Book Review | She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

She's Not There Joy Fielding Crime Fiction One More Page Book Review

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my review of the novel.]

Imagine: your husband surprises you and your two young children with a luxurious vacation in Mexico to celebrate your 10th anniversary. Imagine: on the night of your anniversary dinner, your youngest child, 2, goes missing. Imagine: fifteen years later, after being constantly hounded by the press, a young woman calls you claiming to be your daughter. Imagine getting to watch every detail unfold in Joy Fielding’s latest mystery She’s Not There

Before I started reading this book I had heard other bloggers mentioning that they had read the book in one day. Well, I was in the mood for a quick and engrossing read this weekend, and I gladly fell into the group of readers who couldn’t put this book down until it was finished. I’ve completely embraced crime fiction, my friends!

Joy Fielding does a great job of transporting her readers into the various situations her characters go through in She’s Not There: I held my breath as I read the exchange between Caroline and maybe-Samantha; I felt tense when Caroline and her other daughter, Michelle, couldn’t stop arguing; I traveled alongside the Shipleys as they followed an intriguing lead on a crazy whim… But, it was not just my emotional response to this book that made me love it so much; I was also fascinated by the way Fielding crafted her characters and the way they each handled the same incident differently. I read on a friend’s blog (I forget where at the moment – sorry!! If I am quoting you, can you please leave your link in the comments so I can give you credit?) that crime fiction/thrillers are essentially studies of human choices and how those choices play out as consequences. Reading She’s Not There made me wonder: what would I have done if I were Caroline? How would I have reacted if my child went missing? What would my life look like? In the end, not only did She’s Not There provide a bit of escapism for a day, it also made me look inward and wonder.

Verdict: A really well-paced and well-plotted novel that will lure you in and hold your attention until the very last page. This was my first Fielding book, but I’m excited to read more from her.

Read if: You’ve ever wondered how you would react if a child went missing on your watch, you enjoy fast-paced thrillers, want to see why Joy Fielding is so (rightfully) beloved.

Are you a Joy Fielding fan? What are your favourite mysteries/thrillers?

Monday Musings | Disappointed by Cover Copy

Reading a book in a bar

Have you ever finished a book feeling a little unsatisfied but unable to pinpoint exactly why? Like… you didn’t dislike the book, per se, but you felt vaguely let down? This happened to me last weekend, and after thinking about it for a while, I realized why: my interpretation of the book’s cover copy was different than what the book ended up being.

The book in question is 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad (coming out tomorrow from Penguin Random House Canada), which is mainly about Lizzie and her relationship with food and self-image. I did get that the book was going to be centered around those topics from the copy, but what I felt let down by was it was described as “hilarious” both in the description and in a quote. I don’t want to say that this book won’t be hilarious to other people, but I will say that I assumed that I would be laughing out loud throughout the reading process. So, when I wasn’t feeling that catharsis, I felt like something was missing. Another reason why I felt thrown off — and one could argue that this is my own shortsightedness — was that I expected the book to be a linear narrative that follows Lizzie smoothly from one stage of her life to the next. What I didn’t realize was that the book is in fact 13 linked short stories (again, maybe I should have deduced that from the title?). It was a little disorienting when the first chapter was written in first person only to have to adjust to second person in the second chapter. It’s not that short stories are bad, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting to be reading a book of stories, if that makes sense.

So, sadly, I finished the book feeling underwhelmed. I may enjoy the book more if/when I do a re-read of it, but I don’t feel compelled to do so yet.

Have you ever been disappointed by a book’s description?

Book Review | The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow Fiona Barton Evidence Bag

[I received a copy of this book from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my review.]

Remember when I avoided thrillers/mysteries/anything remotely scary? Yeah, me neither. Ever since Slade House by David Mitchell brought me over to the dark side, I can’t get enough! When The Widow showed up at my door a few months ago, I couldn’t wait to start. Luckily for me, I started this book when I had a bit of time off, so I could read as long as my heart desired (translation: I read it until I finished it — I couldn’t put it down!). In fact, I loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to share; see my Wishlist Wednesday post about it here!

The Widow appealed to me not only because it’s mysterious and thrilling, but also because it’s about a woman who’s figuring things out for herself now that her husband is no longer in the picture. (Or, more accurately, we’re able to learn more about The Widow, aka Jean Taylor, now that her husband isn’t around.) You see, before her husband died, he was the prime suspect of a terrible crime. Is Jean ready to tell the truth now that she’s no longer bound to him? Or is there more to Jean than we know? I find the darker side of relationships so interesting to read about, and this angle gave The Widow an extra bit of intrigue that I really enjoyed. How much of Jean’s actions were because of her husband? Was she protecting his secret all along? Will she still keep his secrets now that he’s dead?

This compelling book follows multiple perspectives: the widow, the reporter, and the detective of the case. Each story is told with a unique voice and the cast of characters are all well developed and interesting. The Widow is a quick and entertaining read, perfect for those weekends where you just want to curl up with a good book! (Preemptive warning: you may never look at Skittle packets the same way again.)

Verdict: A fast-paced read full of secret motivations and mystery that keeps readers grasping for the truth at every turn. Make sure to reserve a full weekend for this book as you’ll have trouble putting it down. I can’t wait to read what Fiona Barton writes next!

Read if: You’re a fan of mysteries and thrillers, love looking into the darker side marriage, want to know why Skittles are forever ruined for me.

Are you a fan of crime fiction? Have you read The Widow?

Wishlist Wednesday | The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow Fiona Barton Evidence Bag

Okay, okay, so I’m technically cheating as I was a lucky recipient of an advanced copy of this week’s Wishlist Wednesday pick and have already read it, but I’m so excited for you all to read it that I wanted to highlight it in this post!

The book was sent in a really intriguing evidence bag with some case details and a pack of Skittles. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to eat the Skittles after reading the book. If you haven’t guessed by now, Fiona Barton’s The Widow is a crime novel — a new-to-me genre that I’m loving immensely.

The book follows a few different characters, but in the center of it all is Jean. For years Jean has been living her life as “the wife of a suspected criminal,” but now, her husband is dead. Will the truth of his crimes finally come out now that he isn’t around to control her? Or is there more to the story than everyone thinks…?

This book was so entertaining and took me no time to read at all. I can’t wait for it to come out!

Are you a fan of crime fiction? Are you interested in The Widow?

Book Review | The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend Katarina Bivald Book Review

[I received a copy of this novel from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the book.]

I think it’s a little fitting for a book about book lovers to be the one to push me out of my review-writing slump slash mini hiatus (guys, I really did not think I needed that time off, but I guess I did). When I heard the premise of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, I was ecstatic. The story line is quite simple: Sara, who is from Sweden, has finally mustered up the courage to visit her book-loving pen pal Amy in Broken Wheel, Iowa. But things don’t go according to plan. When she gets there, Sara learns that Amy is unavailable to meet her. With her return flight booked for a few weeks away, Sara decides to stay in the sleepy town anyway and eventually plays a huge part in spreading the love of reading to its residents via a neighbourhood bookstore. It’s definitely a book for book lovers.

It makes me a little sad to admit, then, that I had some ups and downs with this book. It took me a little bit of effort to become fully immersed with the characters and get all of the story lines straight, but when I did (and when the parts about the bookstore became more prominent), I was incredibly invested. There really is nothing better than reading about other people falling in love with stories and characters, whether it’s for fun or to get over a difficult time. But then there was the romance part of the book, which – and I don’t know if it’ll be just me – I really wasn’t convinced of. For some reason I just couldn’t believe in the love story, couldn’t believe that those two people would be able to fall in love just like that. Again, I don’t know, it could be just me.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t parts of the books that I really enjoyed. As I mentioned above, the bookstore and the book lovers were the big draw for me. There are many quotable parts in the novel relating to books and the experience of reading, and I really enjoyed that. I guess, if I’m to sum up this incredibly scattered review, I’d say forget about the romance between characters and read it for its true love story: the love of reading and the way it can bring a community together.

Verdict: A book for book lovers that I wish I’d loved more. I can’t say I didn’t like the book because that would be untrue, but there were parts that I wasn’t as interested in.

Read if: You want to watch a sleepy community come alive through reading, want to read a book about a friendship developed via snail mail, want to see some of your favourite books (like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee) referenced in its pages.

Have you read The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend? Are there any books that you were really hoping to love but didn’t?

5 Reasons Why The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango Should Be on Your TBR

The Truth and Other Lies Sascha Arango Book Review

[I received a copy of this novel by its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion on the book.]

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll notice that I don’t review a lot of murder mysteries or thrillers. To be honest, I’m too much of a scaredy cat to pick them up most of the time, but when I read the synopsis of The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango, I was so intrigued that I knew I’d have to give it a shot. Luckily for me, it’s not as horror-driven as I’d feared, and I ended up loving the novel. So, without further ado, here are 5 reasons why you should add this to your TBR pile ASAP.

1. The Truth and Other Lies is Sascha Arango’s first novel, but according to his author bio he’s won prizes “for his work on the long-running detective series Tatort.”

Arango’s experience in writing detective stories really shows in The Truth in Other Lies. I’ll admit that I’m not the most well-read in this regard, but the way that the book unravels really hit a spot for me.

2. It’s a bona-fide page turner.

Once I started reading this book, there was absolutely no putting it down until I was finished. The characters, specifically Henry Hayden, suck you right into the narrative. Even though it’s not written in first person, Arango has a way of getting the reader inside Hayden’s head and it’s absolutely terrifying and thrilling at the same time. What’s Hayden going to do next? How is everything going to end? This is an “all-nighter read” if I’ve ever seen one.

3. The main character is a writer. Or so it seems…

 I’ve talked about my fascination with ghost writing on this blog before, so it should come as no surprise that this aspect of the book really appealed to me. You see, Henry Hayden is an acclaimed and beloved writer, but his biggest secret is that he hasn’t written a single word. With a new book deadline looming, Hayden’s ghostwriter becomes tangled up in the “lies, truths, and half-truths” fabricated by Hayden, creating an extra dimension of suspense to this already tense novel.

4. It’s The Talented Mr. Ripley-esque in the best way possible.

I’m not the only one who draws the Patricia Highsmith comparison here, but it’s so apt that I can’t help making it. Hayden is so charming on the outside, but when readers get to peek into his mind, they discover something else altogether. It’s kind of terrifying how normal people can look on the outside, yet have such intense thoughts underneath the surface. This character study alone makes this book worth reading.

5. It’s the perfect book club read.

The second I finished the book I whispered to myself, “I need to talk to someone about this.” This would make a great book club read because of how everything unfolds. For fear of giving anything away, I’ll just say this: if you’ve finished the book, let’s talk.

Verdict: I loved reading this book. It’s a quick read but it’s jam-packed with action. It’s part “crime thriller” (quotations because even a wimp like me could handle it) part family drama. As a reader, I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

Have you read The Truth and Other Lies? Are you a fan of crime thrillers?