of a small town that is on the verge of disappearing, with businesses closing, jobs dwindling, and trees slowly taking the place of abandoned structures. But the one thing Beartown does have, is the love of hockey. For the first time in many years, their junior hockey team has a shot at the title, and this possibility may be the opportunity Beartown needs to get itself back on the map and prosper. Their hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of a team of young boys, which includes two rising superstars. When a shocking event and violent act leave a young girl traumatized, the small town is in chaos, leaving no resident unaffected.

“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”

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Beartown is an incredibly well crafted novel that drew me in from the first page and completely captivated my attention throughout. What first caught my eye with this novel was that it centred around hockey, which I am a fan of and the description on the book really spoke to me. Everything surrounding the hockey aspect was portrayed brilliantly, but there is so much more to this novel. Ultimately it is not a book about hockey, but rather a story of a small community, of hope and courage, and the choices we make. Through writing that is thoroughly engaging, the author brings to life each character, each emotion, and the town itself. Quite simply, Beartown does what great books do; it makes you feel.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

BLOG“We remember a time of such clarity. We were Beast, we ran with wolves and hunted prey, we lived on the wind and breathed the forest. We wanted nothing but to be, to run, to endure. Want didn’t exist.

And we remember another time, too, a time of longing and desire, where we existed as nothing but want… always the next unattainable thing. There was no joy in what we had, only in what might come.”

Yeva has always felt most at home in the forest, and most at peace while hunting with her father. But as she gets older, the expectations to be a lady of high society and to marry a wealthy gentleman have led to days of polite chatter with baronessas and taken her away from the solitude she cherishes. When her father loses his fortune and she and her sisters have to move to a cabin on the outskirts of the forest, Yeva is secretly glad. Relieved to be back in the environment of the forest, with all its mysterious and unspoken magic. But this new way of life may have cost Yeva’s father his sanity, and when he disappears she sets out to find him and hunt down the creature that her father had become obsessed with tracking.

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

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Hunted is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. I love a good retelling and Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favourite story for this. This take on the well known story is wonderfully done and I ended up happily spending the day completely engrossed in the adventure. There is depth and nuance to the characters that made me care about their situation and their fate in what was to come. The relationship between Yeva and her sisters is quite touching and was one of my favourite parts of the novel, along with the way the author perfectly encapsulated very complex emotions. With memorable characters and compelling writing, Hunted is a wonderful escape into a new take on a tale as old as time.

“The song wanted. It wanted in the way Yeva had always wanted, wanted not so much a thing as everything, something beyond naming, something more than, different, deeper.”