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My only complaint is that it will not be published until May 25.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

Twitter: Unknown

Instagram: Unknown

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

Twitter: Unknown

Instagram: Unknown

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo (1972) Review

Atmospheric and clever

Detective Kosuke Kindaichi #6

Why I picked up the book:

I have recently read a Japanese classic murder mystery and fell in love with the style. I am now on a chase to find as many shin honkaku and contemporary Japanese mystery/thrillers possible. The Inugami Curse was both a book that I could easily order, AND the synopsis hit all my golden-age-mystery-lover spots.

This book was set in 1940, and it starts with the Inugami Clan gathering for their patriarch’s will reading. I honestly didn’t need to know more to get excited. But there IS more! The will has some pretty strange details, and soon after its reading… you guessed it! People start getting killed in the most bizarre ways.

Sign me up!

The book through my criteria lens:

This was my first Yokomizo novel and let me tell you, it delivered! I feel that it goes without saying that the puzzle was well presented as this is one of the principles of Golden Age Mysteries and Shin Honkaku.

Yamakazi’s translation was excellent, and I feel like I understood the novel and culture of the time. The characters were well built, and the atmosphere was superb. I was able to visualize what it’d be like to be in Japan in the 1940s. I appreciate when no excuses are given to villains, and this is the case with this book. My only slight criticism is that the book read slightly longer than I would have liked.

My personal feelings:

I apologize in advance for all the Shin Honkaku reviews coming your way. I’m obsessed, and I am on a new reading kick. They have quickly consumed my TBRs because they are a revival of my favourite mystery movement, and they are set in Japan, written by Japanese authors, representing Japanese culture from various decades.

For a book set in the 1940s, it has some truly gruesome and disturbing scenes, so beware. Most people call Golden Age books, especially Agatha Christie’s, “cozy.” I never got it – they can be gruesome and disturbing. And this book stood steadfast to that. Highly original murders described subtly but extremely violent.

I Highly recommend The Inugami Curse and wish I could watch the movie!

wonder if it will work

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://pushkinpress.com/our-authors/seishi-yokomizo

Twitter: Unknown

Instagram: Unknown

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (2021) Review

Be your destiny

Why I picked up the book:

 I read this book earlier in the month for Andy’s book club. As her live discussion approaches, I felt compelled to reread it as an audiobook! I guarantee the discussion will be fantastic, and I want to have facts/impressions fresh in my mind. Perfect opportunity to add this to my botwathon TBR!

We follow 16-year-old Deka as she goes through her village’s rite of passage – a blood ceremony to determined women’s purity. Instead of red, her blood runs gold, and with this, Deka fears the worst for her fate.

Deka is then offered an opportunity that feels like a lose-lose. Still, she simply can’t pass: a mysterious woman offers to help her escape if she will join her alaki army and fight for the emperor. Alaki are near-immortal girls with rare gifts like herself. 

With Deka and her journey, this feminist, West African-inspired fantasy starts. Their tagline says it all:

In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice.”

The book through my criteria lens:

I felt that the atmosphere, both psychological and world-building, was really well done. I thought that I understood the society Forna set for us, and the overall world was one I had a lot of fun visiting. At the same time, it made me sad knowing it is eerily similar to things happening in real life right now. The author masterfully crafted parallels to our world. Personally, I found her world easy to imagine, and I can’t wait to see Forna continue to build it.

The main characters were fresh, particularly Deka and Britta. I enjoyed how they have slowly developed, giving us time to get to know each of them. Forna crafted them with depth and gave each a distinguishable strength and personality. For the first episode in a series, I commend Forna for putting this much care into the large cast of characters.

I slightly struggled with parts of the book – I felt that the romance didn’t add to the plot, as there was not enough tension built between them. I know it’s a YA novel, and maybe that’s why I didn’t let me bother as much, but I wonder if this romance wouldn’t have been better on a later book. I also had difficulties with the time jumps. I feel that the atmosphere would have been more epic if, instead of jumping in time, Forna had fleshed out certain events.

I will add that none of that took away from my enjoyment. In fact, I read the physical book and the audiobook within weeks. I highly recommend the audiobook as Forna has introduced many words that I am unfamiliar with; listening to them has improved my reading experience, and Shayna Small’s narration was superb.

My personal feelings:

The Gilded one was immensely violent and visual, which in my opinion, would make an epic movie. Forna’s world and the story beg for this visual representation. I would love to compare an audio-visual interpretation to the one I imagine. I am aware this is a selfish wish as I am also awful at picturing wars and violence, I can stomach it in a movie, but I rarely ever allow it to form in my head.

My favourite parts of the book were both the representation and how it used fiction to criticize contemporary issues such as racism, sexism, abuse, xenophobia, violence, and social injustice. The Gilded Ones has black, Asian, and homosexual characters, but representation was woven into the story powerfully and respectfully.

I think the empowerment and feminism that oozes from the pages make this a great YA novel for young girls who do not always know they can advocate for themselves and refuse to internalize misogyny. This is a YA book that features sisterhood and women’s solidarity. You won’t find frenemies or girls being mean to others in its pages. I wish I had a book like this when I was growing up.

I can’t wait for the rest of the series!

wonder if it will work

Enjoyability     9

Characters       9

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        9

My total rating: 4.75

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: Check Later

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris (2016) Review

Life isn’t always as perfect as it seems

Why I picked up the book:

Grace and Jack are the perfect couple: Grace is the quintessential housewife – everything she does is magazine-worthy. Jack is a lawyer with an impeccable record. They are never apart. Are they as perfect as they seem? Even behind closed doors? This book is a wild ride that promises and delivers to keep you on the edge of your seat!

The book through my criteria lens:

I am an amateur reader, but to these eyes, Behind Closed Doors can’t be faulted. Paris gave me everything I want in a book: Amazing characters, tension, a despicable villain, a tight plot, and perfect execution. There weren’t many characters, but each of them was well-drawn and clearly distinguishable. I fell in love with Millie, in hate with Jack, and cheered for Grace throughout the book. Hers and Esther’s character arcs were so wonderful to witness.

My personal feelings:

The female characters were unforgettable! Esther was one of the most interesting characters I have read in a long time; Millie was someone only a heartless person won’t fall in love with: she is strong, independent, caring, sweet, innocent, and to me, was represented with respect. A lot of people have mixed feelings about Grace, but I don’t. This is a work of fiction, but I know it’s always easier to tell someone (especially a character) to overcome their hurdles than it is to actually do it. Even though I was one of those people who thought Grace’s actions to be plausible, some situations she found herself in (i.e., the hotel and the doctor) required just the right amount of disbelief I was glad to suspend for a book.

**Major Spoilers below** (click on the arrow)
    I buddy read Behind Closed Doors with a friend, and it was a fascinating experience because she had a hard time suspending her disbelief. She thought Grace had many opportunities to leave, and I kept arguing that she was in an abusive relationship. It’s not easy to leave a relationship when you have been broken down to the extent she was. I understand that this very thing will be what makes or breaks a reader’s experience. Personally, I believed in Grace’s actions and knew in my heart that there was only ONE thing that could give her enough courage to break the cycle. And that’s what it took. I have been in situations when I can’t defend myself, but I can’t explain the strength I get when someone I love is in distress. Millie was always Grace’s only hope. Their relationship was beautiful, and Paris made it clear from the beginning that the love Grace has for Millie is as strong as it gets; Grace loved Millie like a daughter. That love and bond were also the only things Jack couldn’t have predicted because, as a sociopath, he ultimately lacks empathy.
    **
    While in the spoilers, I just wanted to say how much I appreciated Esther! Talk about wrong first impressions! I HATED her in the first chapter; I thought she was a one-up bitch who was going to make Grace’s life even more hellish. Facepalm. Every time she appeared, I loved her more and more, and by the restaurant scene, I was already her fan… but where her arc ended gave me chills and made me cry. MVP!

Right after reading Behind Closed Doors, I purchased all of B.A. Paris books, and I cannot wait to keep reading her books! She is now one of my auto-buy authors.

Enjoyability     10

Characters       10

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        10

My total rating: 5

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson (2019) Review

 Soap Opera in thriller form

Why I picked up the book:

Joshilyn Jackson introduces to this quiet and friendly neighbourhood where mummies get together for playdates and a book club run by Charlotte. Amy is at a great place in her life – she is happily married, has recently given birth to a beautiful son, and simply adores her stepdaughter.

The peace is over when Angelica Roux moves into the neighbourhood and decides it will be fun to turn everyone’s life upside down by attending the book club meeting with the intention to get the women drunk and stir the pot with a game of never have I ever.

The game is not done that night, though; Roux is determined to make Amy, her actual target, play the game with dangerous consequences.
Roux didn’t expect to find a worthy rival in Amy, and the way they go at each other is amazingly clever and absolutely witty and funny! A fast read for sure!

The book through my criteria lens:

I was thoroughly entertained. Never Have I Ever is thrilling and addicting. It honestly felt like I was reading a soap opera set in suburbia. I loved the tension between the main characters, and my guilty pleasure-ometer stayed on high throughout the whole book. Some of the situations were a bit extra, but this added to my entertainment. It was tough to put down this book.

I felt that one of the plot twists came out of nowhere, though, and it wasn’t my favourite thing to read. (spoilers in the last session). I can’t help but think that the book would have been better without it. Overall, it is a solid debut into thrillers…

My personal feelings:

I typically love a game of cat and mouse in a book. You know what’s even better? A game of cat and cat. I love how Jackson spun one of my favourite tropes into something even better! The tension between Amy and Roux leaped through the page as entertainment in its purest form.

Funnily this book reminded me of a phase I went through as a teen. Hope you don’t think I am crazy, but here it goes: during one summer in my late teens, I couldn’t sleep until at least one person in my house had woken up – why you ask? Well… I have always read many mysteries, most of them Golden Age, and at the time, I was upset at how gruesome real-life murders were and how stupid people were as they always got caught.

So I went on a mental tangent of picturing the perfect murder. I like to think I have a good moral compass and honestly can’t hurt a fly. Obviously, I didn’t have the urge to act on it. Let’s make it clear, but one beautiful day a horrifying thought popped in my mind – WHAT IF someone had the same ideas I had, but no regard for life and rules? My room was the first in the house, so I didn’t want to be the first to die. If people were up, I felt my best chance of escape was to count on them to save me. It was months before I stopped being afraid.

You are probably asking yourself what the heck my personal story has to do with my reading experience. The best way I can explain it is that it felt that Amy and Roux were two sides of the same coin. The same personality, but one chose the moral path, and the other didn’t. It’s like Roux would be that person I was afraid of but never met. Hope it makes sense.

They were both fantastic characters and likable. I really, really wanted to hate Roux, but I couldn’t. Her magnetism was undeniable. At the same time, I was cheering for Amy to push it as far as she could, even if it meant making some questionable choices!

**Minor/Major Spoilers below** (hover mouse to read)

**Major Spoilers below** (click on the arrow)
    This book has some trigger warnings for eating disorders and child sexual abuse. These are the only problems I had with Never Have I Ever. I don’t enjoy trigger subjects being used as plot devices for shock value, and that’s how it read. In my opinion, the novel would have been better without these triggers.

This was a fast-paced, page-turner! It was a bit campy, but it read as the author went for this vibe. Hope I am not wrong, but to me, Never Have I Ever read like a witty and funny over-the-top thriller. I can’t wait to read more books by Joshilyn Jackson. Hope they are all this batshit crazy!

Enjoyability     10

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          8

Plot                  8

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.16

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Until next book, be the hummingbird!

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier (2018) Review

How long can you keep a secret?

Why I picked up the book:

Angela Wong, Georgina Shaw, Kaiser Brody were best friends. When they were 16, all of their lives changed forever when Angela went missing without a trace. Kaiser and Geo never quite recovered. 14 years later, Angela’s body is found, and Kaiser, now a detective with Seattle PD, finally discovers the truth about what happened to her. Evidence suggests that Angela was Calvin James’ first victim.

Things get complicated when Geo’s name comes up in the investigation: she used to date James. We soon see Georgina’s arrested for her involvement. Still t it seems like the killer is not done: as Geo’s release date approaches, bodies start turning up, and it appears the killer is trying to send her a message.

The book through my criteria lens:

I would say that my favourite thing about Jar of Hearts was its overall atmosphere. It felt real, dark, disturbingly claustrophobic, and hopeless. I was also pleasantly surprised at how fair Hillier played. All the clues were in the pages, and even though I guessed the last twist, I was still shocked when I found out I was right.

I actually liked Geo, even though she wasn’t always perfect. Her arc was really well done, and we got to know her motivation, thoughts, and feelings really well. I loved Kaiser, though I wished his chapters and development could have been stronger. I wonder what Jar of Hearts would have been like if he had been less passive in certain events.

My personal feelings:

No sugar coating here: Jar of Hearts is intense and gritty. Hillier really didn’t shy away from accurately portraying cancer, rape, life in prison, bullying… Even her psychopath is raw and evil. I hadn’t disliked a killer this much since Pretty Girls.

Geo’s Jail time was disturbing. I have never been arrested, but based on some of the documentaries I have seen, Hillier’s descriptions seemed authentic. Especially the rape and survival instinct. Geo had to learn to navigate prison’s politics and do what she needed to survive. Personally, I found those scenes hard to stomach.

Everything about this book felt “real life,” unsettling and dark – from the high school queen bee to bullying, cancer, rape, and abuse. In a way, I have to commend Hillier for her amazingly insightful narrative. I would love to know how she copes with writing these books as I am pretty sure it might take a tow on her emotions. It did on mine, and I am just a reader; this is the sole reason why I didn’t enjoy the book more, even though I thought it was brilliant. I read books to escape reality. Hillier yanked me by the hair and pulled me right back into it. There are people like Angela and Calvin and Bernie out there, and more of them than I care to acknowledge.

Even though I wasn’t expecting what I found in the pages of Jar of Hearts, I will definitely be reading Hillier’s other books. But next time, I will go in prepared!

Enjoyability     7

Characters       8

Ambience        10

Fairness          10

Plot                  10

Execution        8

My total rating: 4.41

Review for this book is mentioned in this video: Up at the end of May

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

The Playdate by Victoria Jenkins (2021) Review

When your past threatens your child’s future – can you really trust anyone?

Why I picked up the book:

Adele and Dani meet at a playgroup. Their children like each other. They become fast and unlikely friends – they don’t have a lot in common; Dani is single, living with her mom, struggling financially and young. Adele is unhappily married, wealthy, and older. But they both have something to hide.

Dani’s past comes back to haunt her first as she starts getting threatening e-mails and being cyberbullied. She leans on Adele for support, and together they try to figure out why Dani is being targeted. Adele’s home life seems to be far from the perfection she projects, but will she trust Dani?

When your past threatens your child’s future – can you really trust anyone?

The book through my criteria lens:

The Playdate was a solid book. It started off slow, but the suspense was built well and gradually. I loved how we were made to constantly doubt our gut instinct and were take many different directions before we got the final picture. The book’s brilliance was that Jenkins played utterly fair; she didn’t use any red herrings to deceive us. Instead, she opted for wonderfully dubious storytelling.

The pacing of the reveals was organic; not for a moment the narrative was held back or suffered in favour of shock value. Quite the opposite, reading The Playdate was like that visual puzzle we get a part of the picture at a time. With each pixel, the whole picture becomes more evident. Even if we guess the puzzle before the end, the final product is always more vivid and a worthy revelation in its own right.

Dani’s need for a more mature maternal figure was crucial to her character’s arc. I felt that Dani’s relationships with her mum and Adele were really well developed and their purpose respected. Jenkins captured the cattiness that can happen in playgroups really well; some people might be surprised at how competitive some mothers can be in such settings.

Although I enjoyed Jenkin’s depiction of the children – they felt natural, and I understand their importance to the plot. I just wish their development could have been pushed just a little further.

My personal feelings:

I enjoyed The Playdate; it was addicting and easy to get invested in. Jenkins masterfully built all her twists, and I appreciate how she chose to reveal them. Her timing was impeccable.

The Playdate pulls at my worst fears as a mother – I couldn’t bear it if anything I have ever done came back not only to haunt me but to harm my son. The way Jenkins described the mother-child relationships are relatable and easy to empathize with. We never know what measures we will take at desperate times until we need to act. I would have done some things differently than some characters. However, even at the height of my shock, horror, disapproval, and repulsion, I can still see the character’s motivation and relate to their pain.

I was particularly touched by the different ramifications grief can have in one’s life. Grief was present in more than one character’s development, and it affected each one differently. This literary choice was very insightful – to say more might spoil the book, so I apologize if I leave it at that.

Overall, I felt that Jenkins executed a psychological thriller brilliantly, and I will be picking up more of her books.

Enjoyability     8

Characters       8

Ambience        8

Fairness          10

Plot           8       

Execution    8   

My total rating: 4.16

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Disclaimer: I first read it as an ARC. In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to Victoria Jenkins, Bookouture and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Playdate.

Shiver by Allie Reynolds (2020) Review

Thrilling and addicting. This is what snowboarding must feel like.

Why I picked up the book:

I feel that the theme for this synopsis is “I don’t need to know more,” but really, they had me at a group of people who haven’t seen each other in 10 years meet at a deserted French Alps resort. Are you with me?

The last time they saw each other, one of their friends, Saskia, disappeared. As their reunion starts, an icebreaker makes them realize they don’t know who organized this meeting. Tchan-Tchan!!!!

Quickly it becomes apparent they have every reason to fear: they all have secrets they would prefer to keep from the others; they don’t know who their “host” is, what their intentions are and how far they would go to achieve it.

The book through my criteria lens:

Let’s be honest; if there is one mystery trope I will never get tired of is a closed circle. I will pick up any mystery that promises me that, even better if it’s an isolated atmospheric setting. The problem with that is that Agatha Christie has spoiled me, so I look for particular things in a closed circle book. Will most of them satisfy me? Yes. But will they make it to a prize “auto-buy author” spot on my bookshelf? Not always.

As soon as I heard of Shiver, I knew I had to check it out – closed circle, French alps, unlikeable characters, secrets, snow. Check, check, check, check, check. I also love getting immersed in a world I’m not familiar with, so I went in with high hopes to end the book as an expert couch snowboard. Did Reynolds deliver? Well, guys. I am so sorry to say that she did! Dang, now I have to wait for her next book to be released impatiently.

If it wasn’t obvious, Shiver surprised me. Even though it is a debut novel, it met all my amateur reader expectations. The characters were well developed, and each behaved in characteristics set out to them for the book’s duration. The unlikeable characters were well-drawn, and let me tell you, I despised that person (no spoilers). The protagonist was multidimensional and made many questionable choices, but I couldn’t help getting emotionally invested in Milla.

Shiver was hard to put down, and I particularly liked the alternating chapters. I felt that each “past” chapter gave just enough background to what happened in the present without spoiling the plot, at the same time leaving you wanting more.

I am not an expert couch snowboarder, sadly. But Reynolds did a fantastic job describing that world; even if you are not familiar with the terminology, you understood the references through the characters. She did play fair, which is my number one thing. The author also came out with an excellent idea for a plot and delivered it flawlessly. Impressed. You nailed this literary crippler, Allie.

My personal feelings:

I knew I was going to love this book when the romance didn’t bother me. I usually do not like romance in my mystery, but Reynolds wove it into the plot in a way that was part of character development and didn’t distract from the story. I actually liked it because, well, I was invested in Milla.

The alternating chapters were reminiscent of The One. In the sense that every time a “past” chapter ended, I just wanted to get to the next “past” chapter. But I felt the same way about the “present” chapters. Reynolds did a great job ending each chapter in a cliffhanger.

I had a lot of fun learning about the world of snowboarders, and to me, the narrative felt like it came from someone who is passionate and knows what they are talking about. (which, from the little I gathered, IS the case). I could feel the passion for this world in each of the characters, and I appreciate that Reynolds didn’t romanticize it; trust me, we get to see the ugly side too. Who knew there was one?

Do you know what else I read? That Allie leaves in Australia now and has swapped the snowboard for a surfboard. That got my wheels turning… I love Australia; I love the beach (Brazilian here). Do you know what would make me really happy? If one of her following books explores this world! There aren’t many mysteries with a closed circle plot set on a beach. Is this possible? Fingers crossed!

This is what I had, guys. Until next book, be the hummingbird!

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: Video review will be up by the end of may

BOOK SNAPSHOT:

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney (2017) Review

Meet Amber, she’s in a coma

Why I picked up the book:

The tagline (and first “chapter”) did it for me, to be honest. How can you read this:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma.

2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.

3. Sometimes I lie.

And not be inta-invested? I didn’t need to know anything else, but in case you do:

Sometimes I Lie is the story of Amber Reynolds, who finds herself in a coma, with no memories of what happened. She can hear everything around her, but she can’t tell anyone that she suspects her husband might have something to do with her accident. We piece together the whole story through the unreliable POVs of Amber at three different times in her life: now, then, and before.

During Amber’s “Now” narrative, we follow her in the present as she lies in the hospital in a coma.

In “Then” we follow her in the immediate past, leading up and including the accident that caused the coma.

In “Before” we get Amber’s version of what happened in her childhood and tween years- events that shaped her relationship with her sister and her identity. These events are told through her 10-year-old self journal entries

The book through my criteria lens:

Sometimes I Lie is a terrific debut novel. In my opinion, Feeney masterfully developed her protagonist. Amber was multidimensional, compelling, and authentic. I don’t know how Feeney managed to get me so emotionally invested in an unreliable character who starts her narrative by saying she lies. But she did. I fell in love with Amber. Even though some characters fell on the stereotypical side and the story would have been better without them, Amber more than made up for them. This book was a creepy and tense page-turner; I couldn’t put it down.

The tension Feeney built was excellent. To me, being in Ambers’s head while she was in a coma was a claustrophobic and intense experience. The discomfort Feeny crafted was just enough to make this narrative an empathetic and visceral read without turning the reader off. The overall tension in the other tenses was equally impressive. 

I loved the “two truths and a lie” idea for the plot. I feel that Feeney delivered in her execution. Still, due to personal taste, I wish a particular side plot hadn’t made it to the book and that the final chapter had answered one of my questions less dubiously— Sometimes I Lie is a solid and strong debut novel.

After I read this book, I also listened to the audiobook, and I highly recommend it. First of all, it is a Macmillan Audio production, which you should know by now I am a fan! Then, we have the fantastic narration by Stephanie Racine. I think that she did a brilliant job bringing Amber to life and complimenting the plot. Her narration was everything I loved about the book, eerie, gloomy, well-paced, intense, and emotional. I highly recommend you check the audiobook as well if this is your jam!

My personal feelings:

The distinct POVs added a lot of suspense and tension to the story, and I was here for all of it. I am not sure if it was intentional in the way I understood it, but I love how the book starts with three facts about Amber, and so do all the “before” chapters, where we get the journal entries of child Amber. To me, it brought a sense of continuity.

My favourite thing in the book was Amber, and how invested in her, I was. I progressively felt worse for her. No word of a lie, halfway through the book, I was crying every chapter, feeling like I wanted to hold her and make her feel better! Especially her child self. It seems like people have been so horrible to her, but there’s always that reminder at the corner of your mind that says Amber mentioned she sometimes lies, so you constantly question how much of her narrative is true.

If I could nitpick, I felt a side plot was utterly unnecessary to the book and included for shock value. Don’t get me wrong, shocked I was – I felt physically sick and had to walk away from the book and take a break. But a small part of me wonders if it was included to enhance the odds of publication.
I could have lived without the last chapter, and I felt like it broke the tension slightly, but it didn’t ruin the book for me at all.

Feeney’s style checks all my boxes; I cannot wait to read her future books! Something tells me they will get progressively better. She has made it to my “auto-buy” author’s club instantly.

Enjoyability     8

Characters       8

Ambience        9

Fairness          9

Plot                  9

Execution        7

My total rating: 4.16

This book is mentioned in these videos: (review) – https://youtu.be/GViNfT7Quww

(synopsis) – https://youtu.be/TI-8FqxMYbM

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