Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams (2021) Review

The literary equivalent of an adrenaline shot

Why I picked up the book:

Twins Lena and Cambry took different paths in life, but when Cambry dies of an apparent suicide, Lena doesn’t buy it. She believes her twin would have never killed herself and decides to investigate the incident by herself. All she wants is the truth, and she is willing to do risk whatever it takes to get it.

The book through my criteria lens:

The idea for the plot was fantastic, and with a tweak, it could even be a stage play as it mainly takes place in one place. It certainly has the tension for it! Lena offers us three different accounts: entries of a book she wrote relating Cambry’s last days, posts from her Blog about her decision to visit the place her twin allegedly committed suicide and interview the cop who found her, and her first-person account of the events that happened to her at Hairpin Bridge.

I loved Lena as much as I disliked Cambry. My heart ached for the latter, and she was dealt a bad hand at crucial parts of her life that led to her being so unlikeable. With that said, Adams did a great job humanizing her and making us feel bad for where her story ended, even if most of it directly resulted from her conscious choices. On the other hand, Lena is almost the polar opposite; she has been afraid her whole life but suddenly became the female Chuck Norris. Say what you want about Lena, she is someone who is trying to right her wrongs, and I can only respect that.

My personal feelings:

 Hairpin Bridge was my first Taylor Adams book, and I loved it! I was literally on the edge of my seat from the first chapter. The ball never dropped! It was a thoroughly exciting thriller, but quite a bit of disbelief suspension is needed! For one, I don’t mind it when the experience makes up for it, and that was the case with Hairpin Bridge. I can’t help but think that I would have liked this to be a shorter book, though. I think had this been a novella; it would have been perfect! But, whatever the size, this will make a great movie!

Every good action movie is an exaggerated version of reality; this book is no different. There are some extreme liberties and major questionable incidents, but I chose to look past them because they were used in a way that amped up the adrenaline and thrills. There are some scenes in the account of Cambry’s story that are genuinely terrifying. Adams also gave us so many twists and turns; I felt I had to keep reading to find out where else the story could go! And it went to exciting places. 

Hairpin Bridge is a book to enjoy and not overthink. It left me wanting more from Adams and I might have to pick up some of his other books, I hope they are as thrilling as this one!

Enjoyability     10

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          8

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 Joffe Books, Taylor Adams, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Hairpin Bridge.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Children Literature: True Colors by Gonçalo Viana (2021) Review

If you can imagine it, it’s right

I loved the illustrations in this book, it was beautiful and original and the author seemed to be intentional with representation. The one thing by which I was put off was the “eyes”. In some illustrations there were many eyes, and I can see how younger children can be scared by this. That is my only caveat with the book’s illustrations.

This seems to be a book written in Portuguese and translated by the original publishing house, I wonder if portions of the message were lost in translation, in the sense of early reader ease of independent reading. Overall, I liked the simple sentences. And simply adored the message of the book – it empowers children to use their imagination and express themselves freely, even if goes “against” certain conventions. Especially with art, there is no right or wrong as each piece is a true expression of their artist – even if they are 2 or 10 years old!

I will be adding this book to my work library.

Thank you, Princeton Architectural Press, NetGalley and Gonçalo Viana for an advance copy of True Colors in exchange for my honest review.

#TrueColors #NetGalley

Representation 8

Story 7

Illustration 9

My total rating: 4

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (2021) Review

Greek tragedies ARE the best inspiration to murder

Why I picked up the book:

Death and tragedy have surrounded Mariana all her life. Still, since marrying the man of her dreams, finding her calling, and raising her orphaned niece, Zoe, as if she was her own, Mariana’s life seemed to be finally on track.

That is until tragedy struck, and she loses her husband. We meet her a year after her loss, and still grieving, she leaves everything behind when Zoe calls asking for help. Her best friend was murdered, and Zoe suspects professor Fosca and his posse, the maidens, are very much involved.

Mariana sets out to Cambridge to protect her niece and make sure professor Fosca is caught; Mariana is obsessively convinced of his guilt.

When another girl is found murdered in the same ritualistic way, Mariana knows it’s just a matter of time before another body shows up. She is determined to put an end to it before the murderer targets Zoe.

The book through my criteria lens:

I usually try not to be greedy and only request one format of a book I am interested in – either a copy I can read or a copy I can listen to. I was almost done reading The Maidens when the audiobook became available; I should have just let it go, right? Well, no. For one, the audiobook is published by Macmillan Audio, and y’all know how I feel about their productions. For “two,” Louise Brealey is a narrator in this book, and I am a massive fan of hers. She is one of my favourite narrators, and let me tell you, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith matched her talent! 

Between the two of them, the story came to life. Their pace was impeccable, their chemistry was evident, and I feel they took a magnificent story and elevated it. There were passages in The Maidens that were written in Greek. I loved listening to the narrators read them! Even though I still did not know what it meant, I appreciated listening to them being spoken as they should be, which, unfortunately, I failed to do independently. I also liked the atmosphere the narration brought to our mystery character’s chapters. The narration was so creepy! I loved it! Lastly, I read with a North American “accent,” so I love listening to British books because they always sound better than my “head voice.”

If you can afford it, I recommend experiencing the book in both formats – the narration is terrific, and so is Alex Michaelides’ writing style. 

Technically and based on my personal criteria, I can not fault The Maidens. The plot idea was excellent – Greek Tragedies ARE the perfect inspiration to thrillers. The way Michaelides executed his vision was superb. It was everything I love in a book – Fast, witty, enthralling, fair, compelling. Reading The Maidens was like being pulled into a vortex: each time I started reading, my world ceased to exist, and I was utterly immersed in the world Michaelides created just for me (okay, okay, it was a gift for everyone who reads it). He has this ability to build an atmosphere so authentic, you see what he wants you to see and feel what he wants you to feel. He played entirely fair, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t quite put the puzzle completely together; his final twist was “chef’s kiss.” I liked it so much I read the audiobook in its entirety right after I finished the e-book.

Mariana was a fantastic character, and her development was done perfectly. I felt like I knew her; I saw myself in her. Experiencing the book through her eyes was a privilege. Alex gave each character a unique voice and a purpose within the text. Different characters evoked different visceral reactions in me that still linger: The empathy I felt for Mariana, The dislike I felt for Fosca, the revulsion I felt for Morris, the loathing and pity I felt for the harpies, erm, I mean the maidens, the ambivalence I felt for Fred. In fact, I don’t think there was a single character I didn’t have an emotional reaction to.

My personal feelings:

First and foremost, I need to let out the excitement I felt when seeing some characters from The Silent Patient make an appearance. It’s not often that Thriller/mystery authors actually BUILD their own universe, and I’m here for Michaelides’ world. I can’t wait to see more of it! I feel his books can be read in any order (so far), but do yourself a favour and have both books handy when you start reading, it will be impossible not to read them back to back. In fact, I mentioned that I read The Maidens twice in a row (one as an audiobook); I forgot to say that I have also added The Silent Patient to my May TBR because I just can’t stop thinking about it now!

I really don’t want to drop even an inkling of a spoiler, but Michaelides really surprised me with parts of his twist. I was hoodwinked, fooled, stupefied, and loved every minute of it—utter and total whiplash syndrome. As much as I am competitive and love solving plot puzzles, there is something to be said about the thrill of being surprised when reading a book. I am cherishing this feeling.

The way Michaelides describes places is brilliant. I really felt like I was at that farm, in Greece, at Mariana’s house. I felt like I had attended St Christopher’s College. Basically, wherever he took me, he evoked a vivid visual that made me feel like I was there. This, to me, is another of the millions of reasons why I adore his writing style.

Lastly, (though I feel no one but me will care) can I take a moment and show my most profound appreciation for Alex’s love of commas? The comma is my favourite graphic sign. I think I even use them when I speak. There are no words to express how much I love seeing them used. Is it just me, or do they really make sentences so much more dynamic and exciting? Just me? Okay, rave done.

I foresee The Maidens making it to my 2021 top reads list! And I will be utterly shocked if it doesn’t make it to Goodreads’ best thriller shortlist.

Playlist by the author Alex Michaelides

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 5

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read and listened to it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Orion Publishing Group, Macmillan Audio, NetGalley and Alex Michaelides for providing me with copies of The Maidens

Until book, be the hummingbird!

The Street Party by Claire Seeber (2021) Review

When one night’s event can affect the lives of three families.

Why I picked up the book:

The neighbourhood of Northgate Square was not ready for Nella. When Nella and Marcus move into the community, she quickly made herself the queen bee. And what better way to exercise her influence than to take over the planning and execution of a neighborhood street party to celebrate summer and raise funds for a charity?

What neither Nella nor our other two protagonists, Melissa and Ruby, anticipated was that something will happen and affect all of their lives before the end of that night. Someone is lying, but who?

The book through my criteria lens:

If the first half of The Street Party had been shorter or faster, I would have enjoyed it more. Although my feelings for the book’s beginning are lukewarm, and I was slightly lost following the many characters, Seeber backed up that choice in the second half. The slow start was vital because it allowed us to really know all the characters well by the party’s time and understand their actions after the book’s important event. To make it clear, I can not fault the second half of the book; it delivered everything I want in a book: terrific characters, consistent arcs, compelling prose, and a thought-provoking ending.

My personal feelings:

As I mentioned, The Street Party was too slow for me in the beginning. I had a hard time reading it until the party happened, but then it was like a curtain was lifted and the angels were singing. What happened in the second half of the book was nothing short of magic!

I literally could not put it down, and I fell in love with so many characters! I particularly love and can relate to Ruby – her parenting is fantastic, and she is the definition of a strong woman. I want to be Ruby when I grow up or have her as my best friend! I don’t want to spoil the book, but there’s this one particular character’s arc that got my heartstrings. To mention their name might be considered spoilers; I apologize if I am being vague – but it’s for your reading pleasure!

One thing Seeber did really well was developing the characters and making readers understand their motivation. It was hard not to empathize with all the characters, even those whose actions are dubious or morally gray. I mean, all except for Rebekah – she was something else! Bahahaha.

The Street Party is deliciously British. I was there for all the references and slang. When a character gives the “V” as another character walks away, this one scene got me cheering.

Ultimately, in my opinion, The Street Party is a book about friendship, sisterhood, and how we never know what happens behind someone else’s closed doors. Griffin was terrific at exposing how we all can project a different image to others to protect parts of their lives they want to keep secret. The friendship between Melissa and Ruby was beautifully imperfect and heartwarmingly deep. The fact that they both are at the center of the conflict was a genius choice. It was a privilege to watch their bond and how they deal with the aftermath of what happened. I also felt that the way mother-child relationships were portrait was quite remarkable. You might disagree with the parenting style of some characters, and bad choices were made, but one thing all the women have in common was that they all did what they felt was best for their children.

The neighbourhood of Northgate Square was brilliantly used as a microcosm of societal injustices, overt racism, elitism, and interconnectedness. One’s action will impact more lives than one’s own -always. The Street Party was a raw expose of many wrong things in our society and how having someone who supports us can be the determinant in overcoming adversity.

Even though I didn’t enjoy the beginning and still feel it could have been shorter, I understand it was essential to the characters’ development. The second half more than made up for it, though. It was strong, impactful, and authentic. I’m always seeking books with a message of women empowering other women, and Seeber gifted us with notable examples of that.

Enjoyability     6

Characters      8

Ambience       10

Fairness          10

Plot             10     

Execution        6

My total rating: 4.16

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

#FrostaWingsIt #FrostaHeat #ClaireSeeber #Bookouture #TheStreetParty #Thriller #NetGalley #advancedreadercopy #ARC #Kindle #Booksofinstagram #readersofinstagram #bookstagram  #bookworm #booklover #bookstagrammer #bookaholic #bookreview #bookreviewer

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (2021) Review

I stand humbled

Why I picked up the book:

Life is excellent for Chiamaka, a wealthy biracial girl, and Devon, a hardworking scholarship black guy. They are in their senior year at the prestigious Niveus Private Academy. They make prefect, which means basically being a shoo-in for college applications and having a solid shot at valedictorian.

Enter Aces – an anonymous cyberbully who sets to make their lives hell and turn their world upside down. Because, why not?

The book through my criteria lens:

I read Ace of Spades as an audiobook produced by Macmillan Audio. If there is one thing I can count on is the quality of their production, it never disappoints, but it surpassed all my expectations this time. Ace of Spades is an excellent impactful book, and producing its audiobook version was such a gamble. But wholeeee – Jeanette Illidge and Tapiwa Mugweni did it so much justice! They embodied our main protagonists and gave them a respectful, accurate, and impactful voice. Their pacing was so on point, and the emotion they lent to their narration must have been so draining; I felt I was getting all of them and all of Chiamaka and Devon!

I have never watched Gossip Girl, but I know about it, and I feel that the description of “GG meets Get Out” is very accurate. Ace of Spades is uncomfortable in the most brilliant way, insidiously claustrophobic, painfully honest, and beautifully vulnerable. There is nothing I can fault on this book. It contains inspired characterization, compelling atmosphere, tight plotting with perfect execution—chef’s kiss.

My personal feelings:

 I am literally in awe! After reading the book as I was getting my blog post ready and found Faridah’s website, I found out this remarkable writer is 22!! TWENTY-FREAKING-TWO. 

I am not saying that young people can’t be this talented, because that would be a lie. Talent is something you’re born with, but the depth of characters, the ease with which she pulled the reader in, the beautiful poetry of her prose while at the same time punching your gut with uncoated realism seems to me to be beyond the years of a young adult.

Writing is her calling, and I am so happy to experience her first novel; I only hope to read many more. I don’t know Faridah, but I am so proud of the woman she is; I actually cried, empathizing with the pride her parents must feel!

I’m going on a short tangent but bear with me. I know this is a controversial opinion, but I am one of those people who believe that Michael Jackson wasn’t a pedophile. I feel he has been someone used and abused from a young age who never had a chance to be a child. I honestly believe that his proximity to children was a way for him to try to have the childhood he was deprived of. I don’t want this to be a controversial post, but it is undeniable that MJ was a pure musical genius. He single-handedly revolutionized pop and was ahead of his time in the beats he created; he might as well have created MTV because his music videos were always the ones who STARTED trends; he was also the first to make concerts as experience. The guy was and always will be a genius! 

Why am I talking about him? Well, I kind of feel that Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé was born under the same star. She is, in my opinion, to fiction (and I say fiction because I feel she could write anything and be amazing) what Michael Jackson was to music. A pure, blessed genius who was born to touch people through her words. I’ll stop because I sound like a stalker. Promise you I am not. Just deeply touched and awe-struck. 

Ace of Spades is a compelling work of non-fiction that uses fictional characters and settings. Everything our protagonists go through is very much real, which is scary. It shares with the world the impact of racism on the lives of those who suffer from it. I loved how it represents many sides of racism, from the most veiled to the most disgustingly open. Ace of Spades also does a tremendous job representing queerness, privilege, social injustices, biracial relationships, adolescence, and the pressure to do better than one’s parents. 

It is very much a book meant to give voice to those who feel powerless and encourage people to fight for who they want to be and what they want to do. Even if the journey is more challenging, they are worth the result. 

I hope that everyone who reads this book takes a meaningful lesson with them. If they feel powerless, I hope they learn to fight. If they

realize they are a monster, I hope they reflect on the impact of their actions and learn that it’s never too late to change. If they are privileged cowards, I hope they decide to stop turning a blind eye.

Honestly, my mind is so blown. I’m crying as I write this because this book touched me so much. I don’t know how prose can read like poetry, but this was my experience. I have no more words.

I lied; I can’t stop… The last thing, I promise. I am not usually one to listen to songs; maybe because, as an empath, they have power over my emotions, and it can become too much at times – trust me, I cry a lot when I listen to music. But as I read Ace of Spades, I kept thinking of songs to which I have a deep emotional connection. Not sure if you’re interested, but they are (in order of the emotions *I felt* reading the book, the last two songs are post-reading feels): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5NuzwlLtPxWs6qb43nBi2C?si=FH7CmXuOSLOzl8oTz5-Grg 

**Minor Spoilers below** (click on the arrow)
    1. Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus
    **
    2. Twin Peaks theme song by Angelo Badalamenti
    **
    3.Just Like a Pill by P!nk
    **
    4. How Come, How Long (in my opinion THE BEST song about what happens when we turn a blind eye, I cry every time I hear it) by Babyface
    **
    5. Man in the Mirror by MJ (THE song for when we accept we are not passive agents in our lives)
    **
    6. You Gotta Be by Des’ree
    **
    7. Dance with My Father by Luther Vandross (not quite what happens in the book, but I related to a character who wished they knew the last time they saw their dad, was actually the last time)
    **
    8. Somewhere Over the Rainbow (the ultimate hopeful song) by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
    **
    9. How to Save a Life by The Fray
    **
    10. Carmine Burana: O Fortuna by Carl Orff
    **
    11. Beethoven 5th: Allegro con Brio
    **
    12. Count on Me by Bruno Mars
    **
    13. Blackbird by The Beatles
    **
    14. Fight Song by Rachel Plattern
    **
    15. Beethoven’s 9th: Ode to Joy
    **
    16. Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys (really that last paragraph!!!)
    **
    17. Imagine by John Lennon
    **
    18. Heal the World by Michael Jackson

I’m just humbled and in awe. Reading Ace of Spades felt like an intimately emotional experience. I am pretty sure I just witnessed a star being born, legit greatness. 

wonder if it will work

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot               10  

Execution   10    

My total rating: 5

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: Coming soon

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow (2020/21) Series Review

A Song Below Water

A Song Below Water #1

Why I picked up the book:

In a world where mythical creatures such as mermaids and sirens exist (and no, they aren’t the same), but aren’t well accepted, best friends and soul sisters Tavia and Effie learn how to navigate a society that doesn’t view them as equals. Not only are they one of few black people in Portland, but Tavia is also magical.

Keeping their secret isn’t easy, especially after a siren murder trial rocks the nation.

The book through my criteria lens:

Morrow delivered a powerful and relevant message through mythical characters. I am excited this is the first book in a series and can’t wait for the characters to grow. A Song Below Water was a slow-paced book, but I feel that this was intentional as it allowed world-building. Because it is such a similar world to us, I appreciated understanding most of the differences; I have high hopes for the series as it continues. I hope Morrow continues to elaborate on her mythos and that we learn more about elokos in the next novel.

My personal feelings:

 If you haven’t already, you should pick up A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow, an own voice YA Contemporary Fantasy. It has fresh and fabulous siren mythology as its core and as an analogy. Through her Sirens, Morrow educates us on privilege, racism, social injustices, and sexism. It’s an excellent way for those who aren’t quite ready to face the extent of their privilege to dip their toes into the waters of being an ally.

When I was reading A Song Below Water as I walked to work that day (yes, I read and walk sometimes), I saw those trees in the picture, and it really made me think about the many layers of privilege that we need to overcome to be better allies or advocates. The drier tree is still planted, and it’s still connected to its roots and ground. Yes, the winter – like our privilege – has kept it from blossoming. But it’s not dead; it’s just dormant. I have so much to learn still, but I hope that little by little, I can become like the green tree – that remains strong and itself through all seasons and life circumstances. I am ashamed of my privilege, and I know that there are still times when I only acknowledge it in retrospect, but I hope to grow as an ally continuously. Know better, be better. 

I feel that books like A Song Below Water are so relevant to our current world. Bringing to light the racism women, from a young age, suffer every day is crucial to empower and give voice to those who are affected and help people like me to be educated and become better allies. I hope I don’t sound tone-deaf, and I do not expect people who suffer racism to explain their hurdles to me – of course not! But fiction has the power to open dialogue to real issues and, through analogy, metaphors, and empathy, expose social injustice. 

wonder if it will work

Enjoyability     9

Characters       9

Ambience        9

Fairness          9

Plot          10       

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.58

BOOK SNAPSHOT

A Chorus Rises

A Song Below Water #2

Why I picked up the book:

This is Naema’s story. In A Chorus Rises, we meet Naema again, now dealing with the aftermath of her actions. Her adoring fans have turned against her. She is currently the infamous villain who exposed a siren to the world.

Will she check her privilege and take accountability? Or will she continue to make excuses and miss out on the opportunity to learn about her powers and use them for the greater good?

The book through my criteria lens:

I read A Chorus Rises as an audiobook produced by Macmillan Audio. It is a beautiful production, and in my opinion, Cherise Boothe and Eboni Flowers brought the characters to life and honoured the story. The pace was impeccable, the chemistry undeniable, and Naema’s journey was even more potent through “her” voice. For such a polarizing character, after all, she starts the book as the villain; I feel that hearing her allowed me to go into her journey without bias. I hope that makes sense!

Naema’s arc was really well done. She was still the same character from A Song Below Water and acted her age very much as she is now facing things she didn’t expect – infamy, loss of followers, and bad press. I appreciated that her journey wasn’t linear and that she couldn’t change until she understood why changing was necessary. Hers was a beautiful coming-of-age story.

A chorus rises read more contemporary than fantasy, and I did miss a bit of the magical elements. I would love to see a third book, now that characters and mythology are established.

My personal feelings:

In retrospect, I appreciate not knowing much about elokos in the first book. Naema’s story was the perfect way to introduce the mythos and yet another nuance to racism black girls face each day.

Fame, wealth, and popularity ARE privileges some minorities have, but even with them, they are still the target of racism, albeit more subdued. We live in a society that will make exceptions for some minorities if they are considered “privileged enough” and will reward these “model minorities.” How TF is this okay? And do people lie to themselves to THAT extent of tone-deafness?? The answer is yes. And I am glad Morrow is talking about it. 

I won’t go much into what elokos are, as finding it out is an intrinsic part of Naema’s arc. Still, I think their power is an analogy to the aforementioned fame, wealth, and popularity. 

I also loved the critique of what happens when you seek your self-worth from external sources and then lose it. A Chorus Rise is a journey about finding your value within yourself and learning who you are. 

Morrow’s use of metaphors and analogies is superb, delicate, and powerful. I am excited about her next book. 

Enjoyability     9

Characters     9 

Ambience        9

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.66

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Macmillan Audio, Bethany C. Morrow, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of A Chorus Rises.

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Serial Killer’s Wife by Alice Hunter (2021) Review

Could you be married to a killer and not know it?

Why I picked up the book:

Tom and Beth are a perfectly married couple – everyone in their neighborhood either wants to be them or be their friend. 

Their perfect life is threatened when the police knocks on their door and Beth finds out Tom is being questioned in connection to a murder. Could he be a killer? Did she really not suspect anything? Is anyone’s life that perfect behind closed doors?

The book through my criteria lens:

The story is told mainly through the POV of Beth, which I appreciated. She is a complex character, and I felt I got to know her and how she thinks, she remained consistent throughout the book. Beth comes from a broken family and has been determined to have a perfect family. She has vowed to offer Poppy, her daughter, all the stability she craved as a child never had. As a driven character, you wonder through the whole book whether she is turning a blind eye, completely innocent and unaware of Tom’s secret life or his accomplice. I enjoyed her unreliability, especially because I connected with her and invested in her story. I wish Tom had been grittier, more magnetic, eviler. More “serial killer-like,” whatever that means!

Hunter manages to keep a sense of foreboding and tension throughout the book, but the pacing was inconsistent. The beginning and ending were nail-biting page-turners, the middle not so much. In my opinion, it’s probably because of the other perspectives. None of them were as good as Katie, and I would have preferred if hers had been the only POV of the book. 

I listened to The Serial Killer Wife as an audiobook produced by HarperCollins UK Audio. This production was superb; having three narrators was an excellent choice. James Macnaughton’s narration was everything! I genuinely believe he made Tom creepier than in the book. Sarah Paul and Kristin Atherton also brought so much life to book. I feel that the three of them did The Serial Killer’s Wife justice. Their chemistry and pacing were impeccable. I enjoyed the audio experience so much!

My personal feelings:

I realized that I might have a romanticized version of serial killers as I reflected on why Tom didn’t do it for me. Oops… Even though I wasn’t convinced women would fall for him and that Katie was out of his league, I still enjoyed the book because, to me, this book was about Katie and her journey. And, oh boy, was she a delightful character? Her determination to provide Poppy with a good life and be the best mom she could be was very touching.

**Minor Spoilers below** (click on the arrow)
    That ending got me so mad! I don’t want to spoil it, but it got me wishing for another fictional murder! What does that say about me? I don’t know, man! But if this isn’t a testament to how well Hunter developed her protagonist, I don’t know what else it could be!

I will read future novels by Alice Hunter. The Serial Killer’s Wife was a solid debut with a lot of promise. I hope to see more fleshed-out side characters in the future and “commitment to evil”! But I respect that not everyone wants to be in a serial killer’s mind; I don’t think I could.

Enjoyability     10

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        7

My total rating: 4.42

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer:  I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to HarperCollins UK Audio, NetGalley and Alice Hunter for providing me with a copy of The Serial Killer’s Wife.

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Patient by Jasper Dewitt (2020) Review

If Lovecraft had written One Flew Over the Cucko’s Nest

Why I picked up the book:

 The Patient is described as “appealing to fans of Behind Her Eyes and The Cabin at the End of the World.” Because I loved the former and have no interest in the latter, I kept thinking about this book but would never pick it up. Last week, I finally took the plunge and decided not to wait any longer. It sounds like a short, intense, crazy ride, and I am ready for it!

I wonder if it will be a multimedia book, as the book is Parker H.’s account of his time working in a mental hospital. He chronicles his efforts to cure the titular patient on an internet message board.

Who is this patient, after all? Just a 40-year-old who has been in the institution since he was 6, yet is still undiagnosed. Huh? Yup, not only do his symptoms keep evolving, bringing utter confusion to those working with him. The patient has also driven everyone who has worked with him to either suicide or madness. 

Obviously, the director keeps this patient isolated. Of course, Parker is driven by his ego and curiosity and is determined to be the one to break through this case. 

Jeez, I wonder if anything will go wrong?

The book through my criteria lens:

I think The Patient is a powerful debut novel. The narrative is impressive, the pacing was fantastic, and the characters were well developed. I enjoyed having a small cast of characters to invest in. Parker is our narrator through his posts in a forum. Joe, the “patient” was terrifically disturbing. Such a strong character, well developed, who evokes both repulse and empathy. Because we meet him as a child, I totally identified with Parker and hoped Joe could be helped.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even though I put it down 19 pages in, I read it in one sitting once I picked it up in the morning. I only put it down because I started reading it in the dark in the middle of the night. Learn from my mistake and don’t! Just don’t.

The Patient’s plot is a brilliant idea and executed almost flawlessly. If you want to know why I didn’t score execution higher, check the last paragraph as it contains minor spoilers.

My personal feelings:

I FINALLY READ A BOOK THAT SCARED ME!!! Why am I so happy? I really don’t know, but The Patient is utterly terrifying and disturbing. Dewitt leaves you no choice, whether the novel turns out to be supernatural or not, every page is unsettling and frightening. The scenes at the state-run institution gave me major One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Girl, Interrupted vibes. The Patient is just as unsettling (take a shot every time I use this word, but really – what other word can I use?) and hopeless. I get why Parker wanted to make a difference; a reform has been needed for decades!

The human side of it scared me; the description of some actions is really graphic, and it lingers with you. We see people at their worse – patients and staff alike. Don’t even get me started on the horror you imagine based on the description Joe gives of his bedroom monster – it’s a vivid image you will not forget easily. The monster Joe imagines as a child is literally the stuff nightmares are made of.

As I mentioned, you spend most of the book wondering if there are supernatural elements to the book, and without spoiling the story, I will say that whether or not there is; this book is scary as it represents true evil. A sociopath is both fascinating and terrifying, and to see them as a child doing unspeakable things – no words

**Major Spoilers below** (click on the arrow)
    I can’t talk about the book without mentioning Dewitt’s direction of choice because I know this will make or break someone’s reading experience. I can see why some people would hate the supernatural element, but I loved it.
    **
    The second half of this novel gave me major Lovecraftian vibes, and I was hoping he’d go there. I have the utmost respect for Dewitt’s brilliance. He literally created a monster who internalizes the negative feedback other people project on him to the point of becoming the thing that unsettles others the most. THINK.ABOUT.IT.
    **
    Joe is a monster who becomes the projection of other’s most visceral fears and taunts that person until their only option is madness or death. HOLY FUDGE! I am an empath, and unfortunately, I know that there are truly evil people out there. For that reason, I appreciate the choice Dewitt made to dehumanize that evil. I was more scared when that evil’s face was that of a child, to be honest.
    **
    Even though I understood what the monster was, I pictured it in my head, and I was well aware of its instinct; I just wish that the mythology could have been better explored/developed. I would love to have explored its origins as there was mention of others of its kind. (or if I am candid, it would have made me less scared as I could rationalize it)

– sincerely, a very unsettled prey

wonder if it will wor

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.91

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: TBP

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Website: https://www.jasperdewitt.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JasperDW

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Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji (1987) Review

Why I picked up the book:

I hope every mystery lover and fan of Golden Age Mystery puts this book on their radar. I am so excited to read it! This is a Japanese classic finally translated to English! If loving puzzles and knowing Yukito Ayatsuji plays by the same rules as Agatha Christie, Sayer and Carr aren’t enough, I hope the synopsis will!

Ahhh, to be young and ambitious… university students who formed a mystery club decide to go to this island. Why you ask? Well, that island happens to be the sight of a gruesome and still unsolved murder spree that occurred the previous year. Of course, the uni students feel they can do better than the police and set off on a mission to solve that murder! If you think that it will not be easy and that they will start to be murdered one by one, you’re right. But the publishers promise this is the last thing you will guess correctly! The Decagon House Murders is described as “clever enough that you’re unlikely to guess, but simple enough that you’ll kick yourself when it’s revealed.”

The book through my criteria lens:

Technically, I cannot fault this book. The atmosphere and ambiance were terrific, and it represents Japanese culture and transports you to the year in which it was written, 1987. I appreciate how Yukito stayed true to his plot. The execution was superb. All the characters were developed well, distinguishable, and stayed true to themselves. I felt as though they leaped from the page, and I was on that island with them. Ayatsuji played highly fair, and I can promise (without spoiling the book) the solution relies only on what is on the pages.

My personal feelings:

I am so thankful for reading this book because I have instantly become obsessed with shin honkaku and Japanese Mystery/thrillers! This book is quite literally unputdownable; the characters are annoyingly vivacious, the puzzle is challenging but within reach, and the pace and narrative are superb! I do not speak Japanese, but I have to say that I feel as though Ho-Ling Wong did a fantastic job translating this book. I have read many translated texts, and The Decagon House Murders read complete and as if nothing was lost in translation.

My only complaint is that it will not be published until May 25. I think that Pushkin Vertigo should release at least one book every May 2 from now on, as I would love to make getting a new shin honkaku book part of my birthday tradition!

p.s. Now I want to vacation in a decagon-shaped house on an isolated island!

wonder if it will work

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 5

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: later in the month

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Website: https://pushkinpress.com/our-authors/yukito-ayatsuji

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Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Pushkin Vertigo, NetGalley, and Yukito Ayatsuji for providing me with a copy of The Decagon House Murders

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The 8 Mansion Murders by Takemaru Abiko (1989)

Witty and clever

Why I picked up the book:

This is another shin honkaku mystery – Japanese mysteries that aby by the golden age mystery rules. So I already go into it knowing I will love it and the solution will be fair! These are fantastic brain puzzles. Inspector Kyozo, his accident-prone assistant Kinoshita and amateur detective Shinji investigate two crossbow murders in the “8 mansion,” a large estate named after its shape. First, the owner’s son is killed. Shortly after that, another resident who witnessed that murder dies under impossible circumstances. This is giving me major Dr. Fell vibes; I can’t wait to read it!

The book through my criteria lens:

BRAVOOOOOO!!! This book was fantastic! It was fast-paced, hilarious, cleverly plotted, and the twist was terrific! It really kept me guessing until the end, and when the solution was presented, I was mad for not having guessed everything! Most characters were well-drawn, but I would have preferred the book to be more character-driven; it felt like the puzzle was the author’s focus. I am, however, not mad at it because at least Abiko delivered. The plot was flawlessly clever, and I enjoyed the bending of the fourth wall (using the term loosely here) with many references to real-life works of fiction.

My personal feelings:

I loved how this book was tongue in cheek, witty, and delivered a solid whodunnit with the best hallmarks of a comedy that wasn’t lost in translation.

Our amateur detective was a perfect blend of Dr. Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale – a cheeky young man who is utterly brilliant and endearingly arrogant!

Ho Ling Wong is one of my favourite translators. I love how much care he puts into his translations, so we understand the context of the book. In this book, he added some notes that helped with the background of some references – chef’s kiss!!

Lastly, I love when novels have a list of characters and maps/illustrations, and The 8 Mansion Murders has both! I loved picturing the house in my head, and I was low-key jealous because I have always dreamed of building a house built around an inner courtyard!

The only thing I am mad about is that it seems that this is the only Inspector Kyozo book. I wish it had been a series!
I highly recommend this book to any mystery lover.

Enjoyability     10

Characters       8

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 4.83

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: TBP

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Website: Unknown

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Until next book, be the hummingbird!