I See You

 

31152010

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you’re going.

You’re not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I See You is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller from one of the most exciting and successful British debut talents of 2015.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Publication Date: February 21, 2017 by Berkley

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

This book was a lot of fun, but there was a lot about the plot that just didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Combine these two sides and that’s how this book ended up with the noncommittal three star rating.

I See You is a fast-paced psychological thriller that plays off of a lot of the fears that are just inherent to being female. Even when I’m walking down a well lit street by myself at night, I’m on the alert with one of my house keys posed to hit someone’s jugular if they were to attack me. The idea of being followed is something that has clearly made success in the horror film industry and Clare Mackintosh knows how to play that angle well in her newest novel.

When a friend goes on a date for the first time, she alerts someone to the time/place and updates us as to the outcome. If I’m walking alone at night in an area I’m not necessarily familiar with and see a man walking in my direction, I’ll get out my phone as if I’m making a call. The moment I get in my car, I lock the doors, etc etc. It’s not that I’m in a constant state of fear – it’s more that I have a heightened sense of my surroundings. My friends aren’t expecting to be attacked on a first date – they’re just taking precautions upon meeting a stranger. It’s been ingrained in us to be fearful of men – not surprising in our current society.

Mackintosh takes that idea and applies it to an area where women are a little less on alert – their daily commute via public transportation. People are creatures of habit and so we rarely stray from the same routine every day – from the time we leave the house to the route we take to and from work – it’s easy to see how someone could be followed just by learning that basic information. I See You is able to plant that seed from the very beginning and the tension it creates does maintain for most of the novel.

As the story progressed, there were aspects of the plot that just didn’t seem plausible. To avoid spoilers, I won’t discuss this much further, but these details were enough to leave me feeling a little baffled at times. I know this is supposed to be a psychological thriller, but there were definitely parts of the book that didn’t feel well-thought out. It felt like Mackintosh expected her readers to take everything she writes without question and that’s where I got stuck a bit on how to really rate this book.

Despite the many issues in regards to how realistic the plot was, this was still a really fast, fun read. I felt like I was able to accept the sillier aspects of the plot enough to still enjoy the novel, but prefer my psychological thrillers to be a little bit more thought out. This would definitely be a book for those who could get past the disbelief and accept everything Mackintosh throws at you. For those who get hung up on the details in a storyline, you might want to skip this one.

Thanks NetGalley and Berkley for allowing me the chance to discover a new author in return for an honest review!

Advertisements

The Quality of Silence

fullsizerender

Thrillingly suspenseful and atmospheric, The Quality of Silence is the story of Yasmin, a beautiful astrophysicist, and her precocious deaf daughter, Ruby, who arrive in a remote part of Alaska to be told that Ruby’s father, Matt, has been the victim of a catastrophic accident. Unable to accept his death as truth, Yasmin and Ruby set out into the hostile winter of the Alaskan tundra in search of answers. But as a storm closes in, Yasmin realizes that a very human danger may be keeping pace with them. And with no one else on the road to help, they must keep moving, alone and terrified, through an endless Alaskan night.

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

Publication Date: November 15, 2016 by Broadway Books

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

There’s something about the wilderness and the bitter cold that can seem both beautiful and terrifying. When you think of all the dangers that come with that combination (frostbite, starvation, hypothermia, etc.) and the complete isolation of being in a place that is just too wild and remote to maintain any sort of modern civilization, it’s easy to see why people are fascinated with books and movies related to the subject. Into the Wild, The Revenant, The Terror, and everything written by Jack London are some of my favorite stories to read from the safety of my heated home in the dead of winter.

I was hoping Quality of Silence might join the shelf of cold weather favorites, but that was clearly not meant to be. While I initially felt drawn to the story, there were a lot of issues to be had with both the plot and the structure of the novel, both of which ultimately fell flat for me by the story’s finale.

For the first half of the novel, the environment and the author’s description of its unwelcoming violence keeps the story afloat. Lupton is able to maintain that underlying feeling of danger for the characters through the bitter cold temperatures and the (slightly cliched) impending snow storm.

Suddenly the blackness lightened. The clouds, blown by the harsh wind, had separated and illuminated the mountains. In the half light, she saw how high they were and the sheer drop down a precipice, barely three feet from the left side of the road. She wished it had remained dark so that she didn’t have to see the violent terrain, a scene from a gothic tale, nothing soft or hospitable, which dwarfed her into nothing.

Unfortunately, descriptions of the deadly Alaskan wilderness were not something that could keep the story going on its own. And while I did enjoy both Ruth and Yasmin’s characters, there was a lot that was so implausible about the events in the novel that even my appreciation for the mother/daughter duo wasn’t enough to keep me fully engaged.

When Yasmin and Ruby arrive in Alaska, the reader learns that this decision was made in haste after Yasmin learns of an act of infidelity that her husband, Matt, has shared with her during one of their brief,strained phone conversations.

She’d traveled halfway round the globe to tell him that he had to come home, right now, that she didn’t believe him that nothing more would happen with the Inupiaq woman and she wasn’t going to stand by on the other side of the world as this woman destroyed their family.

The woman’s name? Corazon – I’m not kidding. And Matt’s reasoning for the indiscretion of a stolen kiss?

I kissed her because I missed you.

So this is where Lupton started to lose me a bit. A woman has no choice but to take her 10 year old daughter with her to Alaska to confront her husband about kissing a woman who’s name translates to heart. While there are hints of marriage difficulties as the story progresses, I found it hard to swallow that Yasmin would need to take such drastic measures when her husband was the one who made the decision to separate from his family for months as part of a work endeavor. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t sound like someone I’d go running after. Perhaps this piece of the story was meant to demonstrate Yasmin’s strength and perseverance, but it had the opposite effect on me in terms of logic.

Upon being told that Matt has been presumed dead after a catastrophic fire breaks out in the village he was staying, Yasmin clings to the belief that he is alive and sets out to find him. Ruby obviously adores her father and is happy to move along with her mother’s plan. Because of the remoteness of the village, they must find someone to take them as far North as possible and that’s where Adeeb Azizi’s character is first introduced.

Mr. Azizi is a refugee from Afghanistan who owns his own 18-wheeler and travels dangerous distances to deliver ready-made houses for oil workers. While I found Adeeb to be one of the more dynamic characters in the novel, I also found it interesting that Lupton would specifically choose the one trustworthy character to be from the Middle East in a land of oil rigging companies. Clearly, this was most likely meant to make a silent statement, but I found his part in the story to be too brief to have the impact it should.

Up through Adeeb’s role in the story, The Quality of Silence held me fairly captivated despite the complaints I make above. Lupton’s creation of the treacherous environment and the underlying threat that seems to come from Yasmin’s interactions with some of the men she and Ruby encounter were enough to heighten the suspense of the novel. Unfortunately, these details weren’t enough to maintain my interest once events unfolded and ended up with Yasmin suddenly able to drive an 18-wheeler in deadly conditions just because she is an astrophysicist.

Because I chose to read the second half of the novel in one sitting, I also started to notice details that became repetitive enough to make me doubt my sanity. Perhaps Lupton chose this tactic as a way to maintain the tension she initially builds when the reader learns that Yasmin and Ruby may be being followed by someone who wishes to harm them, but I found it to be extremely distracting.

Yasmin knew now that Matt had told her the truth about his wedding ring and about coming out her in winter to film wildlife, and he’d told Ruby that he could make an aputiak. She believed him now about all of it. Trusting Matt meant that he had a chance of being safe.

The above statements about the wedding ring and filming wildlife are brought up way too much during the second half of the book. Although it’s made clear that Yasmin’s hope for her husband surviving the fire is helping to keep her afloat, it was repetitive enough to irritate me. It felt like something that could have been edited down to avoid becoming so redundant.

Ultimately, The Quality of Silence showed potential in the beginning, but there was too much about the plot I found implausible to really become immersed in the story. From reading an interview with Lupton, it sounds like the idea behind this novel came from her horror of the impact the fracking industry has on not only people who live in remote areas of Alaska, but the animals and environment as well. While I know many authors often get inspiration this way, I wonder if the topic could have been dealt with in a different manner rather than masked in a psychological thriller.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Angel of History

fullsizerender

Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Yemeni-born poet Jacob as he revisits the events of his life, from his maternal upbringing in an Egyptian whorehouse to his adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father and his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of AIDS. Hovered over by the presence of alluring, sassy Satan who taunts Jacob to remember his painful past and dour, frigid Death who urges him to forget and give up on life, Jacob is also attended to by 14 saints. Set in Cairo and Beirut; Sana’a, Stockholm, and San Francisco; Alameddine gives us a charged philosophical portrait of a brilliant mind in crisis. This is a profound, philosophical and hilariously winning story of the war between memory and oblivion we wrestle with every day of our lives.

The Angel of History by Rabih Alameddine

Publication Date: October 4, 2016 by Grove Atlantic

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

This book is as hard to review as it was to read – and I mean that as the highest form of compliment. The Angel of History is not necessarily a book I would have picked up on my own just because I tend to shy away from books that involve religious elements to them. Because I don’t relate to religion, I sometimes find I have a difficult time immersing in fiction that involves religious subject matter.

I’m glad I started this book with an open mind and am forever grateful to have won it through a contest on Instagram – Alameddine is a stunningly gifted writer and The Angel of History does a phenomenal job of sharing the devastating impact the AIDs epidemic of the 1980s had on the LGBT community.

Jacob’s story is a heartbreaking one and the utter sense of loneliness he feels upon losing his boyfriend (and essentially his entire group of friends) to AIDs even years later is something that quickly brought tears to my eyes.

The format of the novel is a bit quirky and took me some time to get used to. Chapters rotate – Jacob’s present day experience in the waiting room of a psych clinic, dialogue between Satan and Death, interviews between Satan and 14 individual saints, and Jacob’s fictional stories. There are also chapters that consist entirely of Jacob speaking internally to his deceased lover and flashbacks to Jacob’s childhood and the time in his life prior to losing all his friends as well as the time he spent caring for his friends as they died one by one. As the reader continues to get a better picture of Jacob’s full life, it is clear to see how anyone could end up in the waiting room of a psych ward – he has experienced such cruelty and devastating loss over his lifetime.

I have to tell you that I wasn’t able to cry after you died. I’m sorry. I wasn’t able to cry for you or any of us. I was terrified of following, desperately clinging to the buoy. How could my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses? For years I thought I was a terrible person for being unable to shed a tear, a disgusting man. Only now do I allow myself a justification or two: my heart was too small, I had to care for you, for all of us, I had to write everything down, I could not deal with loss irreparable, I wanted to speak for the dead, I had to make sure that the living remembered.

I also really enjoyed the “Satan Interview” chapters – both for their dark humor as well as how they creatively shared more of Jacob’s life in small bursts throughout the book. It made me realize I really need to read The Master and Margarita – there were particular scenes that seem to purposely relate to Bulgakov’s popular novel (the cat, Behemoth, seems like the most obvious connection) and I found myself wishing I had already read the novel prior to beginning The Angel of History, but realize that most likely it wouldn’t have made a major difference in how much I enjoyed this novel. I am interested in reading more of Alameddine’s work!

The Summer that Melted Everything

fullsizerender

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him.

As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be.

While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

Publication Date: July 26, 2016 by St. Martin’s Press

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

Why, upon hearing the word devil, did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see a lake? A flower growing by that lake? A mantis praying on the very top of a rock? A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.

When I picked up this book, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The description on the inside flap doesn’t fully explain how powerful and gut-wrenching The Summer That Melted Everything is – and this is Tiffany McDaniel’s first published novel!

The novel addresses a multitude of issues (race, sexuality, gender roles, mental illness – just to name a few), but does so in a way that blends right in with the plot. Although the majority of the story takes place in the 1980s, it felt like it could just have easily been set in the past OR present and I felt like this made the events of the book even more heartbreaking. McDaniel touches upon topics that clearly are still applicable to today’s culture and climate while also managing to create a unique coming of age story that is unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

As we walked home, I knew from far away the trees would’ve looked nice, the grass would’ve looked green, and we would’ve looked like just a couple of boys walking home, armed with Midwest love and Bible Belt morals.

But up close, the trees were scorched, the grass was dead, and the boys were on the verge of tears with the belts of those morals rightened around their necks, threatening to hang them if they dared step off the stool of masculinity.

Although Fielding is our narrator and it is from his point of view that we are taken through the events of that particular summer in his childhood, all of McDaniel’s characters are complicated and layered which makes it even easier to become emotionally invested in the novel. Grand, Fielding’s older brother, was my particular favorite and his relationship with Fielding reminded me a bit of Jem and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.

I made the mistake of expecting The Summer that Melted Everything to be simpler – something more related to the horror genre, but I was happily mistaken. This is the type of book that a college class could spend weeks analyzing and discussing – not only for the content, but for McDaniel’s prose as well. Despite all the sadness and the hatred in this book, there’s something equally beautiful in the way McDaniel describes it all.

He held her cheek, his thumb lightly bruising over her lips as he whispered in her ear, ‘I’ll be the black boy. You’ll be the white girl. And the world will say no. But we’ll just say yes, and be the only eternity that matters.’

Skitter

30753752

Tens of millions of people around the world are dead. Half of China is a nuclear wasteland. Mysterious flesh-eating spiders are marching through Los Angeles, Oslo, Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, and countless other cities. According to scientist Melanie Gruyer, however, the spider situation seems to be looking up. Yet in Japan, a giant, truck-sized, glowing egg sack gives a shocking preview of what is to come, even as survivors in Los Angeles panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are trying to invent a spider super weapon, but it’s not clear if it’s too late, because President Stephanie Pilgrim has been forced to enact the plan of last resort: The Spanish Protocol. America, you are on your own.

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

Publication Date: April 25, 2017 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

The siren continued its pulsing wail, but in the space between, he thought he heard something. A brushing. A skittering.

I absolutely LOVED The Hatching and was ecstatic to get the chance to read its follow up before its publication date. While enjoyable, Skitter lacked the full on action that kept me up late reading Boone’s first book in the series. Whereas The Hatching dealt directly with all of the horror of the spiders and their attack, the second book seemed much more like a pause button. Most of the book centered on the various characters that were introduced The Hatching and their attempts to prepare for the spiders to make their next move. I notice this tends to be a problem with trilogies and often why the second book gets a slightly lower rating than its introduction to the series.

She paused and looked around the room. ‘I think it’s safe to say that whenever this next group of spiders hatches, we’re in for something different.’

Unfortunately, knowing what havoc and terror the spiders are going to wreak on the world doesn’t start to really become known until the end of the book. What a trick Boone plays with this angle because now I’m dying to get my hands on the third book!

Everywhere the spiders went, they left a trail of soft, whispering silk, sticking to trees and bushes, wrapped around men and women and children who found themselves unable to move, unable to even scream.

Despite its lack of action, Skitter did nothing to alleviate my fear of spiders and the book definitely heightened my awareness of my surroundings – always waiting for an eight-legged attack despite the book also having increased my already intense levels of cleaning. Now that the lull is over in Skitter, I’m anxiously awaiting the third book and the nightmares I’m sure I’ll have about apocalyptic spider attacks on the world.

Thank you Netgalley and Atria for allowing me the chance to read this book before its publication date in return for an honest review!

The Devil Crept In

29430798.jpg

An unforgettable horror novel from bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn—hailed as a writer of “some of the most promising horror I’ve encountered in years” (New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire)—in which a small-town boy investigates the mysterious disappearance of his cousin and uncovers a terrifying secret kept hidden for years.

Young Jude Brighton has been missing for three days, and while the search for him is in full swing in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, the locals are starting to lose hope. They’re well aware that the first forty-eight hours are critical and after that, the odds usually point to a worst-case scenario. And despite Stevie Clark’s youth, he knows that, too; he’s seen the cop shows. He knows what each ticking moment may mean for Jude, his cousin and best friend.

That, and there was that boy, Max Larsen…the one from years ago, found dead after also disappearing under mysterious circumstances. And then there were the animals: pets gone missing out of yards. For years, the residents of Deer Valley have murmured about these unsolved crimes…and that a killer may still be lurking around their quiet town. Now, fear is reborn—and for Stevie, who is determined to find out what really happened to Jude, the awful truth may be too horrifying to imagine.

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

Publication Date: February 7, 2017 by Gallery Books

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

I picked up Ania Ahlborn’s novel, Brother, last year and it utterly terrified me. Although my current TBR pile is so out of control that I haven’t had the chance to go back and read the rest of her novels, I felt compelled to put a hold on everything I was reading when I was given the chance to read her newest novel, The Devil Crept In, before its release date in February.

Much like Brother, Ahlborn’s newest novel left me questioning everything I thought I knew about the horror genre. The Devil Crept In is difficult to explain in terms of plot because there are so many intertwining stories that slowly come together as the events begin to intensify and unfold. While this type of plot line could have been messy and confusing if taken on by other authors, Ahlborn is such a gifted writer that she is able to craft her stories in a way where everything ultimately serves a purpose – even if you don’t understand that purpose until the end.

Let me start by saying I adored Stevie. I found his resiliency to be astonishing and his love for his cousin is admirable in its steadiness. Stevie not only exists in a world of adults who don’t necessarily want to believe the things he says he’s witnessed, he’s also always up against constant verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse from many of those same adults (his step-father and brother are despicable characters). Despite all the barriers that come along with not only these unsympathetic characters but also with the impairments Stevie possesses, he maintains his spirit and I loved him for that.

There was something out there. Something bad. He was sure of it. And he loved Jude too much to let him go alone.

I found Rosie’s character to be compelling as well. While I didn’t always understand her actions, there is something so heartbreaking about the position she finds herself in, all due to her desire to have a child to love. There were times I wanted to blame her for the decisions she makes, but then I quickly found myself feeling utter sympathetic for her as well.

Because it’s never the way you want it, she thought. The universe doesn’t care.

Did I forget to mention how frightening this book is? In addition to the cast of characters and the creepy atmosphere (I will NEVER go into the woods alone. Never. Again.), Ahlborn manages to make something supernatural seem so realistic. There is something very believable about this book that it managed to keep me up at night a bit too scared to go directly to bed after finishing a chapter. Not to mention (no spoilers!) the ending was stunning and equally alarming as the rest of the book. Perhaps because I sometimes find the ending of horror stories to be disappointing, I felt Ahlborn’s choice of finale heightened my already strong opinions of the book (the last page actually caused me to gasp in response).

So now that it’s been confirmed that I love Ahlborn’s work, I’ve already made a point to purchase her other novels. My bank account may have taken a hit, but my bookshelves have never been happier. Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books for giving me the chance to read The Devil Crept In before its publication date!

Undiscovered Country

31259054

In the aftermath of her mother’s death, Cat recklessly defers her admission to Stanford and joins Students Without Boundaries. She is sent to the South American city of Calante, torn apart by a recent civil war. There she meets Margo, a sophisticated urbanite out to pad her resume for medical school, and Taylor, heir to a hotel fortune and hoping to redeem himself after a failed freshman year at college. She also meets Rafael, a local boy battling his own grief and demons, desperate to be the savior he thinks his country needs. As her relationship with Rafael deepens, Cat is no longer sure what she wants or what is right and wrong.

Undiscovered Country by Jennifer Gold

Publication Date: April 4, 2017 by Second Story Press

Goodreads


My Thoughts:

At first glance, Undiscovered Country is a YA book with an interesting (yet serious) premise – the narrator’s mother has just died of cancer and so she chooses to take a year off before starting college as her own way of dealing with the devastating loss. Rather than stay at home, she chooses to join Students Without Borders and spend a year working in a small, South American country that is in the middle of a civil war.

I truly wanted to like this book, but there were several issues that I just couldn’t get past:

1. This reads a bit like a John Green caricature. The characters aren’t fleshed out at all and only seem to serve the purpose to be both glaringly diverse and serve as comic relief (the pretty gay boy having difficulties at school, the tiny Asian girl whose parents insist she become a doctor despite her interest in the arts, the extremely religious white girl who finds ways to make statements that relate to God for everything). Get the picture? While there was initially hope that the reader would learn more about these “extras”, they continued to stand in as one-dimensional personalities and didn’t add to the plot (at least for my reading experience).

2. The author had the chance to delve a bit deeper into the South American culture as well as the civil war occurring around the narrator. Instead, the conversations began to feel a bit like a hamster wheel especially when Rafael (the brooding love interest) was involved:

‘I just want to do some good for my country.’ He looks away. ‘Look at history, Cat. When is there ever change, without revolution? Without violence? This is the path I have to take.’

Rafael speaks a lot about this “change”, but the most we learn is that he is somehow involved with local drug cartels in his efforts to fight back against the government. The time spent on the civil war felt very shallow and disconnected from the storyline despite the narrator being quite literally in the middle of it all.

3. For someone who is smart and capable enough to be accepted to Stanford despite having to watch her mother slowly die, Cat seems like quite the vapid personality. I was hoping the book would spend more time on Cat’s year away and what she learns about herself during that time, but any hopes for enlightenment were squashed once Rafael and his pretty boy looks stepped into the picture. Yes, I know she is a teenage girl, but what we are expected to believe about her and how she actually behaves seemed like one big confusing contradiction.

Now I’m annoyed. I’m not tattling on Rafael, who’s been so kind to me. Who’s made such an effort, who has been the first good thing to happen to me in ages. What do I care what his politics are?

I don’t believe the above quote requires further comment other than an eye roll from this reader.

Although I ultimately didn’t connect with the story, there ARE things that I did feel held promise (with a little more attention): The interchanging chapters that go from present-day (“After”) to when her mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer (“Before”) were a great format. It allowed the reader to slowly learn the whole story behind what Cat and her parents went through after her mother’s diagnosis while also staying in the present in South America. I just wish more time was spent on characterization than maintaining what felt like a very shallow plot line.

Ultimately, I would have liked to feel more connected to the people in Undiscovered Country. It’s very possible that die-hard John Green fans may really enjoy this book, but for me this novel ultimately lacked the depth I hoped for.

Thank you, Netgalley and Second Story Press for allowing me the opportunity to read this book before its release date in return for an honest review!