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The Boy on the Bridge

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From the author of USA Today bestseller The Girl With All the Gifts, a terrifying new novel set in the same post-apocalyptic world.

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey

Publication Date: May 2, 2017 by Orbit Books

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My Thoughts:

Okay, first this book warrants some clarification to avoid disappointing masses of future readers. The Boy on the Bridge is neither a prequel nor a sequel to The Girl with All the Gifts. While The Boy on the Bridge deals with the same subject matter (i.e. zombies versus scientists!), one does not need to read The Girl with All the Gifts in order to understand this newest novel (or vice versa).

Keeping that disclaimer in mind, I will say I was disappointed with M.R. Carey’s newest novel. I went into it expecting some sort of connection with The Girl with All the Gifts and like many others have stated in their reviews, I became a bit panicked thinking that I had forgotten about characters when really, this book is a complete stand alone novel and has nothing to do with the plot or characters in The Girl with All the Gifts.

The Boy on the Bridge moves MUCH more slowly than its predecessor and I found it hard to continue reading at times since I felt like the plot came to a stand still towards the middle of the book. While I don’t always need nor anticipate a lot of action in my novels, I do expect a bit more from a story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic Britain overrun by hungries and no known cure. While things started to pick up for the second half, I was a bit let down by the awkward pacing of the storyline as a whole and the ending only slightly made up for my earlier frustrations.

While the characters in the novel do slowly begin to show their individual personalities in the second half of the book, I never felt fully connected to any of them. The book begins with Dr. Khan, but awkwardly transitions into narrations by Stephen Greaves, a teenaged boy who exhibits clear signs of severe autism. I found myself confused by this switch and it never felt like Dr. Khan’s character fully developed after that. The other cast of characters were more one-dimensional and I had a hard time initially figuring out one person from another. While the reader does slowly come to learn a bit more about individuals and their back stories and personalities, no one ever felt as fully developed and well-rounded as the characters in The Girl with All the Gifts.

I do think this book could have potentially been more enjoyable if I hadn’t read The Girl with All the Gifts prior and if I also hadn’t begun my reading thinking the two novels were connected in any way. While the second half did make up a bit for the messiness of the first part of the story, I’m still feeling conflicted about the book as a whole. I’d definitely recommend The Girl with All the Gifts over The Boy on the Bridge for those looking for a “smarter” zombie storyline, but perhaps my judgement is just overshadowed by the order in which I read these two.

Thank you, Netgalley and Orbit for allowing me the opportunity to read The Boy on the Bridge before its publication date in exchange for an honest review!

Woman No. 17

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A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. She’s going to need a hand with her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In comes S., a magnetic young artist, who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s young toddler son, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage, one. S. performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady. But as the summer wears on, S.’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. Lady and S. will move closer to one another as they both threaten to harm the things they hold most dear. Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Publication Date: May 9, 2017 by Hogarth Press

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My Thoughts:

This book is the pure definition of literary noir and I loved every minute of it. Woman No. 17 is filled with complex female characters and the tension that carries throughout the novel creates a sense of impending danger from the very first page. Despite the suspense, there’s also plenty of dark humor to move the plot along as well and I found myself completely absorbed in the complex relationships and damaged characters. Woman No. 17 is for those who love film noir, but would also like to see well-developed female characters who are more than just the femme fatale stereotype.

I’m Travelling Alone

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When a six year old girl is found dead, hanging from a tree, the only clue the Oslo Police have to work with is an airline tag around her neck. It reads ‘I’m travelling alone’.

Holger Munch, veteran police investigator, is immediately charged with re-assembling his homicide unit. But to complete the team, he must convince his erstwhile partner, Mia Kruger – a brilliant but troubled investigator – to return from the solitary island where she has retreated with plans to take her own life.

Reviewing the evidence, Mia identifies something no one else has noticed – a thin line carved into the dead girl’s fingernail: the number 1. Instinctively, she knows that this is only the beginning. To save other children from the same fate, she must find a way to cast aside her own demons and confront the most terrifying, cold-hearted serial killer of her career…

I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjørk

Publication Date: December 31, 2015 by Doubleday

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My Thoughts:

This book is exactly what every crime thriller should be! A complex, multi-layered plot, well-developed characters, and a fast pace despite being over 400+ pages.

I don’t find the main character in police procedural/detective type novels very relatable in most novels. They tend to fit the damaged, middle aged, straight white male stereotype and depth to their personality is often lacking. In I‘m Travelling Alone, Mia and Holger are the main focus (yay! a complex female character in a crime thriller!) and I became absorbed in both of their individual narratives as well as their relationship dynamic. While I believe I would have enjoyed the novel with just one of these characters, it’s their combination that really adds to the novel and is a major reason why I was excited to know there was a follow up novel upon finishing this one.

Samuel Bjork is not only talented at creating multi-dimensional characters, but he can craft a plot like no one else. There is no linear chain of events in I’m Travelling Alone. While many chapters focused on the narration of either Mia or Holger, there were chapters that delved into the minds of several other characters which helped to move along the plot and give insight into the murders Mia and Holger are rushing to solve. Rather than feel like filler, these changes in narration really built on to the already twisted, complex story line and I loved how it made me work harder in trying to fill in all the missing pieces. Sometimes an author’s attempt to build a unique plot can become messy and confusing, but I never lost track of the people or the details I was supposed to know as a reader and I was genuinely impressed with how all the different narrations eventually pulled together for the finale.

This was such a fun, complicated yet still fast-paced read! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves cerebral crime fiction – the kind that makes you just as invested in solving the murders as the main characters you’re reading about.

 

The Year of Needy Girls

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A young boy’s murder unleashes chaos in the life of a schoolteacher and a small New England town.

Bradley, Massachusetts is in many ways a typical small New England town, but a river divides it in half—on one side, the East End: crowded triple-deckers, the Most Precious Blood parish, and a Brazilian immigrant community; and on the other, the West End: renovated Victorians, Brandywine Academy, and families with last names as venerable as the Mayflower.

Deirdre Murphy and her partner Sara Jane (SJ) Edmonds have just moved to their first house—and for the first time are open in their relationship—in the West End, where Deirdre teaches at Brandywine Academy. A dedicated teacher from a working-class background, she is well loved by her students. But the murder of ten-year-old Leo Rivera from the East End changes everything—for Deirdre and SJ, for the girls at Brandywine, and for all of Bradley. And when Deirdre is falsely accused of sexually molesting one of her students, the entire town erupts.

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith

Publication Date: January 3, 2017 by Kaylie Jones Books

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My Thoughts:

The Year of Needy Girls starts with a really strong premise, but ultimately fails to deliver on what it sets out to do. The reader is drawn in by the dueling plot lines: the horrific rape and murder of a young boy on the other side of town and the accusations against the main character, Deirdre, of sexually assaulting one of her female students.

The murder story line never seems to go anywhere and I was left wondering what the reader was supposed to gain from Leo Rivera’s death. There was not enough time spent on it and it seemed like this particular aspect of the plot was meant more to highlight the prejudices in their small, wealthy, New England town in relation to the accusations against Deirdre and their fear of homosexuality. There was something uncomfortable for me about this piece of the story line as someone who works in an urban school district because it felt like it was meant more to shock rather than add any depth to the overall story.

As a character study, The Year of Needy Girls fails as well. Deirdre is a vapid, one-dimensional individual who teeters on the edge of unhealthy obsession with her career and her students. Again, as someone who works in education I may hold some biases of my own, but it was difficult to feel any sympathy for Deirdre for while she was clearly not a sexual predator by any means, her behavior definitely placed her in that category of teachers who exhibit a lack of appropriate borders with their students.

Deirdre’s partner, SJ, also lacked depth and her own individual storyline seemed more like filler than something that added to any character development as the novel progressed. I’m not one to shy away from unlikeable characters, but there was something that just fell flat with both of them that I had difficulty becoming invested in the slow unravelling of their relationship or feeling any sort of empathy for either of their situations.

There was something very Puritanical as well about many of the character’s personal judgements or beliefs regarding homosexuality. While there are definitely plenty of people out there that are as ignorant as those in this novel, I found it difficult to believe that SO many people in Deirdre’s life could hold such assumptions up as truths, particularly in Massachussetts at the time the book is set to take place. This particular “witch hunt” aspect of the novel clashed with the timeframe and it made less of an impact on me as I felt baffled by how all these particular events could add up.

While there are a lot of issues with the book as a whole, I did enjoy Smith’s writing and that is ultimately what helped me to finish reading this through to the end. Unfortunately, this isn’t a book I would recommend for those looking for a crime thriller or a solid LGBT narrative since I didn’t feel as if The Year of Needy Girls delivered on either front.

Eleanor

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When a terrible accident claims the life of Eleanor’s twin, her family is left in tatters, and her reality begins to unravel, dropping her in and out of unfamiliar worlds. When she returns to her own time and place, hours and days have flown by without her. One fateful day, Eleanor leaps from a cliff…and vanishes. In a strange in-between place, she meets a mysterious stranger who understands the weight of her family history: Eleanor’s twin wasn’t the only tragic loss. And unless Eleanor can master her strange new abilities, she may not be the last.

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Publication Date: March 7, 2017 by Broadway Books

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My Thoughts:

I was drawn towards Eleanor because the premise seemed so original and while I don’t always read fantasy, it felt comparative to the more supernatural elements of books like The Lovely Bones and decided to try something new.

I really enjoyed the first portion of the novel, particularly young Eleanor’s characterization. Her childhood had a darkness overshadowing it by the death of her twin sister and her mother’s inability to learn to cope, but she was a resilient and interesting individual and this helped to create a strong introduction to the plot.

About halfway through the novel, the chapters begin to rapidly switch narrators from Eleanor to Mea and then to the Keeper. These transitions grew more and more rapid and oftentimes felt awkward and unnecessary. What had initially grabbed my attention in the book’s synopsis, quickly turned into what felt like a shadow of several other stories (an odd combination of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland) that have already been told. These elements combined with the novel’s shallow ending made for a very disappointing read.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Before This is Over

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There is a deadly virus spreading around the world. At first it is a distant alarm bell in the background of Hannah’s comfortable suburban life. Then suddenly, it has arrived on the doorstep.

The virus traps Hannah, her husband, and their young sons in their city, then their neighborhood, and finally their own home. As a formerly idyllic backyard and quiet street become battlefields, fear and compassion collide. But what happens when their water supply is cut, and then the power, and the food supply dwindles?

Chilling and suspenseful, at once deeply personal and terrifying in its implications, Before This is Over invites us to imagine what a family must do to survive when pushed to the extreme.

Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie

Publication Date: March 28, 2017 by Little, Brown, and Company

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My Thoughts:

I love books that deal with epidemics, plagues, post-apocalyptic environments, etc. and so I dove into Before This is Over with expectations that were maybe a little too high because what isn’t there to love about the premise of a global epidemic without a known cure?

I flew through the first half of the novel and created my own sense of anticipation as I kept waiting for something to happen. But NOTHING HAPPENED.

While I enjoyed Hickie’s writing style and found it initially very easy to become wrapped up in the suspense created by the narrator’s anxiety, I ultimately felt let down by the lack of action. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by prior reads like Philip Roth’s Nemesis or Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”, or maybe I’ve just become too wrapped up in The Walking Dead, but Before This is Over just felt like being stuck in a household with a bunch of adults and several children whose mere presence made me want to bang my head against a wall.

The Breakdown

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Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Publication Date: July 18, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

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My Thoughts:

Having seen all the praise heaped on Behind Closed Doors, I decided to go about things backwards and start my B.A. Paris experience with her newest novel, The Breakdown, first.

What a fast-paced and addictive book! I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump for the past month and have found myself wary of starting something new since I’ve been disappointed by a lot of the books I’ve picked up in the last few weeks. Luckily, The Breakdown was exactly what I needed to get my reading mojo back.

While there were several key aspects of the plot I was able to figure out fairly early on, my sleuthing abilities in no way took away from my reading enjoyment. Cass’ fear and anxiety were palpable – enough so that I found myself feeling equally stressed about being home alone while reading. This was not a typical reaction for me, especially considering I live in a third floor apartment in the middle of a big city and could no way fear the same things as Cass initially did in her isolated, country home.

Although it became clear that Cass might not be the most reliable narrator early on in the plot, I still found myself fully connected to her emotional experiences and couldn’t peel my eyes away from my Kindle no matter how late into the night it became. I ended up finishing The Breakdown in one, tense-filled sitting and have zero regrets about the sleep I lost because of this decision.

While a few aspects of the plot were somewhat predictable, I personally didn’t feel that they took away from my enjoyment of the novel. I was much more wrapped up in character development than the events that occurred since the combination of suspense and an unreliable narrator are definitely my favorite combination in a psychological thriller and The Breakdown nails both of these qualities down perfectly.