January 29, 2018

Book Review: I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.

A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.

Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.

Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.

The beginning of this novel genuinely led me to some soul-searching.  What would I do if I saw something that wasn't quite right or some scene that gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach?  Would I say something?  Or just mind my own business?  I've seen some interactions which prompted me to speak up and ask, "Are you okay?" and others where I've kept mum. Some of those opportunities have haunted me and I've beat myself up about it, thinking what if something terrible had happened afterwards and I could have prevented it? 

This is the fraught situation that faces Ella - and she decides to say nothing.  Could she have prevented the tragedy that soon followed? But first, the plot weaves in and out of secrets. It turns out everyone connected has them and as the narrative progresses I was constantly kept on my toes about who might have been responsible for Anna's disappearance and why. To Driscoll's credit - I did not guess until her big reveal.  In the meanwhile, I just kept turning the pages with bated breath. 

January 22, 2018

Book Review: Extinct by Ike Hamill

Channel Two predicted a blanket of snow for Thanksgiving weekend--unusual, but not alarming for the little Maine island. What comes is a blinding blizzard, and a mass disappearance of nearly every person Robby Pierce knows. He and his family flee, trying to escape the snow and the invisible forces stealing people right from the street.

Miles away, Brad Jenkins battles the same storm. Alone, he attempts to survive as snow envelops his house. When the storm breaks, Brad makes his way south to where the snow ends and the world lies empty. Join Brad, Robby, and the other survivors as they fight to find the truth about the apocalypse and discover how to live in their new world.

I really wasn't expecting much from this novel. But it was a cold and wintry day and somehow, this apocalyptic horror about a terrifying blizzard where everyone disappears hit the spot for me. I read it in one day. Some of it reminded me of The Passage by Justin Cronin (a don't-read--when-you're-alone novel) but mostly it was thrilling for itself. It has logic problems. And even by the end I still didn't understand exactly how characters arrived at certain conclusions. Not to mention the genius 13-year-old that is more pragmatic and skilled than any other adult. But the important thing is this - I could not put this book down. I had to find out what happened next and it surprised me continually. And my surprise surprises me as well. Not perfect but perfectly enjoyable reading if you want to read about the end of the world.

January 15, 2018

Book Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room....

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

I've resisted the pull of this book for awhile now but then in a fit of curiosity, I decided to read the first few pages ... which turned into a one-day reading fest. The comparison to Girl on a Train has some merit. Both novels have narrators not wholly reliable. Something terrible happens during a weekend reunion of old friends. But our protagonist wakes up the next morning in the hospital, unable to remember what exactly happened, just with a terrible feeling that she was somehow responsible for it.  I suppose it's kind of a cheat to use your narrator's amnesia to ramp up the suspense - just trying to find out what happened is prolonged, never mind whodunit. Another narrative device that Ware uses is to withhold information from the reader. For most of the novel, we know that SOMETHING TERRIBLE happened over ten years ago to our heroine but for some reason it is never elaborated upon until the last quarter of the book.  It just hangs over the uneasy weekend get together, foreshadowing TRAGEDY.

If I am a bit liberal with the snark, it's not because I enjoyed In a Dark, Dark Wood.  On the contrary, it was a literal page-turner for me. However, I am not blind to its faults. Let's just say it falls under the category of - would all of this hullabaloo even be possible if two people decided to communicate at a critical juncture?

The best thing I can say about In a Dark, Dark Wood is it pulled me out of a month-long reading slump (a truly awful thing for a self-proclaimed bookworm). 

January 8, 2018

Book Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

#1 New York Times bestseller Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. 

The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look. 

 To be honest, I think I've come across countless parodies of this book of poems before I ever decided to pick up the book itself. Mind you, I did have to clear my mind of any expectations and just be open to whatever lay between the covers. The poems are divided into four sections: "the hurting", "the loving", "the breaking" and "the healing." Female empowerment is the overarching theme. How parents uplift or scar their daughters, how partners can wound the feminine psyche. Multiple poems address violations and humiliations of the female body (you point to the spot/ between its legs the one/ he fingered out of you/ like a confession). Most of the poems are short and simple, some are accompanied by a sketch. 

Kaur has a gift - some of her poems were like punches to the gut, raw and unnerving. She has a bit of Plath and Sexton in her confessional style. However, many of the poems read as brief diary journals, written in the heated moment of anger or pain after a break-up. As I was reading the Kindle version, it was interesting to see the most highlighted poems. If I had to guess, I would say that Milk and Honey probably resonates the most with teenagers and twenty-somethings. A tome to be read and re-read in the height of a love affair and in the aftermath its break, especially if one were seeking positive affirmations. As for me, once was enough, an exercise in curiosity rather than something that spoke to the deepest recesses of my heart and soul.

January 1, 2018

2017: My Year in Books

I was rather disappointed in myself reading-wise at the end of 2016, having only read 40 books, that I set a reading goal of 52 books for 2017. For the first half of the year, I was well ahead of my goal. But then summer struck, home improvement projects devoured my time, and then I dove into the black hole that is Netflix during a particularly dry stretch where nothing enticed me and before I knew it, I was way behind. 

In December, Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood ended my reading drought and I rallied - or rather I decided to turn to graphic novels in a race to beat my deadline and meet my goal. I spent the last day of 2017 baking, cooking, eating and finishing my last 2 graphic novels.  Not a bad way to finish off the year.

Looking forward to 2018, I will keep my goal of 52 books - with an eye to exceeding it.  My family has gifted me two books from my wishlist and I am eager to dive into them. What new  reading discoveries await me?!


1. I See You by Clare Mackintosh (V)
2. The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley (L)
3. Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens *(NG)
4. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (V)
5. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (L)
6. The Ex by Alafair Burke (L)


7. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater* (L)
8. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater *(L)
9. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater *(L)
10. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (L)
11. The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova* (NG)


12. Baby Doll by Hollie Overton *(NG)
13. Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes (L)
14. Miss You by Kate Eberlen (V)
15. Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley (V)
16. The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury


17. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz (L)
18. The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed by Julie Barlow and Jean Benoit Nadeau  (L)
19. Bonjour Kale by Kristen Beddard (L)
20. The Woodcutter by Kate Danley *


21. The Amulet Thief by Luanne Bennett *
22. Cinder & Ella by Kelly Oram *
23. Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee*
24. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey *(L)
25. The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase (V)
26. The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown
27. Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown *(L)
28. Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke *(L)


29. The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (L)
30. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (L)
31. The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman (L)*
32. Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell (L)*


33. Red Rising by Pierce Brown (L)
34. Golden Son by Pierce Brown (L)
35. Morning Star by Pierce Brown (L)
36. A Paris Year by Janice MacLeod (L)
37. A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess *(L)


38. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store by Matthew Sullivan (L)
39. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (V)
40. The Walls by Hollie Overton (V)
41. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (L)*


42. L’Appart: the Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz (V)
43. The Portrait by Antoine Laurain (L)
44. I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll *


45. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier (L)


46. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (L)
47. Extinct by Ike Hamill *
48. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur *
49. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (L)
50. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (L)
51. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (L)
52. Sandman: Overture (L)