The Wife – Review

“In an instant, I became the woman they assumed I’d been all along: the wife who lied to protect her husband.”

The Wife asks us: how far should a wife go to protect those she loves? A question we all think we know the answer to. A question we all think we can answer ourselves. This assumption, the arrogance we have thinking we know simple answers to complex questions, is precisely where Alafair Burke wants us.

From the very beginning we know a few things. We know that there’s a detective on Angela’s doorstep. One who has been involved with their family before. We know her husband is under some sort of suspicion, that the detective wants to know where he was the previous night. We know Angela lies. We know a woman’s missing.

“I should have slammed the door, but she was baiting me with the threat of incoming shrapnel. I’d rather take it in the face than wait for it to strike me in the back.”

As the story unfolds, we find out that the innocent encounter with an intern that Jason told Angela about, may be closer to harassment than he portrayed. We see how quickly Jason falls out of favor from the University he works at, and with the news stations he is a reoccurring guest on. How fast he is condemned in the world before charges are even brought.

When a new woman brings harsher allegations, sexual assault, with evidence, a simple misunderstanding becomes harder to explain. As Jason works with his lawyer to defend himself, pieces of Angela’s past start rising to the surface. Pieces that she desperately wants to keep hidden.

“I’ve told him it has nothing to do with the past. It’s rational for me to be more afraid than he is.”

To make things even more complicated for Angela, she desperately wants to protect their son Spencer from all the rumor, gossip, and speculation. Private school in New York is nothing if not deadly in the court of public opinion. Spencer is one of my favorite characters in this book. Though he loves Jason and calls him dad, he is loyal to his mother in a way that single mothers will recognize. He lives for her, and she for him. It isn’t just her own secrets that she is so determined to protect.

Burke writes sharp characters with a sharper commentary on society at large woven into the plot. Even though we don’t know exactly what happened, as the story unfolds we are given a scrap of information at a time. Burke gives us emails, news reports, clips from police reports, along with the perspectives of the detective, Corrine, and Angela. With each new piece of information we have to shift, examine what we thought we knew, and form new opinions.

The way Burke leads us down the path to assumptions is brilliant. She gives us the characters own biases and opinions when presenting the new fact, or perspective. This all helps build the narrative. The one where we think we’re being unbiased. Where we think we know where the information is leading. Each bias, each new piece of information, builds the doubt, and yet somehow, you still think you know where we are heading.

“To know something, he argued, was not the same as to be certain beyond all doubt. And to believe something was definitely not the same as to know it.”

In a world of viral news, The Wife is a stellar examination of the reality we live in. When does an allegation become fact? When should it? Beyond just the ideas of what we think our opinions are, Burke constantly knocks us off balance by presenting a different side to the same piece of information. How drastically can one side vary from another, and both feel true? In a world of twisting perceptions, how can we ever really know the truth?

We go through the court of public opinion and end up in an actual courtroom. Throughout it all we get the details as the investigation uncovers them. But, it isn’t just the pieces of information in regards to Jason that Burke presents to us and uses against us. It’s also the secrets of Angela’s past. Just like she presents the facts in regards to Jason, we get a slow unveil of her past.

The Wife is a more subtle exploration of what it is to be a victim. To be victimized. Is Angela the victim? The accusers? The accused? Burke shows us every side, shifting and changing the second we feel confident of our answers. This is an exercise in judgement. How we find it. How we wield it. It asks the question: can we ever hope to find it.

I loved this book! It isn’t just the nuance of thriller or mystery that makes it excellent. The ending blind sides you. We don’t ever get complete answers to some of the questions we’re presented with, but we discover, that doesn’t really matter. It’s a reality check that we can’t ever really know the truth of a person. We never really know who they are. What they’re capable of. No matter how many angles we look from.

Tracy from @thepagesinbetween and I are hosting a #wickedreadalong this month for this book! We hope you can join us!

March 16: pages 1 – 171 on my Instagram page @jenabrownwrites

March 30: pages 172-338 on Tracy’s Instagram page @thepagesinbetween

And please! Check out our very first #blogsquad joint review on The Obscurist, the new blog for the subscription box Paper Obscura. Go give us some love! And if you end up joining, (which you totally should), use my code WICKEDJENA for a wicked discount!


Renegades – Review

“We were all villains in the beginning.”

Renegades, though made to feel as if ripped from the pages of comics, is actually far from the typical comic-book style story. While we deal with heroes and villains, the more you read, the more you realize that the lines between those two aren’t quite as clear as we’d like them to be. It’s this exploration of what it means to be good, what it means to be evil, and if the two are perhaps closer to each other than we realize, that makes Renegades such a spectacular novel.

We land in a world where some people are known as ‘prodigies’. Whether they are born with their abilities or develop them, to everyone without powers, they are simply a threat. Persecuted. Hunted. Tormented. The prodigies found themselves oppressed, terrified and often at the mercy of a mob. All that changed when one prodigy, Ace Anarchy, rose up and destroyed the foundation of that society.

“Sometimes the weak much be sacrificed so that the strong may flourish.”

Vicious gangs rose in the chaos, bringing their own tidal wave of terror and fear in their wake. Until a group of prodigies decided that the world needed heroes. The Renegades challenged the gangs, fought the villains, ultimately winning the battle for power and restoring peace and structure to the city. Fast forward and The Renegades are still in power, training prodigies from all over the world. All in the name of heroism. All to help other countries establish the peace they’ve built.

Nova believed in The Renegades once. She believed they would come and save her family when the gangs came. She believed they would make her safe. Except they didn’t. Her uncle, Ace himself, is the one who did that. Raised with the remaining villains, segregated to the abandoned subway tunnels and at the mercy of Renegade harassment, Nova doesn’t believe in The Renegades. When the chance to undo the system under Renegade control, to free everyone from the grasp of superheroes emerges, Nova jumps to seize it.

“They were not superheroes. They were frauds, and this whole system that was meant to protect and serve was nothing more than a failed social experiment.”

Adrian was adopted by to of the original Renegades. Raised by superheroes, it’s only natural that he becomes one. He believes in everything they stand for. Doesn’t he? As Nova’s mission brings her closer to Adrian, and his own search for the truth brings him closer to buried secrets, they’ll discover that the line between vengeance and justice is thinner than they ever thought possible.

I am a huge fan of books that explore that dingy gray areas that force the reader to question everything they think they believe in. The line between good and evil in not clear cut, or neatly defined in this story. As we learn more about The Renegades, and even The Villains, we realize that they both have valid reasons for their beliefs. To make things more complicated, as Nova discovers new information on programs The Renegades are planning, the line between good and evil blurs even more.

“Now, they weren’t so much vigilantes as celebrities. Celebrities who had an important job to do, but celebrities nonetheless.”

Secret identities, betrayal, action filled fight scenes, and even superhero tryouts, Renegades has it all! It’s fun, and complex, and just enough of a slow-burn romance that even the blackest of villain hearts will melt just a little.

If you stay on the surface of Renegades, you’ll have a good time. You’ll be entertained and shocked in equal measure. The themes of good and evil are obvious and predominant. However, it’s the more subtle study of power that make Renegades far more than just an addition to the good versus evil trope. The Renegades were founded on a mountain of good intentions. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always translate to good public policies. We see multiple examples of this sprinkled throughout the pages.

More interesting than that, is Meyer’s discussion on the reliance of power. How ordinary people stopped believing they could make a difference, that they could be part of the power structure because of their lack of abilities. That is a fascinating analysis of how people can give up their own individual power. While this is in a universe where the powerful have actual powers, the correlation that we can draw to actual events is frightening. How often have large portions of the public given up their power with detrimental and atrocious results? Too many.

“How long before all of humanity gave up on personal freedom and responsibility? How long before they forgot what that felt like at all?”

I also loved how Nova is presented throughout the book. Raised by the villains means she isn’t quite as enamored with the Renegades as the rest of society. So she comes across as bold, when really she’s simply the only one questioning what she sees. We don’t always need people rebelling in a society. A little active participation and asking questions rather than trusting good intentions is always the better course of action in terms of citizenry.

By the end of the book, who is good and who is evil is nearly impossible to decipher. Meyer forces the reader to really sit back and examine the information presented and form your own opinion. But she doesn’t make it easy. No one is entirely good, and while there are a few characters easily classified as proper villains, they aren’t all as simple to categorize. Even if they ally themselves with the villains.

“Heroism wasn’t about what you could do, it was about what you did.”

Renegades is the first in a Duology, with the sequel due out this fall. The title was also just announced: Arch Enemies. If you’ve read this and know how it ends, you’ll die screaming a thousand deaths at all the promise held in those two words! If not, you’ll know what sweet agony is promised as soon as you finish the final page.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Meyer’s, and am once again enthralled with her writing. She handles diversity and inclusiveness like no one’s business. I’m dying for November!

I read this as part of Mary Weber’s Facebook Book Club. The book was a gift from the best #bookfairy I’ve ever known, Tracy @thepagesinbetween. She’s an awesome blogger and is Queen of Thrillers! Go check her out!

Things To Do When It’s Raining – Review

“Some things are better kept secret. And some things are not: life’s most difficult task is to know which is which.”

Things To Do When It’s Raining is a novel full of all the deep feelings. Prepare yourself for a novel full of tragedy and heartbreaking beauty. Marissa Stapley takes you into the reality of near misses, misunderstandings, and the weight of secrets.

Mae Summers is content with her life. She has an incredible fiancé, a secure job at the growing company he owns, and is well on her way to making her dreams come true. It’s a bit of a blow when she wakes up one morning to realize it was all built on lies.

After Peter disappears revealing the scam his company, and his life were, Mae is forced to return home. Life in Alexandria Bay, the sleepy tourist town she grew up in, is far different from life in New York City. While a change of pace might be good for Mae, she comes home to ghosts of her past.

Her grandfather isn’t living at home, her grandmother is acting strangely, and Gabe, her childhood love, has returned. As Mae sorts through her emotions and tries to make sense of her new life, the answers to these questions may demand more forgiveness than she can manage.

“She starts to run, forgetting the fear of the ice and focusing instead on her fear of the truth.”

I really liked how this novel was set up. In between each chapter, there’s an item from the list Mae’s mother, Virginia, posted on the wall of their family Inn, appropriately titled: Things To Do When It’s Raining. One of the more subtle tragic twists is this list, the focus on rain, and Mae’s parents. When you put that one together, it just hurts your heart!

We also get multiple perspectives, not just Mae. Gabe, Lilly and George, all have their own secrets and struggles to work through. Changing the narration to give a more personal look at each storyline made the novel feel more realistic. Mae couldn’t possibly uncover these secrets on her own, and the novel would have felt more murder mystery if she had. Instead, we get a very rich and complex set of tangled lives. Which is generally how secrets end up. Tangled and woven into our lives in ways we never really expect, or sometimes even understand.

“She had told him she loved him then, and she had cried, and he had known that there were too many things he was never going to be able to say to her.”

The one storyline I struggled with the most was Lilly. I didn’t really understand her motives for doing some of the things she did. I mean, logically I understand the information presented. But, there were a couple of things that felt so cruel, it was hard to feel like she justified doing them.

Beyond Lilly’s secrets and actions though, the core of the novel really is about how we perceive ourselves and how we let others determine that perception. Of all of the narrations, Gabe’s is the most heartbreaking. The secrets he keeps are more from the burdens others placed on him as a child. For Gabe, while he seeks the forgiveness of others, he really needs to forgive himself. That’s the hardest thing, and leads to such heartbreak for him. There are many times you want to reach through the book and hug him. And smack the adults around him.

“He loved her because he understood what it meant to be wounded, and to inflict wounds in return.”

Stapley takes us into some deep emotions, the type that take a minute to sort out. I’m still undecided on how I feel about Lilly for example. But she also gives us redemption and hope. We get a novel that shows us life at it’s messiest. At how good intentions can quickly turn poisonous, and how difficult it can be to untangle ourselves from the lies we tell ourselves and the lies others tell us.

We get to see people at their best and also at their worst. It makes it difficult to love or hate them in a black and white spectrum, and I really enjoy that in a cast of characters. You’ll want to react but will also hold yourself back, and possible change your mind. There are times you want to strangle them or scream at them, but then you’ll be exposed to their own flawed humanity and your heart will break for them. It is an accomplishment to take you through the spectrum of reactions to multiple characters.

“People change their minds about things. It just happens. You can’t stay sure about everything your whole life.”

People change. They make mistakes. They live in regret. Forgiveness is a journey that we all go through at some stage and to some degree. Whether we seek it from others, or search from it within ourselves. Stapley does a beautiful job writing a story full of mistakes, misconceptions, secrets, lies, and at the heart of it all is forgiveness and the power of love.

Things To Do When It’s Raining is a beautifully complex novel that would be perfect for a book club, or book discussion. There’s so many facets to explore. I think the conversation would be fascinating!

Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review for #WRC2018!!!

Artemis – Review

“It’s hard to run with a hundred kilograms of gear on — even in lunar gravity. But you’d be amazed how fast you can hustle when your life is on the line.”

Andy Weir is back with his unique and addicting blend of factual science fiction and smart ass humor. This time we’re not fighting for out life on Mars, but living in a city built on the Moon. Welcome to Artemis.

Meet Jasmine Bashara. Porter, smuggler, dreamer. All Jazz wants is to afford a living environment larger than her current coffin with a private bathroom. That isn’t asking too much is it?

When one of her ridiculously wealthy clients proposes a job full of insane risk, Jazz knows she should say no. But who says no to the chance of a lifetime? The chance to pay off crippling debt and start a new life? Probably the same people who came up with the saying: careful what you wish for.

This particular job will demand that Jazz use all her technical skills and intellect in order to pull it off. That much she can handle. Finding herself in the middle of a power play for absolute control of Artemis was a little more than she bargained for. Jazz has to use every single trick she can think of to stay alive and figure out a way to save not just herself, but the entire lunar city.

“Always keep your bargains. He worked within the law and I didn’t, but the principle was the same. People will trust a reliable criminal more readily than a shady businessman.”

I loved Jazz. Loved her! She is smart and feisty, but is also incredibly suspicious of everyone around her. I thought Weir did an excellent job peeling back the layers to her distrust through her emails with life long pen-pal Kelvin. We get to see a different side than the one she shows the world. And as someone who is generally distrustful of the world around me, I related to her quite a bit.

As we unfold the mystery that is Jazz, we get to know the characters in her life. I really liked each of them, and found them all believable. But out of all of them, Martin Svoboda was probably my favorite.

“By the end of it I had a plan. And like all good plans, it required a crazy Ukranian guy.”

That crazy Ukranian is a delight to read! I loved every scene he was in. His nerdy exuberance and utter loyalty to Jazz constantly made me smile.

“Tell them about the plan!” Svoboda said. “I have all the visual aids ready!”

What’s not to love about a friend who not just supports your illegal and potentially immoral hijinks without question, but then prepares visual aids when it really matters?! He’s just so adorable.

Given how much science is actually in this book, I am impressed with how much went into the characters and world building. It’s very well balanced, and I never felt like the science went over my head or took away from the scene playing out on the page. That isn’t to say I could pass a science exam after reading it, but the level of detail is enough to make the entire thing feel real. And that’s something I really enjoy in my science fiction.

Weir has a way of injecting humor into all of his scenes, including the intense ones. This gives his books a distinct feel. Fun but interesting. It helps that he includes fun facts, a little addition that makes me laugh. Probably because I am very fond of fun facts.

“Fun fact: Oxidizing requires oxygen. Flint and steel won’t work in vacuum. All right. No need to panic.”

In all, I adored this book. Jazz felt like someone I would know and be friends with. She isn’t a girly girl. In fact, isn’t even overly feminine, which, as a woman who isn’t overly feminine, I appreciated. And no, I don’t think that’s because she was written by a man either. I found her to be exactly like many of my female friends and relished reading a female character that didn’t make me roll my eyes. Svoboda as the goofy sidekick made it even better. This pairing definitely melted my feminist heart.

I’ve officially decided that space capers full of sarcastic geniuses is the best thing ever. I need more of this exact combo! I was a fan of The Martian, and Artemis is exactly what I hoped it would be. Ever more the fan, I look forward to anything and everything Andy Weir wants to write!

January Wrap-Up

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book!”  ~Dr. Suess

January started off with a BANG!!! I ended December on a roll of fantastic books! And while I wish it could have been all five star reads all through the month, they can’t all be winners…

13/125 – Goodreads Challenge

0 – BookRiot #readharder Challenge

I managed to keep a steady pace of reading, finished 3 books in the #24in48 reading challenge weekend, 2 buddy reads and a book club read! I knocked two more books off of my Netgalley TBR, working my way to that elusive 90% rating. I will get there soon! And, best news of all, managed to get in some personal reading choices. This was important to me, as my reading was all reviews at the end of 2017, and I was starting to feel bogged down.

January summary:

The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Netgalley review

The Power ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Buddy Read

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Golden Son by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Morning Star by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Just for ME!!!

Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

BookSparks #WRC2018 Book

Strangers by Ursula Archer & Arno Strobel: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Black Heart Read Group Read

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Just for ME!!!

Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Street Team Read/ #24in48 reading challenge

City of Brass by SA Chakraborty: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Buddy Read/ #24in48 reading challenge

Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

#24in48 reading challenge

Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties by Camille Pagan: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

NetGalley review

I reviewed every book, which met my blog goals, and while I didn’t quite manage to blog at least every other day, I was close. I’ll call that a win! Every review is linked, in case you missed any.

Being on Instagram and participating in buddy reads and reading groups has been a nice new addition to my reading this year. I really only started doing them towards the end of the year last year, and having people to chat with while reading or after, really makes the reading come alive! Especially when its a book like The City Of Brass or Iron Gold, which everyone NEEDS TO READ RIGHT NOW!!!!

I also went to Howler Fest in LA for the launch of Iron Gold, which was amazing and fantastic and I want to go to all the events now!

I’m also looking forward to doing more readathons, keeping my Goodreads goal and working on the Book Riot challenge. I managed to get back on track with writing and having blog goals is helping me stay on track here as well.

How was your January? Did you hit your goals? Tell me all about it! And Happy Reading friends!

Strangers – Review

“Both of us are sure we’re right, but one of us is living in a world of make-believe right now.”

Strangers was the January book club read for the Instagram group BlackHeart Reads. If you’re on Instagram and are interested in joining their monthly reads, click the link and follow their page! It’s always a ton of fun!

The premise of this book was intriguing: a woman faces a stranger in her home claiming to be her fiancé. She has no memory of him, to her he is a complete stranger. A man comes home to a fiancé who claims to not know him. Every single item belonging to him is gone, his existence in their life erased.

One of them has to be lying, but both are convinced they are telling the truth.

As events continue to unfold around them, it becomes obvious that something is happening that neither of them understand. And if they are going to discover the truth and get out of this alive, they are going to need to trust their instincts. And each other.

After the beginning chapters of this novel, I was expecting some serious twist, a la Black Mirror. Everything about the plot felt like some sinister, devious, horrifying conspiracy was taking place.

Initially, the characters were fantastic. Joanna was appropriately freaked out, and believed that Erik was some crazed madman. Until her best friend confirmed their relationship. It would have been easy to leave all the doubt on Joanna, but the authors made sure to balance the doubt between both Jo and Erik. They did a fantastic job making not just the reader but the characters themselves wonder which of the two was crazy. Or what possible explanation could be at play.

“A hand, as cold as ice, reaches for my heart. And, for the first time, the thought crosses my mind that maybe the person who’s lost their mind here isn’t Joanna, but me.”

Unfortunately, the book lost steam for me towards the end. The book was action packed and held an intense pace throughout, but the entire plot hinged on the twist. And for me, it fell flat into cliche disappointment.

In all, the book was entertaining and kept me interested until the end. But I felt like the ending was too easy, a bit predictable, and didn’t really go far enough to feel satisfying based on what the authors built up. However, if you enjoy books full of action that keeps a fast pace, you may enjoy what Strangers has to offer.

I’m going to discuss a few things that felt problematic for me, which will include spoilers, so if you have not read this book, please be warned!!!






The ending, as I mentioned was way too easy and fell into the eye-rolling territory very quickly. A bunch of Nazi’s plotting to cause chaos to purify the country of Germany just didn’t really add up or feel satisfying to what they had built up throughout the book. Beyond trying to make their terrorist attack look like Muslims were at fault, there really wasn’t anything to even support this weird Nazi plot line.

Beyond that, a brief hypnosis session while she was on vacation as the entire catalyst of her memory loss and violent urges? Talk about disappointing. I felt like there were so many other avenues that would have at least fallen into the realm of possibility, hypnosis felt too easy. And not at all believable.

If the ending was the only weird cliche pieces in the book, it may not have bothered me. But this book was full of them. Nadine, the ex-girlfriend was written as a sad, desperate woman who would do anything to get Erik back. Even going so far as to blatantly insult Joanna to her face in front of Erik. It came across as all the terrible stereotypes of women.

Joanna’s own father was a controlling rich man, willing to risk his daughters life if she didn’t follow his rules. Honestly, I was hoping he was behind the entire thing, it would have made his character feel more real than it did.

The gun wielding muscle sent to “collect” Joanna that suddenly jumps to the rescue. They are pretty standard and self-explanatory.

It felt like the side characters were presented as these stereotypes to offer plausible villains behind the memory loss and strange violent events following Jo and Erik. But since that wasn’t where the plot was headed, and the authors didn’t offer any redemption so they ended up feeling flat and one dimensional.

There was a lot of action and this book had some serious potential, so I was really disappointed at the end. This book read more like an action movie than a thriller. Lots of action not as much plot.

I did have a ton of fun reading this book for our group discussion, and loved hearing everyone’s thoughts on this book in our group!

The Power – Review

“The shape of power is always the same.”

The Power is such an amazing book! Anyone who enjoys reading about the complexity and reality of power, both perceived and enforced, implied and physical, will enjoy this novel. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and The Power shows us the harsh truth in those four words.

We open with a series of letters between two people. There is a work of fiction being presented for one to read of the others. When the letters stop, we don’t get dates, we simply get a countdown in years. We’re counting down to something, but we don’t yet know what.

We get the novel told in four alternating points of view. Each character, Allie, Roxy, Tunde, and Margot present us with a perspective on the world we find ourselves flung into. A world where suddenly, out of nowhere, women discover they have a physical power residing within them. In a new organ called a skein, attached to their collarbone, women can now create electricity and shoot it out through their hands. Young women can trigger this power in older women.

I really liked the symbolism of having the youth wake up the older women. There’s something powerful in the idea that youth leads the way for change, but also that they won’t leave the older women behind. That is one of the more positive symbols in the novel.

But with any good, there is also bad, and the fact that the more powerful will turn on the less powerful is a reality that couldn’t be ignored. In this case it extends to less powerful women as well, and I liked that Jos, Margot’s daughter was the representation of this dark side to this new world.

These alternating perspectives help us unfold this world in such a detailed way. Rather than being told one point of view, we see the scope of this power on a world perspective. Which is so necessary for the totality of this story. One voice wouldn’t have fully captured the huge perspective that this type of power shift would have.

“It is only that every day one grows a little, every day something is different, so that in the heaping up of days suddenly a thing that was impossible has become possible.”

The writing is smart and edgy with just enough realism to make the horror slowly set in. You feel the shift in power happen slowly, but also all at once. As you read through each narrators experience of the world around them, combined with bright and sunshiny news reporters, the book reads like a surreal nightmare. Anyone who adores the eery and terrifying worlds that Margaret Atwood creates will quickly fall in love with The Power.

“When historians talk of this moment they talk about “tensions” and “global instability”. They posit the “resurgence of old structures” and the “inflexibility of existing belief patterns”. Power has her ways. She acts on people, and people act on her.”

Because I want to discuss some of the incredibly fascinating points, the rest of this review will contain some spoilers. So if you haven’t read this book, please STOP READING!!!




The sheer brilliance of this novel happens at the end. This is where you really get the final sucker punch, and this twist is absolutely stunning in its brilliance. Where we finally see that this narration has been a fiction wrapped in fiction. An alternate history where the acts of the past are being pieced together by an author, hoping to read into the clues that history has left behind.

This mix of alternate history combined with dystopia creates an intoxicating blend of fiction that is breathtaking and impossible to put down. What’s genius about this, is how with a single twist, Aldermann was able to take our ideas about women and turn them upside down. It isn’t simply the entire novel we now see. It is a history where one gender has possibly taken control of the narrative and conditioned the other into certain behaviors and traits.

We often hear how women would be better leaders because violence isn’t in us the way it is men. And maybe that’s true. But maybe it isn’t. However, the allure of power is something that I think has been documented fairly extensively over time. I think that regardless of culture, regardless of how systematically oppressed women have been, if they woke up to having an actual power literally in their fingertips, enough of them would seize it and this change to society would happen.

I love good villains. Not for the evil they inflict, but because we do all carry the capacity for great acts of good and horrific acts of bad. It is a matter of how far we are pushed. Exploring ideas like this really makes you stop and face the reality that perhaps good people would do terrible things if pushed far enough. That perhaps good people would relish the power to suddenly control their own lives in a way they never could before. That perhaps might does make for right, and it is only the lesser that pleads for peace. Not everyone would succumb to that darkness, but how many would?

Throughout this whole novel, though, we don’t necessarily see villains. We see different characters coming to terms with this gigantic change. We see them witness great acts of kindness but we also see them behaving horrifically. And knowing the oppression that some of these women in some of these countries have faced, it is both understandable and horrifying.

Tunde is one of the most interesting characters, partly because he is the only male voice. I think it’s very real that even until the end, he held onto the belief that it wasn’t yet that bad. That his assumed and unspoken power of just being a man, an idea that he had grown up with and become used to, slowly slipped away. Again, we are empathetic to his plight but it’s also difficult to feel completely sorry for him as well.

The final piece that I found brilliant is Mother Eve and the voice she heard. Throughout the book I was reading this as a current unfolding of events, not aware of the twist that came at the end. So I was trying to figure out if this was actually going to be a significant piece of her character, or if she was just crazy. Knowing that the end has this as a fiction novel 5,000 years in the future, where what we thought is today turns out to be the past suddenly made her voice make sense.

It is obvious that women rewrote history. The idea that men could be police officers, soldiers or aggressive was ridiculous to the women of the future. There was a feminine slant of religion. So I think using this fiction as understanding the source of this history and this religion was smart. We often use realistic fiction to understand history and read the signs left. To do the same in this context made so much sense to me.

Overall this book was stunning in execution. The exploration of all things power is chilling and eye opening. I loved the idea of turning gender norms on their head, on really facing the idea that power doesn’t care what gender embodies it, only that it is embraced. This is a book I can see gracing college campuses and being examined for it’s ideas for a long time. I am so glad I jumped into this buddy read on Instagram!

The Vanishing Season – Review

“He’d locked up the monster but failed to notice: the monster had already won.”

Ellery Hathaway just wants to live a quiet life, in a quiet town, and be a good police officer. She’d prefer to keep her past in the past, and her secrets her own. But when people begin to go missing, one a year for the last three years, Ellery can’t quite shake the certainty that they’re connected.

The thing about Ellery, the thing no one knows, the thing that makes her so certain of these connections, even when all other law enforcement dismisses her, is that she once survived a serial killer. She was the only one to survive Francis Coben.

But admitting that would mean revealing secrets about herself that she’d do anything to keep hidden. Instead she turns to Agent Reed Markum, the FBI Agent who found and saved her against all odds. Together, they find themselves thrown into a terrifying past with a killer who is determined to finish what was started.

“Ellie wasn’t suicidal; she’d fought hard for her life and won. But sometimes, especially during the longest nights, she did wonder if maybe the other girls had been luckier after all.”

The Vanishing Season is an amazingly complex book. On the surface it reads like normal crime fiction, full of suspense and intrigue. But beneath the surface, this is also a book that explores what it means to survive, to save and be saved, and how to endure trauma that will never leave you.

The idea that our past defines us really is brought to life through both Ellie and Reed in different ways. For Ellie, she just wants to live her own life. She wants to be seen as a woman capable and strong on her own. The idea that people will see her differently if they know her past is a horrifying thought for her. Conversely, Reed carries the burden of being a savior. He was the only one to see the details that led to Ellie’s rescue and Coben’s conviction. But to walk into every investigation with that same expectation shining in the eyes of hopeful parents is a heavy weight to bear.

“Now he understood the attractiveness of alcohol: it coursed through your insides like a river over a rock, smoothing you out so you didn’t feel so damn much.”

Schaffhausen does a really good job casting just enough doubt on everyone in the book. While the killer seems obvious in hindsight, it wasn’t that obvious as you’re reading. I did have my suspicions from the beginning, but multiple other suspects gave my initial hunch just enough doubt that I wasn’t sure until the end. And this is good writing to me. I like solving the crime and picking up the bread crumbs authors leave behind. But I also enjoy being stumped and not reading something super obvious.

I also really enjoy anything with a psychological twist, so while Schaffhausen doesn’t delve too deeply into the psychology of the killer, there is a lot written into Ellie and Reed that makes their profiles and issues very interesting to me.

“People would gladly tell you who they were if you only cared to listen.”

The Vanishing Season is a very fast read. It’s written in a very compelling prose that pulls you into the novel, urging you to turn page after page. Suspicion is cast on every single character in the book, including Ellie and Reed, so you feel very uneasy as you read, as if the rug could be pulled from beneath you at any moment. Which felt very poetic to me, since that’s probably exactly how Ellie and Reed both felt. I love when an author can make me feel the same thing as the characters. It makes the reading a much richer experience.

For fans of crime fiction, suspense or thrillers, I think The Vanishing Season is a fantastic book choice. There isn’t much graphic violence, although there are some disturbing scenes. We are in the world of serial killers after all, you can’t completely escape the reality of violence in that landscape. But it isn’t graphic, and doesn’t go into vivid detail. This is definitely a novel playing on the psychology of horror rather than exposing you to the grotesqueness of the horror itself.

I am so thrilled this was the December book choice for the Instagram group Black Hearts Reads! Click their name to link to their Instagram page and join in! They choose amazing books and host a discussion at the end of the month. It’s a wonderful way to experience a book club without leaving your house! And the ladies who host are amazingly sweet. They also do a number of giveaways, so if you’re on Instagram, and especially if you’re part of the #bookstagram community, come join in!!!


The Nine – Review

“It was a bloody awful way to die. It had been a bloody awful way to live.”

The Nine is a debut fantasy novel and what an incredible debut it is!!! Townsend has built an incredible world, full of interesting species and a plot with enough twists and turns to make the read feel like you’re on a roller coaster. And the characters!

Rowena Downshire is a young girl trying to make it in a cutthroat world. Her mother, and only living relative, is locked in a debtors prison. Everything she earns, and most of what she steals, goes to paying down that debt. But, with new charges always being added, the battle feels never-ending to her. Her job as a courier for a black market delivery boss is the best life she can hope for, even if he is cold and brutal and unforgiving.

When Rowena is robbed delivering a mysterious book that seems to write itself to the even more mysterious and feared Alchemist, Rowena is terrified Ivor is going to kill her for the blunder. Deciding to risk going straight to the Alchemist instead, she finds herself in the middle of a complex and deadly mystery.

“It was the question Rowena had been dreading. She’d been under the Alchemist’s roof for nearly an hour and barely had anything been said of the package.”

Revered Phillip Chalmers didn’t intend on being part of anything historical or groundbreaking. His research with his partner Doctor Revered Nora Pierce was exciting, but he should have known she would push boundaries. Now, days before they are give the keynote speech in front of their peers, Nora has gone missing. When a young girl courier delivers a note from Nora making him fear the worst, he insists on giving the girl the book that started it all. Except, when the door to his office shatters later that night, he realizes that he should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy.

Rowena and The Alchemist, also known as The Bear, turn to Anselm Meteron, former mercenary and all around nefarious character for help. They have a history extending far back, though how exactly they are intertwined comes much later in the book.

“Something in the cold calm of Anselm Meteron’s voice told Rowena there were very few games he played that were at all fair to his opponents.”

Rowena, The Alchemist and Meteron must figure out who took the book and why, and how the missing Reverend Chambers fits into the puzzle. Of course, that isn’t easy with bribed officials trying to put you in jail, along with the deadly aigamuxa hunting down anyone even loosely associated with the book.

There is a lot happening within these pages. It isn’t just the primary mystery driving the plot forward, but also the smaller mysteries within the characters. The Nine is an amazing blend of both plot and character driven momentum and each page demands to be turned so that you can be closer to unraveling the answers to all the questions presented. It is complex in all the very best ways!

The world building is fascinating. It feels as if it could be our own world propelled far into some distant future, but the addition of the species the lanyani and the aigamuxa makes it clear it is a world far different from ours. With nods to steampunk, this world is detailed and unique.

One of the most fascinating parts of the plot was the blending of religion and science. In fact, this is one of the key tenets of the plot, the book that God wrote to keep track of his experiment, The Nine.

“Magic was just what the ignorant called systems they couldn’t understand in an organized universe.”

It was very interesting to read how they veered from the Old Religion to incorporate religion and all it’s tenets into a pillar of science. The tenets of the science was well done as well. Not overly explained, but not vague and uninteresting. I actually really liked how it was presented, examined and how it tied into the plot. Not to mention the Grand Experiment, which I won’t get into for fear of spoilers.

We get many more characters sprinkled throughout these pages, and even the more minor characters are very fleshed out. Rare was one of my favorites, although, she did drive me crazy with some of her decisions. City Inspector Gammon, Beth and Lord Regenzi were some of the more notable side players, and it was very interesting how their importance was woven in. But none of them quite weaseled their way into my heart the way Anselm did.

“My name is Anselm Meteron, and I’m a villain with a penchant for self-aggrandizement and a portfolio of maladjusted habits.”

I mean, come on! How can you NOT love someone who introduces themselves like that?! I want to be friends with Anselm and all his maladjusted habits. Also, is it bad form to steal that line for all future introductions?

In all, this was a very fast, very enjoyable read. The Nine is a first in a series, and I know I am dying for book two! The ending isn’t quite a cliff hanger so you do feel satisfied, but there are enough loose ends that when you start thinking about the book, you get questions bubbling to the surface. Amazing debut and I am thrilled I was able to read this!

The Nine is released TODAY! If you love complex fantasy with amazing characters, awesome world building and a ton of mystery, this book is definitely for you!

Thank you Prometheus books for sending me a copy to read and review!

Perfectly Undone – Review

“Dad always told me, “People should never forget where they come from,” as if it’s possible to erase it from memory. Maybe if I could forget my past, I’d finally get a hold on my future.”

Dr. Dylan Michels has it all. A fantastic job doing what she loves, the chance to further her career and her research to help save women, and an amazing boyfriend who is there for her no matter how hard she works. So, when he proposes, why does she go running into the rain?

We know up front that Dylan is obsessed with her grant research, and her career, because of her sister’s death. We don’t know how exactly she died, only that Dylan somehow feels responsible for it. And her entire family relationship is centered around this loss. She is distant from her mother, who also holds on to Abby as much as Dylan, but they can’t grieve together. Her father and brother share their grief, but only on the anniversary date, so while on the surface they seem close, it also feels more frail than it appears.

And then there’s Cooper. Her boyfriend of 9 years. The man who loves and her accepts her and is always rooting for her. Even when her life hasn’t settled into the one he hoped for. He has the family she wants, and couldn’t think of life without him. Which is partly why she drove me a little crazy.

Here’s the thing about Dylan: I didn’t particularly like her. Don’t get me wrong, I understood her, where her character was coming from, the determination to right a perceived wrong. But she drove me crazy. She was so unaware of herself and her actions. I found it maddening that she expected everyone to be so understanding of her actions, even when she did nothing to explain them, but then refused to give other people the same courtesy. I found her to be a little self-absorbed and very immature, the her hypocrisy made me want to throw the book more than once.

If turmoil and bad choices aren’t your thing, you’re probably going to be in for a disappointment. These characters are a symphony of poor communication. Of assuming that the choices you make in order to protect other people, or because you think you know what they’re thinking, are always the right choices. This dance of missed opportunities is done throughout the book in multiple relationships, and really drives home the important of being open and honest with the ones you love. There is a certain Shakespearean elegance, (or perhaps it’s more Greek tragedy), to the relationships and how they develop (or fall apart) in this novel.

In this regard, it struck me over and over, how unfair and immature Dylan was being. She listens to people complain about people behaving a certain way in their lives, and even has those same issues with others, but completely fails to recognize it in her own self. And, when it comes to one rough spot, albeit a very bad rough spot, she simply shuts down and freezes everyone out. It’s difficult to go into the specifics without giving away spoilers. But, I can say, for a character who is told how perceptive she is to the needs of her patients, it’s amazing how little she lacks that same ability in her personal life. Or rather, she has it, she just simply doesn’t want to face it.

“I realize I may have pushed things too far. Maybe I didn’t want to hear his side, because it would bring me to this moment: facing the ugly truth. I’ve always known I was keeping Cooper at a distance, but I hoped he didn’t notice.”

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s how we are in real life. We all probably have the most difficultly seeing how we truly behave with others. And it’s hard to face the ugly truths about ourselves. When things aren’t personal, we are able to relax and follow what we know to be right and true. But when our hearts get in the way, our heads seem to short-circuit.

Of course, unlike Shakespeare, or the Greeks, this story doesn’t end in tragedy, or, at least not the tragedy you expect. This story is more about forgiveness, and all that word encompasses. Forgiving others, but especially forgiving our selves. And I did like how the author led the conclusion of that forgiveness down several different paths for the characters. Sometimes forgiveness means letting go. And sometimes it doesn’t.

Not liking the main character aside, I did enjoy this book. I find that books that make me really think and identify with what makes me uncomfortable are often some of the most satisfying books. I also find that people aren’t always likable, so why do we always expect that of the characters within our books? Even if I don’t want to be BFF’s with the characters in the pages, it made me think and feel and examine my reactions deeper than just the surface. And that’s worth reading.

This complexity makes it, I think, the absolute perfect book for the November book club pick. There is substance and depth to each of the characters. Not to mention, quite a few issues to keep conversation interesting; such as guilt, lies, secrets to just name a few.

If you’re interested, BookSparks is having an all day event with the author tomorrow! They will be updating their stories all day and having a Facebook Live chat with the author tomorrow at 10amPST/1pmEST. Join by clicking the links below!

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Thank you to BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review as part of FRC2017!