WWW Wednesday 02/20/2019

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, just answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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I’m currently reading…

readingAs Long as We Both Shall Live
by JoAnn Chaney

“What happens when you’re really, truly done making your marriage work? You can’t be married to someone without sometimes wanting to bash them over the head…
As Long As We Both Shall Live is JoAnn Chaney’s wicked, masterful examination of a marriage gone very wrong, a marriage with lots of secrets…”

American War
by Omar El Akkad

This is the Girly Book Club selection for this month! It’s a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that takes place in an America ravaged by climate change and a second civil war. I’m not far enough into it yet to have much of an opinion, but judging by reactions I’ve seen from others, almost no one seems to be lukewarm towards it. You’ll love it or hate it.

I recently finished reading…

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The Night Tiger
by Yangsze Choo
This is a historical fiction novel imbued with Chinese culture and folklore, a dash of magical realism, and a mystery to top it all off. I really enjoyed this one. Full review here.

The Lost Girls of Paris
by Pam Jenoff
Another historical fiction novel, this one takes place during WWII and is inspired by true events. The Lost Girls of Paris tells the stories of British female spies sent to sabotage Nazi efforts in France. Full review to come. This is a good choice for fans of The Alice Network and Lilac Girls. 

Moloka’i
by Alan Brennert
I just finished Moloka’i this morning. It’s (yet another) historical fiction novel. Moloka’i tells the story of a young Hawaiian girl named Rachel who contracts leprosy in the 1890’s and is sent to live on a leper colony away from her family. The novel follows her throughout her entire life. I sometimes tend to dislike stories which attempt to encapsulate the entire life of the protagonist, because it’s very easy for them to drag, but I thought this was beautifully done. Full review to com.e

Up next…

Daughter of Moloka’i 
by Alan Brennert

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of this book which was just released this week, so it’s next up on my TBR! This is what prompted me to read Moloka’i as it’s technically a sequel, but I get the impression from the blurb that it may be able to be read on its own.

“DAUGHTER OF MOLOKA′I is the highly anticipated sequel to Alan Brennert’s acclaimed book club favorite, and national bestseller, MOLOKA′I. It’s a companion tale that tells the story of Ruth, the daughter that Rachel Kalama—quarantined for most of her life at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapa—was forced to give up at birth.

The book follows young Ruth from her arrival at the Kapi’olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese couple who raise her on a farm in California, her marriage and unjust internment at Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II—and then, after the war, to the life-altering day when she receives a letter from a woman who says she is Ruth’s birth mother, Rachel.

DAUGHTER OF MOLOKA′I expands upon Ruth and Rachel’s 22-year relationship, only hinted at in MOLOKA′I. It’s a richly emotional tale of two women—different in some ways, similar in others—who never expected to meet, much less come to love, one another. And for Ruth it is a story of discovery, the unfolding of a past she knew nothing about. In prose that conjures up the beauty and history of both Hawaiian and Japanese cultures, it’s the powerful and poignant tale that readers of MOLOKA′I have been awaiting for fifteen years.”

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The Night Tiger, by Yangsze Choo (Review)


The Night Tiger
by Yangsze Choo

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism

Length: 384 Pages

Release date: February 12, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Synopsis: 

A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

rating

four

My thanks to BookSparks for sending me a free copy of this book for my role as an official Winter Reading Challenge Ambassador. All opinions are my own. 

“We were a chocolate-box family, I thought. Brightly wrapped on the outside and oozing sticky darkness within.”

The Night Tiger is such a rich and magical story, full of bits of Chinese culture and thoroughly developed, interesting characters. The story alternates between 11-year-old houseboy Ren’s perspectives and that of a young woman named Ji Lin. Their stories are woven together, oddly enough, by the severed and preserved finger of Ren’s deceased master, which has inadvertently fallen into Ji Lin’s possession before Ren could reunite it with the rest of the body in its grave. Chinese folklore says that the body must be made whole in death or the departed cannot rest.

Ren’s story is dominated by a desperate need to locate the finger, while Ji Lin is enmeshed in a family drama propelled by a violent stepfather, a secretive mother, and a forbidden romance. (A side note and minor spoiler here: the romance aspect of this book was by far my least favorite; Ji Lin is in love with her step brother, and they’ve lived together since they were small children. No, they are not blood relatives, but they grew up together as family and I had trouble viewing them as anything other than siblings. End of spoilers.

The magical realism in the novel was really beautifully done, mainly woven into dreams, vague senses, and whispered-about folklore which may or may not be true. There are rumors of men who can turn into tigers, though we never see one, and a sense that those who have departed can still tip the scales in events of the living world in small ways. The end result is a magical, dreamy story that still feels anchored in the real world.

If I have any complaint about this book it’s that it did take me a while to become invested in the story and characters. The pacing early on feels a bit slow compared to the whirlwind of events at the end of the story. However, the overall story felt well worth the time investment by the end. The Night Tiger may be a great choice for fans of The Dreamers, by Karen Thompson Walker, or The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! Do you have a favorite novel that features magical realism? Let me know in the comments!

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Watching You, by Lisa Jewell (Review)


Watching You
by Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Length: 320 Pages

Release date: December 26, 2018

Synopsis: 

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.

As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.

One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…

rating

three

Watching You is a weird book for me to rate, because for most of the first half of the story, I was decidedly not invested. We know early on that there has been a murder, but a lot of the story focuses on other things and I really wasn’t dying to untangle the mystery. Think Big Little Lies, where the story opens with the aftermath of a murder, then goes on to focus on entirely unrelated things in the lives of those close to the incident. I definitely got a vibe that Lisa Jewell was inspired by Lianne Moriarty while reading this.

A major drawback for me, however, was that Lisa Jewell doesn’t seem quite as skilled as Moriarty when it comes to making the reader truly care about her characters. I spent a decent chunk of the book learning about the lives and backstories of characters who simply didn’t quite feel like people to me. However, by the latter half of the book, as the mystery started to fall into place, I started to feel glad I stuck with it.

Watching You plays with the reader’s expectations in a really fun way and is practically begging you to make assumptions that will later be proven wrong. The perspective shifts with each chapter, giving the reader a new, limited point of view and set of biases depending on which character is narrating. Alternating points of view can sometimes feel really sloppy, but I thought this was something that was handled really well throughout the novel. The reader will need to piece together clues known only by individual characters if they have any hope of guessing the resolution.

Watching You is a smart and twisty mystery story that may take a while to pique your interest… but definitely earns the time investment by the end.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! Have you read Watching You? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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No Exit, by Taylor Adams (Review)


No Exit
by Taylor Adams

Genre: Thriller

Length: 352 Pages

Release date: January 15, 2019

Synopsis: 

A brilliant, edgy thriller about four strangers, a blizzard, a kidnapped child, and a determined young woman desperate to unmask and outwit a vicious psychopath.

A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?

With exquisitely controlled pacing, Taylor Adams diabolically ratchets up the tension with every page. Full of terrifying twists and hairpin turns, No Exit will have you on the edge of your seat and leave you breathless.

rating

four

No Exit will have you balanced on the tip of a knife for the entire duration of the plot. Darby is in a mad rush home to see her dying mother at the beginning of the story, but her plans are quickly thrown off the rails when a severe snowstorm leaves her stranded at a remote rest stop. Her concerns about her mother soon take a back seat to something even more harrowing: a kidnapped child locked in the back of a van.

This novel occasionally pushes the limits when it comes to suspension of disbelief, as thrillers often do. The dominating law of the universe constructed in this story seems to be Murphy’s law, and while it sometimes lends a certain degree of predictability to the plot, often the fun lies in seeing how Darby will react and adjust in the face of each new obstacle. This is one of those books where it’s difficult not to picture yourself in the protagonist’s shoes, and while Darby occasionally has mind-numbing lapses in judgments, I’m not sure I’d fare much better when thrown so unexpectedly into a crisis like this.

The overwhelming majority of the book takes place within the confines of the remote rest stop, lending an air of claustrophobia to the story and keeping tensions high. The pacing is lightning-fast, the stake are high, and the villain is so easy to hate. No Exit is an immensely fun thriller that’s just dying to be made into a movie!

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! Have you read any books that take place entirely or mostly within one room? Was that a positive or a negative for the plot? Let me know in the comments!

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The Promise, by Teresa Driscoll (Review)


The Promise
by Teresa Driscoll

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Length: 309 Pages

Release date: February 7, 2019

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Synopsis: 

The chilling new psychological thriller from the #1 bestselling author of I Am Watching You.

It was their darkest secret. Three schoolgirls made a promise – to take the horrible truth of what they did to the grave.

Thirty years later, Beth and Sally have tried to put the trauma behind them. Though Carol has distanced herself from her former friends, the three are adamant that the truth must never come to light, even if the memory still haunts them.

But when some shocking news threatens to unearth their dark secret, Beth enlists the help of private investigator Matthew Hill to help her and Sally reconnect with estranged Carol ­– before the terrible act they committed as teenagers is revealed.

Beth wishes she could take back the vow they made.

But somebody is watching and will stop at nothing to ensure the secret stays buried. Now, with her beloved family in peril, can Beth still keep the promise?

rating

three

My thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by the publisher. 

Teresa Driscoll first came onto my radar last year when I read I Am Watching You with my book club. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending of that novel, I did find it an overall really enjoyable reading experience, so I was quick to request a copy of The Promise when I saw it on NetGalley. The basic premise of the story (three women with a deep, dark secret going back to their boarding school days) was super intriguing to me and was giving off some Ruth Ware vibes.

Unfortunately, I think some of that promise was lost in the execution. Part of what fell flat for me was the sheer number of separate perspectives that Driscoll is trying to juggle within this book. The reader will spend time in the heads of Beth, Sally, and Carol, as well as Matthew, a private investigator which fans may recognize from Driscoll’s prior novel (I Am Watching You). I think limiting this to one or two perspectives may have made for a better reading experience. I’m not one to dislike multiple perspectives on principal, but I don’t think it worked very well here.

My other main issue with this was that the pacing felt rather slow. Almost 70% of the book is spend leading up to a big reveal which becomes a bit too easy to guess before you actually get to it. (Interestingly, this was the opposite problem I had with Driscoll’s last novel, which I thought dropped far too little foreshadowing and left me feeling a little cheated. This can be a really difficult balance to strike and may even vary from one reader to the next, so your mileage my vary.)

All that being said, there were some things that I really enjoyed about this novel. The relationships between the three women throughout the years were really fun to explore, and the story was atmospheric and full of suspense. The last quarter or so of the book picks up the pace in a huge way and made up for some of what I thought was lacking early in the story. This would be a good selection for a lot of fans of Ruth Ware, Liane Moriarty, and of course, Teresa Driscoll’s past work.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! Does guessing the big twist ruin a mystery novel for you? Would you rather be surprised by the ending or validated in your suspicions? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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WWW Wednesday 02/13/2019

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, just answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

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I’m currently reading…

readingAs Long as We Both Shall Live
by JoAnn Chaney
“What happens when you’re really, truly done making your marriage work? You can’t be married to someone without sometimes wanting to bash them over the head…
As Long As We Both Shall Live is JoAnn Chaney’s wicked, masterful examination of a marriage gone very wrong, a marriage with lots of secrets…”
I’ve only just started the audio book for this, so I have no thoughts so far, other than the fact that I think the narrator is a tad over the top.

The Night Tiger
by Yangsze Choo
I received a free copy of this as an official ambassador for the Booksparks winter reading challenge, and I’m absolutely loving it. Super magical and atmospheric.

Women Talking
by Miriam Toews
I’ve kind of stalled out on this one. This is a NetGalley ARC and it’s a novel based on a true story about a group of Mennonite women dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence in their community when they’ve been relatively isolated from the outside world and have limited means to leave. The premise really intrigued me and I feel like there’s an important story to be told, but the author’s stylistic choices just aren’t meshing well with my tastes. The narrator is a trusted male member of the community with limited writing skills, and the novel is told in the form of the minutes of a meeting between the women. The style is kind of killing it for me and I can’t get engaged.

I recently finished reading…

This Mortal Coil
by Emily Suvada
This is a YA science fiction novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a mysterious plague. I read this on the tail of Warcross and Wildcard, which I didn’t end up enjoying much, so maybe my perspective is skewed, but I thought this was a super fun and fast-paced read. I will be reading the sequel, This Cruel Design, soon.

The Promise
by Teresa Driscoll
I received a NetGalley ARC of this one. I requested it because I read one of Driscoll’s prior novels, I Am Watching You, with my book club last year, and I thought it was a pretty enjoyable read. This one was just okay for me. The central premise is about a group of women with a deep, dark secret going back to their boarding school days together. Their secret is in danger of being exposed because the boarding school is closing down and the land is scheduled for redevelopment. The story was interesting and had a fun, spooky vibe, but a bit too predictable.

The Outsider
by Stephen King
This book is kind of a wild ride in that it almost feels like two separate books. It all follows the same central story, but the first half reads like a murder mystery and the second half reads a bit like… well, It. Full review to come. I enjoyed it a lot, but I will say that you might not want to binge the audio book like I did, because there are a ton of characters to keep straight. My head was spinning a bit towards the end.

Up next…

The Lost Girls of Paris
by Pam Jenoff

From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Talecomes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female spies during World War II.

1946, Manhattan

Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances
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Review – The Psychology of Time Travel, by Kate Mascarenhas

Psych.jpg

The Psychology of Time Travel
by Kate Mascarenhas

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Length: 336 Pages

Release date: February 12, 2019

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Synopsis:

1967: Four young female scientists invent a time travel machine in their remote lab in Cumbria. They become known as the pioneers: the women who led the world to a future where no knowledge is unattainable.

2016: Ruby Rebello knows that her beloved grandmother was one of the pioneers, but she refuses to talk about her past. Ruby’s curiosity soon turns to fear however, when a newspaper clipping from four months in the future arrives in the post. The clipping reports the brutal murder of an unnamed elderly lady.

Could the woman be her Granny Bee?

rating

five

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the review copy. All opinions are my own and not influenced by the publisher.

Mascarenhas’ debut novel is so delightfully fun! Reading the blurb, you’d expect the mystery to be the main thrust of this novel, and while it is certainly a major focal point, there’s so much else going on that the mystery ends up feeling like a bonus. The novel has several POV characters in several different timelines, but Mascarenhas has made it fairly easy for the reader to keep the various characters straight.

The story begins with Ruby’s “Granny Bee,” or Barbara, in the 1960’s as she and her colleagues are putting the finishing touches on their newly developed time travel technology. Barbara suffers a mental health crisis which seemed to have been triggered by time travel, and she is ousted from the group to prevent bad PR. If the public at large gets wind of a link between mental illness and time travel this early in the game, their careers will be over before they’ve truly begun. Barbara’s contributions are swept under the rug and her colleagues rush onward to fame and fortune without her.

assorted silver colored pocket watch lot selective focus photo

Fast forward to modern day, and the Conclave founded by Granny Bee’s former friends now operates on its own terms, outside the laws of the land. The logic for this is that laws change over the years and that a time travel organization necessarily needs a constant set of a rules. Sound logic, perhaps, but an organization policing itself is dicey at best. The Psychology of Time Travel is as much about the corrupt politics of the Conclave and the twisted mindsets of long-term time travelers as it is about the mystery.

Mascarenhas asks what death would mean to a seasoned time traveler and explores that in this novel. If your father dies, but you can hop into a time machine and go on visiting him anyway, does he seem dead to you? Why should he seem any more or less alive than any other person if you can travel hundreds of years into the future and then pop back to 1973 later on that day? What happens to you when the only death that truly feels final is your own? And what happens if you already know the date and circumstances of that death?

The Psychology of Time Travel is a science fiction story wrapped in a thought experiment and tied together with a murder mystery. It features multiple female scientists as prominent characters and gives great attention to diversity. The world building is phenomenal and the story is infinitely engaging. I look forward to seeing what Mascarenhas writes next!

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

About the Author

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Kate Mascarenhas is a writer.

Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.

She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.

Since 2017 Kate has been a chartered psychologist. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, and doll’s house maker. She lives in the English midlands with her partner.

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