The Perfect Ruin by Shanora Williams (2021) Snapshot

Recipe for revenge

Ivy Hill hides a dark secret, and she waited over a decade to exact revenge on the woman who destroyed her life. The time is right, and she is now on a mission to infiltrate Lola’s elite circle. Earn her trust and make her pay for what she has done. 

I read The Perfect Ruin as an audiobook narrated by Chante Ellison and Nola Vance, and they did such a fantastic job bringing this story to life. I could easily follow the story and distinguish the characters. Their narration brought the characters to life, had an excellent flow, and was very pleasant to listen to.

Before reading The Perfect Ruin, I didn’t know that this is Williams’s debut thriller, nor has she written over 30 romances before. I wouldn’t say I like romance novels, but I need to say that the romantic subplot was well done, and it didn’t compete for the thriller limelight. I have to give Williams props for that. It is not easy to make that transition. She has the talent to continue to write a thriller, and I wish she continues!

This book has a tight plot, organic twists, and well-developed characters, and Williams was not afraid to experiment and make her protagonists own their questionable choices. The women in The Perfect Ruin and FIERCE and calculating. I don’t believe there was a single person that wasn’t grey. It was hard to root for any of them, even when it was hard NOT to root for some! This is definitely a book that I will carry with me for a long time. 

On a last and important note, I love the representation in this book; the main characters are all women of colour as is the author. Overall I enjoyed Williams’s writing style, and I recommend you check The Perfect Ruin out if you can handle some romance in your stories. And if you’re a romance fan, you should check her over 30 books backlist too!

Enjoyability     8

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          8

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.58

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino (2021) Snapshot

1 is too lonely, 2 is perfect, three is overkill

Tess would love nothing more than to be left alone to practice her cello and make sure her sister is happy. But Tess’s summer is anything but what she wants – stuck at her boarding school’s library and a local pub, she is constantly annoyed by insufferable patrons. The worst being entitled fellow pupil, Eliot Birch. Eliot seems to be on a mission to find a specific grimoire he believes is part of the school’s forbidden collection.

With their carelessness and arrogance, these unlikely bedfellows unleash a demon because life wasn’t already complicated enough! But wait… There is more. The demon doesn’t want to be trapped again and is dead set on using Tess to accomplish her goal, and he will stop at nothing to get his way. 

Bovalino DELIVERED!! Tess and Eliot are fantastic characters, and I loved the evolution of their relationship. They couldn’t be more unlike the other on the surface. But inside, they both had traumatic events that shaped them, secrets that trapped them, and a resilience that kept them going. When their world collapsed, and a demon was thrown in the mix, I was hooked!

The Devil Makes Three is a YA book in which characters act their age, and adults are involved. Gore and creepiness are very much part of the plot – and they do come out to play. The demon in this book is fascinatingly seductive, magnetic even. I almost ruled for him, almost. Bovalino knocked the atmosphere off the park: this book is suspenseful, intense, enthralling, and dark. 

This book reads like a standalone, but there is a glimmer of hope that it might become a series. It’s probably wishful thinking, but I need more of whatever magic was in this book because I enjoyed it. 

I first read it as an audiobook produced by RB Media and narrated by Suzy Jackson and John Keating, and let me tell you. They made the experience even better. I loved how their chemistry was over the charts and their pacing impeccable. As Tess is American and Eliot, British, listening to the story enhanced the atmosphere and made the reading experience more immersive. I highly recommend the audiobook as a reading companion or by itself.

Enjoyability     10

Characters       9

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.83

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Tori Bovalino, RB Media, Recorded Books, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Devil Makes Three

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Gone for Good by Joanna Schaffhausen (2021) Snapshot

Let sleeping killers lie

Detective Annalisa Vega #1

At the center of this story, we have the Lovelorn Killer – who, twenty years ago, murdered seven women by ritually binding them and leaving them for dead and then sending gruesome love letters to them in the local papers. After killing his seventh victim, he goes dormant.

In the present, we meet Grace – who’s part of an amateur sleuth group and is determined to figure out the identity of the Lovelorn Killer. She believes he is still alive and lives locally. 

We also have our protagonist, Detective Vega, who lost someone she loved to the killer. She is called to a crime scene and has the shock of her life when she sees Grace’s body bound and surrounded by clues pointing to the infamous killer. 

When I read the synopsis for Gone for Good, I knew I would like it. What I didn’t expect was to love Detective Vega this much. I enjoyed her as a character and felt that Schaffhausen set her up for a fantastic development arc through the series. She is multidimensional, talented, empathetic, and insightful. Despite her demons, her moral compass always points North, and she seems to want to see the best in people.  I loved her approach to crime-solving, and the plot in this book was exciting and tight! I will say that all the clues were laid out masterfully, which pleased me to no end.

I am still on the fence about the ending, though. I understand how important something was for Vega’s character development. But it felt like it was bordering on too much, too soon for me. In the overall context of my reading enjoyment, that was a minor issue. I cannot wait for the second book in the series.

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Joanna Schaffhausen, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Gone for Good

Enjoyability     10

Characters       9

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.58

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Joanna Schaffhausen, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Gone for Good

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Bones of Hilo by Eric Redman (2021) Snapshot

Trouble in paradise

When Ralph Fortunato, an unpopular and controversial Mainland developer, is murdered with an ancient Hawaiian spear driven in a golf course, new detective Kawika Wong finds his chance to prove himself. 

I read Bones of Hilo as an audiobook produced by Dreamscape Media and narrated by Kurt Kanazawa. His narration was terrific. He kept a good pace, and I appreciate learning the pronunciation of words I did not know. It helped with the imagery, and it drew me in. I usually prefer two narrators or more, but Kurt brought it in, and I was satisfied with the way the story was told.

Bones of Hilo is a great thriller that feels fresh, compelling, and original. I have never read a book that had murders based on Hawaiian folklore. This book didn’t shy away from grittiness at times, and it didn’t try to sugarcoat acts of violence, prejudice, and racism that happen off-page. At the same time, Redman brought in a work of fiction that is fast-paced and filled with fleshed-out, multidimensional characters. I loved Kawika’s ARC. He is a half Chinese, half Hawaiian man who spent most of his life in the mainland. Even though his dad has never left the islands and Kawika is familiar with parts of the culture, there is a lot he doesn’t know. Being an outsider policeman in Hawaii means he has a lot to learn and a lot to prove. The author did a great job using his journey to organically explain concepts and parts of the culture to the reader that are relevant to the mystery.

The mystery itself was entertaining. To me, it felt like a cross between Law and Order Criminal Intent and Death in Paradise. The crime is gruesome, but the characters were so likable. There is an inviting lightness to them, especially Kawika, his parents, and girlfriends. 

I hope Redman continues to write because I would love to continue to follow Kawika in his Hawaiian journey.

Enjoyability     8

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot             10    

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.33

Website: https://ericredmanwriting.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ricredman

Instagram: Not Found

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to NetGalley, Eric Redman, and Dreamscape Media for providing me with a copy of Bones of Hilo.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (2021) Review

Sapphic love & ghosts. Need I say more?

Why I picked up the book:

 We follow Logan and her dads, TV ghost hunters Brandon and Alejo, as they arrive in the couple’s hometown of Snakebite. They soon realize that there’s something wrong going on as teenagers mysteriously disappear, some even turning up dead. Then we meet Ashley, a local teenager whose boyfriend’s ghost has been following her since he went missing. Looking for answers and hoping to end the disappearances, Logan and Ashley team up to investigate whatever is haunting the town. 

The book through my criteria lens:

Macmillan Audio has done it again! And Soneela Nankani’s narration was everything this book deserved. Her pace was fantastic; she brought the characters to life and made it easy for me to follow along. I was never confused as to what was going on.

The highlight of The Dead and the Dark for me was the enthralling plot and the engrossing character work. I could honestly close my eyes and imagine each character as a real person (for better or worse). The use of horror as a proxy to social commentary was really well done. I finished the book reflecting on how scary real life can be!

The execution was solid, in my opinion, but I wish the atmosphere had been just slightly scarier. Maybe because I was so consumed with the characters, I wasn’t scared, and I wish I had been. I still think this is a beautiful novel, though, and I am delighted I read it. I’ll carry Brandon with me for a long time.

My personal feelings:

Pain – this summons the book up to me. This book is dark and scary. Although the horror fan in me was delighted with the supernatural undertones of The Dead and the Dark, the most frightening thing about this book is how well it represents real life in the issues dealt with, such as queerness, prejudice, grief, loss. I don’t know how to talk about this book without spoiling it, as its fluidity and the order we are introduced to incidents were such a big part of my experience. I will say this: how much I related to Brandon was borderline unhealthy. His arc was the best thing about the novel to me.

I lie; there are many things I loved in this novel, and arrrghhhh it’s hard to talk about it without spoilers, but hear me out and bear with my vagueness. The Dark was used as an analogy and what it represents, HOW it represents it, was so beautiful and enthralling. Snakebite, unfortunately, is not just a fictional town with made-up people – it’s a petri dish that under the microscope exposes the worst in humankind and the world. I wish I could say I don’t see people like that more often than I’d like. The queer relationships in this book are everything. For one, Brandon and Alejo have a healthier and stronger relationship with each other than most hetero couples I know. They are also excellent parents. The last thing I will mention in the “reasons to love this book” list is that Gould’s story is organic and reads naturally. She didn’t hesitate (or maybe she did?) to make difficult choices. The result paid off, in my opinion.

Enjoyability     8

Characters       10

Ambience        8

Fairness          8

Plot                  10

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.33

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: https://youtu.be/3Q2kNdkr-hQ

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones (2021) Snapshot

One ring to ruin them all

We follow Ali, her fiancee Will and 4 of his oldest friends Rachel, Jack, Paige, and Noah, as they attend Ali and Will’s destination wedding in Portugal. Throughout the weekend, secrets will surface and threaten marriages and friendships. At the end of the trip, all of their lives will have changed forever. 

I love Jones’s work and her characters. I slowly got to know them, but at the same time felt like I knew them forever. Each one had their unique personality and voice, and their entanglement was almost a character in itself. 

The plot was intriguing and promising, so I am sad to say that the execution fell short for me. I’m shucking it to wrong expectations, though. I was expecting this to be a fast-paced, twisty, and turny, batshit crazy book. It was more of a slow-burning character-focused story than I had anticipated. My opinion is not on Sandie Jones, her narrative is compelling, and I will be picking up more of her books; I was just in the mood for more action.

I first read The Guilt Trip as an audiobook produced by Macmillan Audio and narrated by Clara Corbett. I really enjoyed her narration style; she delivered a well-paced story that made it easy for me to both follow the story and identify the characters. I look forward to reading more books narrated by her. With that said, I feel that The Guilt Trip would have worked better as full-cast audio. 

All in all, I do recommend this book as a solid summer read, and I can’t wait to check Sandie Jones’s other novels.

Enjoyability     7

Characters       10

Ambience        7

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        7

My total rating: 4.25

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Macmillan Audio, Sandie Jones, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Guilt Trip.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Fear Street Relaunch Sampler R. L. Stine (2015-2017) Snapshot

Careful who you befriend

Book #3

The Lost Girl was my first Fear Street book, and man, am I hooked! I didn’t grow up reading R.L. Stine, but my son loves Goosebumps and is now starting to read the Fear Street series. Reading these books is something we both do together and, in my opinion, this series has a broad appeal – both him (9) and I enjoyed it equally.

In The Lost Girl, we follow Lizzy Palmer as she adjusts to life as the new girl at Shadyside High. Everybody is talking about her, and Michael is strangely drawn to her, even though his girlfriend. Peppa is not quite sure if they could trust Lizzy.

Things take a turn for the worse when a group of teens faces a horrible snowmobile accident, after which these friends start feeling like they are being haunted and in danger. Everyone thinks these hauntings and the casualty are related, but not Peppa. She is convinced Lizzy is behind everything.

We have a dual timeline, the present, and the 50s when a horrible murder occurred. As the story progresses, the connection between both timelines makes more and more sense.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Lost Girl as an audiobook produced by Macmillan Audio and narrated by Brittany Pressley and Dan Bittner. I listened to it with my son, who wanted to start listening to audiobooks. We both could easily follow the story. The pacing was phenomenal, and their chemistry was off the charts, which made for a seamless and enjoyable listen.

Just one more thing – I thought this story was going one way, but Stine took it somewhere else, and man, is he savage or what?!?! LOVED it!

Enjoyability     10

Characters       8

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.83

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Til death do them part

Book #5

When Caitlin met Blade, it was love at first sight – to the point of obsession. She is head over heels with him, even though her friends warn her to take it slow and be cautious. One day Caitlin sees him with another girl; the next thing she knows is that he is dead, and it seems like she killed him. But how could it be if she doesn’t remember it?

I first listened to The Dead Boyfriend and an audiobook produced by Macmillan Audio for St. Martin’s Griffin and narrated by Brittany Pressley. This is my second Fear Street audiobook, and I can’t imagine anyone else narrating these books. Pressley is dynamic, does a great job giving unique voices to each character, and emotes tension and suspense superbly.

I am falling in love with Stine’s books. They are the right amount of outlandish creepiness, and his world-building is impressive. I feel I’m starting to get to know Fear st. and Shadyside High really well.
The Dead Boyfriend was a crazy ride. I am quickly learning that to enjoy Stine’s books, you need to suspend disbelief, and I am OK with it – but for some reason, the central premise of this book is more out there than I anticipated. That being said, the atmosphere more than made up for it. This book was scary (for a younger audience) and very suspenseful.

Enjoyability     8

Characters       8

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.66

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

How far would you go to get what you want?

Book #6

In Give Me a K-I-L-L we follow new girl Heather as she hopes to get into Shadyside High cheerleading squad. Without knowing, she is starting a feud with an entitled rich girl, Devra, who is used to get what she wants, and right now, she wants in the squad.

I thoroughly enjoyed Give Me a K-I-L-L – the characters leaped off the page, the tension between Heather and Devra was palpable. I couldn’t put it down. The cherry on top was all the twists Stine added to the story.

This has been my favourite Fear Street Relaunch book to date. Both the story and the audiobook production by Macmillan Audio from St. Martin’s Griffin. I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone. It is the perfect gateway to listening to the Fear Street books. I dare you not to get hooked and want to binge as many FS audiobooks as you can after listening to Give Me a K-I-L-L. I am officially going through withdrawal from Pressley’s voice right now. (in my opinion) She is to Fear Street Audiobooks what Lani Minella was to Nancy Drew games.

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 5

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read these books as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Macmillan Audio, St. Martin’s Griffin, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Lost Girl, The Dead Boyfriend and Give Me a K-I-L-L.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

All’s Well by Mona Awad (2021) Review

Do wrong to none

Why I picked up the book:

We meet Miranda, whose life has seen better days. The adage is true – it is pouring for our girl right now: After a horrible accident, her acting career is gone with the wind, her marriage is done, her back pain is here to stay, as is her painkiller addiction. All she has left is her job as a college theater director, but even that is starting to get wet!

Miranda feels that if only she can have a good run of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, things will be alright. But her cast has other things in mind and gang up on Miranda, demanding Macbeth instead.

These poor souls don’t know what they have started because “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” followed their lead and is now “It will have blood, they say: blood will have blood.”

That’s not all their choice of play manifested – three strange benefactors who seem to know everything about Miranda show up in her life with promises of the future she feels she deserves: one in which she gets her play, her students get their dues, her invisible pain no one believes in, is made known. It seems like things might end well for Miranda after all. Or will something wicked her way come?

The book through my criteria lens:

All’s Well narrative is over descriptive and overdramatic. Still, it reads as an intentional choice that gives the story its atmosphere by building on the theatre vibes, and it puts the reader in Miranda’s state of mind with all its artistic flair.

Miranda’s is not an easy state of mind to be in, but oh, is she compelling! She pulls you in from the get-go and gives you no choice to walk away. Not that you’d want to anyway. Her inner world is like one of those horrible accidents where people want to look away but can’t help staring instead. Miranda’s PoV is dark, claustrophobic, and full of angst. But you feel that tiny light of hope fighting to flicker, and that’s exactly the thing to which you hold on. Her energy shifts as the story unfold, taking you right with her. It was fantastic. So weird. It’s like Awad bewitched the book!

The character work and atmosphere were flawless, in my opinion. All’s Well was a book I simply couldn’t put down and read in two days. Usually, I feel the need to take breaks from books this emotionally charged, as I get right into the character’s head, but this book is so magnetic that I couldn’t stop thinking about it whenever I wasn’t reading it.

The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was that it took me a few chapters to get into the flow because of the perspective.

My personal feelings:

All’s Well was a crazy ride, a perfect homage to Shakespeare while keeping its unique voice. It is innovative, fresh, fascinating, and a little scary.

The third act was a wild, crazy, heart-pounding rollercoaster. Plan to read it in one go because it is a succession of WTF moments in the best possible way.

I can’t wait to see what Mona comes up with next. WOW!

Enjoyability     8

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.75

I mention this book in this video: https://youtu.be/DNg6WB-bTtU

I mention this book in this video: https://youtu.be/aCVzsNukUXM

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Penguin Random House Canada, Mona Awad, and NetGalley or providing me with a copy of All’s Well.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Lucky Eight by Sheila Bugler (2021) Snapshot

They survived a plane crash, but at what price?

Out of the 160 people who boarded the plane, only 8 survived the crash. Dubbed “The Lucky Eight” by the media, their lives were forever changed that day.  Each year, to honour the occasion and lives lost, the survivors meet on the anniversary of that fatidical day. On their 5th reunion, one of them is found dead. His death is suspicious enough, but when a second survivor is found days later clearly stabbed, detective Rachel Lewis wonders if the survivors are being targeted. 

I think that The Lucky Eight is a solid, entertaining book. Unfortunately, one of my literary pet peeves is when a character throws on the reader’s face that they are privy to important information but doesn’t share it. I feel this takes away my opportunity to solve the puzzle fairly. This happened quite a few times in this book and by more than one character. I found the repeated mention of a character’s secret off-putting. I get it’s hard to imply a character is hiding something without revealing it. But dangling it in front of the reader so explicitly affected my enjoyment. If this doesn’t bother you, you are going to love this book. The Lucky Eight is a page turning surprising thriller.

On a random note, what I enjoyed in The Lucky Eight was Bugler’s choice to make the investigation real. Rachel read as a real detective facing real hurdles. There was time pressure for her to solve the crime, as there would be in real life, but I appreciated that the author chose not to rush the narrative and kept each day’s events accurate. #ItsTheLittleThings

Enjoyability     7

Characters       7

Ambience        8

Fairness          7

Plot                  10

Execution        7

My total rating: 3.83

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer:  I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Canelo, Sheila Bugler, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Lucky Eight.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish (2021) Review

Careful who you sit next to

Why I picked up the book:

 Jaimie and Kit are commuter friends; they take the same ferry and sit next to each other every day. They chat and bond, so when Kit doesn’t show up one day, Jaimie thinks it’s strange but thinks nothing more of it. But when he gets off at his stop, the police are waiting for him. 

Kit’s wife, Melia, reported him missing, and another passenger says that both men had a heated argument the night before. Jaimie tells the police that the witness is lying, Kit and him are friends, and his wife can vouch. But who was this other passenger, and what exactly do they know?

The book through my criteria lens:

 What first grabbed my interest was Candlish’s prose and character work. I utterly enjoyed the early dialogues between Jamie and Clare. The banter put a permanent smile on my face, and they got me thinking #relationshipgoals at first glance. As their relationship comes crumbling, to me, it became clear that Clare is the #goal. She was the reason the relationship worked, and honestly, I want to be like her when I grow up! 

She is such a strong, multidimensional character. She is strong in her sense of self and lives her emotions with the confidence of a person who knows who they are and loves the skin they are in. Where most characters shone, Kit was lacking a little. I wish I had known more of him. His thoughts and motivations weren’t prevalent in the story, and then I realized that his disappearance had so many moving parts that the reader was privy to what mattered. But in a novel with so few characters, I prefer when I get to know all of them equally.

The Other Passenger is one of those books with a plot that might not be the most original and is familiar enough for the reader to know they’d enjoy it, but the execution nails it out of the park. In my opinion, Candlish delivered the perfect thriller – fast-paced, enthralling, it’s the book you can’t put down, and the tension is high from the beginning to the end. I felt like I was in a car in the fast lane, and the driver would pull amazing tricks every time I was getting too comfortable with the journey. 

My personal feelings:

I loved how we started with the police interview and know nothing about the crime or the characters. You feel the author dropped some golden nuggets, but anything can be a red herring without context. It might not be for everyone, but it made this puzzle-loving reader very excited! After this great opening chapter, we are left on a cliffhanger as we are thrown back into the past when Kit and Jamie met. From then on, we get this dual timeline until we get the whole picture. 

I’m always iffy when we get a single narrator because if they are unreliable, it gives my chair detective winning streak a run for its money. Jamie was the perfect narrator choice, in my opinion. I wanted to suspect him and did try to guess if he was unreliable, but he was just so pathetic that I often caught myself thinking of him as a victim too! Candlish’s character work is amazing! I already have other books of hers lined up because I can’t get enough of her style!

Enjoyability     10

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot                  8

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.5

I mention this book in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlT8GRzOGTk&t=7s 

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Simon & Schuster Canada, Louise Candlish, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Other Passenger.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!