Friday, 18 August 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Disappearances

The Disappearances
Author: Emily Bain Murphy
Publication Date: July 4th 2017
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Aila Quinn and her brother Miles are sent to live with the Cliffton family after their mother dies and their father is drafted to fight in the war. While packing to leave, Alia finds a mysterious note recently written by their mother, Juliet. It is attached to a collection of Shakespeare's works and addressed to someone named Stefen. The message reads 'You will find what you asked for within this. I will always love you' and she has signed it 'Viola'. On the train Aila discovers something else. Hidden inside the book is her mother's ring that she never took off. She obviously meant it for Stefen, but why?

Upon arriving in Sterling, an isolated farm town where Aila's mother grew up, Aila and Miles meet the Clifftons, who are warm and welcoming. Matilda Cliffton was Juliet's best friend from childhood and thinks of the children as family. Aila's new room is cheerfully decorated and there is a framed photo of her mother and Matilda when they were school girls, prominently on display. However, Aila quickly notices some strange and unusual things happening around her. There are no mirrors in the bathroom and none of the flowers in the Cliffton's garden have a scent.

It becomes clear to Aila that her mother had secrets. Juliet barely ever spoke of Sterling or her life there. She had strange moods and referred to people in her past, but without detail. As much as Matilda loved Juliet, not everyone in the town was fond of her. There are those who are not happy to have her children there either.

Every seven years things the residents take for granted in life - reflections, colours, even dreams, disappear. Two neighbouring towns are also affected and along with Sterling are referred to as the Sisters. A council was formed and a decision was made to keep the secret of these Disappearances from the rest of the world. This would hopefully protect them from outside elements trying to exploit their afflictions.

Sterling is an odd, mystical place. From the moment they are born, the citizens are unable to see the stars, smell flowers or see themselves in a mirror. Visitors to the town are only affected for as long as they are there. Solutions in the form of crystal dust, pastes and liquids have been created to allow some of the Disappearances to reappear temporarily. Although these 'Variants' are readily available to buy, there also exists a black market for illegal and dangerous ones.

Aila is determined to solve the mystery behind what is happening in Sterling, find out who her mother really was and clear her name. Juliet was the only person who was ever able to completely regain her senses upon leaving a Sister City. Many believed her to be the Catalyst - the original cause of the Disappearances. Is this somehow connected to her relationship with the mysterious Stefen? Aila misses her mother terribly and while she works on the clues her mother left behind, she feels closer to her. 

Aila makes a fine heroine. She is a stubborn, curious and courageous girl with a loving heart. Even though her brother drives her crazy, she cares deeply for him. She performs thoughtful actions to keep the spirit of their mother alive for both of them. With the absence of their parents, she strives to protect Miles emotionally and physically.

The Disappearances made me grateful for the simplest pleasures. It is a thrilling book full of secrets and surprises. Recommended, especially to readers who enjoy mysteries, dark fairy tales and magical stories.

From the publisher:
What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home—and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together—scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream—vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible—and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. 

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Disappearances here.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Lying Game

The Lying Game
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: July 25th 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

It starts with a text in the middle of the night. Isa, Fatima and Thea receive the same urgent message: 'I need you'. It's soon apparent this is not the first time they've heard these words from their friend Kate. They rush to her dilapidated home in Salten, with no knowledge of why she has summoned them.

Seventeen years earlier, Isa and Fatima meet while attending their first year at boarding school. Kate and Thea are returning students and are already friends. Fate has brought them together and the four quickly become inseparable. It is there that Thea introduces them to the Lying Game, which has one important rule - they can lie to anyone else, but never to each other.

As narrator, Kate goes back and forth between past and present. Her voice is evocative and expressive as she recalls her history at Salten House. The women are all very different in discernible ways, with their own distinguishing characteristics. There is a strong intensity and dynamic between them that begins from the moment they meet to the present day. 

The setting of the book is described in beautiful detail. The wild nature of the sand dunes, salt marshes and winds from the sea are offset by the severity and angular lines of Salten House. Ware vividly depicts the isolation of the Reach and the Tide Mill, where Kate lived with her father when she was at school and continues to live. 

While reminiscing, Kate reveals that something sinister took place involving her and her friends. Secrets and significant clues are disclosed gradually, but there is new danger awaiting and the story moves at a rapid pace. I finished the book in one sitting, wanting to find out what was behind the mystery being concealed. Haunting and quietly atmospheric, The Lying Game kept me thinking long after I finished reading.

From the publisher:
From the New York Times and #1 Globe and Mail bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood—a novel about the slipperiness of truth and the price of friendships.

“I need you.” Three small words that change everything.

Isa Wilde knows something terrible has happened when she receives this text from an old friend. Why else would Kate summon her and their two friends Thea and Fatima to the seaside town where they briefly attended school together seventeen years ago?

The four friends first met at Salten House boarding school, where they quickly bonded over The Lying Game, a risky contest that involved tricking fellow boarders and faculty with their lies. But the game had consequences, and the girls were eventually expelled after Kate’s dad, their beloved art teacher, mysteriously disappeared. Forever bound by their lies but needing to forget their past, they went their separate ways—Kate remaining in Salten while the other three left to start new lives in and around London.

Now reunited, Isa, Kate, Thea, and Fatima discover that their past lies had far-reaching effects and criminal implications that threaten them all. In order to protect their reputations, and their friendship, they must uncover the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Atmospheric, twisty, with just the right amount of chill, The Lying Game will have readers at the edge of their seats, not knowing who can be trusted in this tangled web of lies.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Lying Game here.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Review: The Third Kiss (Love's Mortal Coil, #1)

The Third Kiss (Love's Mortal Coil, #1)
Author: Kat Colmer
Publication Date: August 7th 2017
Publisher: Entangled TEEN

Jonas Leander is not one for committed, long-term relationships, but since he and his good friend Cora shared an impulsive kiss just before she left to spend a year in New York, he's had trouble thinking of anyone or anything else. She, on the other hand, feels little more than a slight fluttering when she remembers that awkward night.

When Jonas receives a strange poem from an anonymous source, Cora does some investigating and discovers it is actually an ancient love curse passed down through the generations of his family. He has three opportunities to choose a partner wisely, otherwise he will be doomed for a life of rejection. For someone as shallow as Jonas appears to be, this is going to be a difficult feat, especially as he's already used up two of his chances! Jonas also finds out that he is an Eros Guardian - the choices he makes have the power to protect romantic love or cause it to die out forever Added into the mix are the Groth Maar, demons who oversee the curse. Their main purpose is to eradicate the Eros Guardian line.

Jonas thinks being in love is a trap - something to avoid at all costs and Cora is far too practical to fall for him. But there is a lot more to them than meets the eye. Because of the bond they share, the potential for genuine love puts Cora in danger from the Groth Maar. The development of their feelings for one another is natural and plausible. They have much in common and understand each other more deeply than they realise.

Filled with clever, witty dialogue and appealing personalities, The Third Kiss is an engaging and entertaining novel. Recommended, especially for fans of fantasy, mythology and romance.

Thank you to Entangled: Teen for the eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
Love curses don’t exist. At least that’s what Jonas, master of the meaningless hookup, tells himself when a letter warns him he’s an Eros Guardian cursed to endure a test of true love or forever be alone. His levelheaded longtime friend Cora figures it’s a revenge prank by an ex. The way Jonas stamps each girlfriend with a weeklong use-by date, it serves him right.

But when an impulsive kiss between the two friends reveals potential for more, Cora becomes the target of the Groth Maar: demons sent to wipe out the Eros Guardian line. And suddenly the curse becomes dangerously real.

Breaking the curse means Jonas’s biggest challenge yet. Failure guarantees Cora’s death. But success may cost him his own life...and the loss of his carefully guarded heart to the one girl far too sensible to fall for him.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: Girl in Snow

Girl in Snow
Author: Danya Kukafka
Publication Date: August 1st 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Canada

Danya Kukafka's debut novel revolves around the mysterious death of Lucinda Hayes, a popular Jefferson High teenager. The story is relayed through the perceptions of various classmates and inhabitants of a town called Broomsville.

Girl in Snow is written in the alternating POVs of three complex and introspective characters. As the tale unravels, their hidden thoughts and memories are divulged, along with their connections to each other. It is compelling to see how their lives intersect in the wake of the tragedy. 

Jade was a classmate and childhood acquaintance of the murder victim. She has a disgust for people in general and seems to hold a particular disdain for Lucinda. Cameron also went to school with her. He is a voyeur and had been documenting her every move in the form of drawings. He was seen watching her the night she died. Russ is a cop with strong ties to two of the suspects, one of which is Cameron. Although she is not alive, Lucinda's presence is always there - ethereal and intangible.

Kukafka's writing is beautifully descriptive and a touch surreal. The book is not just about a murder. There is a delicateness to this study of a small town, the secrets it holds and its residents, set against the backdrop of a chilly Colorado winter. Girl in Snow is addictive, haunting and sublime in it's entirety. It kept me hooked until the last page.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory.

Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on Girl in Snow here.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: Omega (The Infinity Division, #2)

Omega (The Infinity Division, #2)
Author: Jus Accardo
Publication Date: August 1st 2017
Publisher: Entangled TEEN

In this riveting sequel to Jus Accardo's Infinity, Noah, his best friend Cade and sister from another world, Kori, continue their quest via inter-dimensional travel to find Dylan and put an end to his killing spree.

Omega kicks off with a shootout and the action never stops. In addition to searching for their nemesis Dylan, Noah is also trying to find Ashlyn Calvert. She is a constant - someone or something that's the same in multiple universes. In every world they skip to, Noah sees himself together with her. But, as far as he knows, Ash does not exist on his own Earth, so she becomes almost an obsession for him.

Omega is a thrilling continuation of the narrative started in Infinity. It's written from the POVs of Noah and Ash. I enjoyed getting to know more about them, especially Noah. He is funny, stubborn and loyal to the core. The introduction of Ash, who was only mentioned briefly in the previous book, is a welcome addition to the development of the story. 

I was fascinated by Accardo's cultural depictions of the worlds and how they differed. On one of them, cats are extinct! I can't even imagine. I wouldn't mind living on the meatless world, though. I was particularly intrigued by the characters' alternative versions of themselves on the various Earths and the contrasts or similarities between them.

If you read Infinity and are interested in parallel worlds, lots of adventure and a bit of romance, I recommend Omega. I'm very much anticipating the third book in the Infinity Division series!

Thank you to Entangled: Teen for the eBook copy to review.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on Omega here.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Review: Infinity (The Infinity Division, #1)

Infinity (The Infinity Division, #1)
Author: Jus Accardo
Publication Date: November 1st 2016
Publisher: Entangled TEEN

From the moment Kori Anderson is introduced we know she has a short temper, irritating habits and is a romantic. Before her mother died two years earlier, she told her that "Real love started in your heart and went straight to infinity." Kori keeps this memory close and is an important part of who she is.

Kori is also an artist who paints murals on old walls in out of the way places and has become somewhat of a secret celebrity. 'Love from here to infinity' is what had been etched on her parents' wedding bands. Kori writes these words as the finishing touch on her latest wall art, which is inspired by her mom.

Kori has a complicated relationship with her father who is a general in the army. While they were once close, their communication has become difficult and strained since her mother died. They are living almost separate lives and she knows little of what he does. Just before her father is going away on one of his missions, a police officer catches her painting her latest wall. Her father then arranges chaperones - Noah and the enigmatic Cade Granger, to look out for her.

After Kori is inexplicably attacked by a stranger named Dylan, Cade and Noah come to her rescue. She realises she was targeted, but why? Dylan seems to know her and asks her questions that she has no answers for. Noah and Cade have opinions about her, although she's never met them prior to earlier that day when they turned up at her house. It seems her father is in charge of Infinity, a secret government project which was developed to allow access to different dimensions. Noah and Cade are from a parallel Earth!

Kori has a great personality. She's strong-willed, funny, courageous, tough and caring. The interaction between Cade and Kori highlighted their attraction for one another and made the soul mate theory believable and exciting. The intriguing storyline was fast-paced, thrilling and revealed lots of surprises. Dylan is menacing enough to be a terrifying adversary. Accardo provides enough detail to make the idea of parallel worlds understandable. I am very much looking forward to reading the sequel and finding out even more about the Infinity Division and the other Earths.

From Goodreads:
Nobody said being the daughter of an army general was easy. But when her dad sends a teenage subordinate to babysit her while he’s away… That’s taking it a step too far.

Cade, as beautiful as he is deadly, watches Kori with more than just interest. He looks at her like he knows her very soul. And when he saves her from a seemingly random attack, well, that’s when things get weird.

Turns out, Kori’s dad isn’t just an army general—he’s the head of a secret government project that has invented a way to travel between parallel dimensions. Dimensions where there are infinite Koris, infinite Cades…and apparently, on every other Earth, they’re madly in love.

Falling for a soldier is the last thing on Kori’s mind. Especially when she finds herself in a deadly crossfire, and someone from another Earth is hell-bent on revenge… 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Goddesses

The Goddesses
Author: Swan Huntley
Publication Date: July 25th 2017
Publisher: Doubleday/Random House

Nancy and her husband, Chuck relocate with their twin teenage boys to Hawaii. They move there in order to rediscover their love for one another after he cheats on her. To them Hawaii is paradise - a perfect location for their fresh start and to escape all the reminders of their previous unhappiness in San Diego. When they arrive it seems like they made the right decision. The beautiful and romantic landscape begins to have a positive effect on Nancy and Chuck's relationship which is slowly getting back on track. 

After spending the evening with some new friends, Nancy realises that they are living the same life she was unhappy with, but in a prettier setting. She decides to try something different and signs up for a yoga class. There she meets Ana, who appears to be open, honest and most importantly, has an almost instantaneous understanding of her. With the slow reveal of her family history and experiences, it is understandable why Nancy is drawn to Ana and how her attachment to her develops. 

The majority of the book revolves around the relationship between Nancy and Ana. The other characters are almost superfluous, which increases the feeling of claustrophobia between these two central figures. 

Huntley writes with a certain dreamlike quality that made me feel like I was immersed in Nancy's almost hypnotic state. I wanted to shake her and wake her up to the encroaching potential disaster I knew had to be coming. There is an undercurrent of creepiness throughout the story. The apprehension doesn't so much build as constantly simmers beneath the surface.

More domestic drama than suspense, The Goddesses is an interesting novel that questions what we choose to see in ourselves and others. It explores the boundaries of friendship and what one is willing to do to hold onto it.

Thank you to Random House for the eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
When Nancy and her family arrive in Kona, Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy's husband has cheated on her; they sleep in separate bedrooms and their twin sons have been acting out, setting off illegal fireworks. But Hawaii is paradise: they plant an orange tree in the yard; they share a bed once again and Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. Ana has short, black hair, a warm smile, and a hard-won wisdom that resonates deeply within Nancy. They are soon spending all their time together, sharing dinners, relaxing in Ana's hot tub, driving around Kona in the cute little car Ana helps Nancy buy. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana—skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices she feels a happiness and understanding unlike anything she's ever experienced, and she knows that she will do anything Ana asks of her. A mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation set against the idyllic tropical world of the Big Island, The Goddesses is a stunning psychological novel by one of our most exciting young writers.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Goddesses here.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Cover Reveal - The Third Kiss by Kat Colmer

The Third Kiss (Love's Mortal Coil, #1)
Author: Kat Colmer
Publication Date: August 7th 2017
Publisher: Entangled TEEN

About The Third Kiss (Love's Mortal Coil, #1):

Love curses don’t exist. At least that’s what Jonas, master of the meaningless hookup, tells himself when a letter warns him he’s an Eros Guardian cursed to endure a test of true love or forever be alone. His levelheaded longtime friend Cora figures it’s a revenge prank by an ex. The way Jonas stamps each girlfriend with a week-long use-by date, it serves him right.

But when an impulsive kiss between the two friends reveals potential for more, Cora becomes the target of the Groth Maar: demons sent to wipe out the Eros Guardian line. And suddenly the curse becomes dangerously real.

Breaking the curse means Jonas’s biggest challenge yet. Failure guarantees Cora’s death. But success may cost him his own life…and the loss of his carefully guarded heart to the one girl far too sensible to fall for him.

Want to read more? Pre-order your copy of The Third Kiss (Love's Mortal Coil, #1) by Kat Colmer today!

Add to Goodreads!


About the author:

Kat Colmer is a Sydney-based author and teacher librarian. She has won several writing awards, including the Romance Writers of Australia 2014 First Kiss contest as well as the Romance Writers of America 2015 On the Far Side contest for her debut Young Adult Paranormal Romance. Her New Adult short story, For the Love of Gnomes, won the Romance Writers of Australia annual Little Gems short story competition in 2015 and is published in the anthology Peridot, along with her Young Adult short story Sweet Bombe Alaska. Her middle grade tale, Change of Heart, inspired by her son’s open heart surgery, is published in the New South Wales School Magazine, Touchdown. 

Kat is a member of the New South Wales Writers’ Centre and the Romance Writers of Australia. She has a Bachelor of Arts with a Diploma of Education as well as a Master of Education in Teacher Librarianship and loves working with teens and young adults. Having spent a significant portion of her childhood in Germany, Kat speaks fluent German and is looking forward to the day she’ll be able to read one of her novels in Deutsch. When not writing or teaching, Kat enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

What do you think of the cover for The Third Kiss? Let me know in the comments below!

This cover reveal is brought to you by Entangled TEEN & YA Books Central.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Review: A Beautiful, Terrible Thing

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal
Author: Jen Waite
Publication Date: July 11th 2017
Publisher: Plume

Jen Waite's non-fictional account about her life with a narcissistic sociopathic husband begins with how she met Marco when they were both working at a restaurant together. He is charming and attentive and she instantly falls head over heels in love with him. 

Waite's memoir is recounted in alternating chapters of 'before' and 'after'. Her retrospective insightfulness about her plight is both heartbreaking and fascinating. I sympathized with her helplessness as she suffered through one lie after another. Even after continuously confronting him, she's never really reassured by his words. Her writing style made me feel like I was reading a fictional psychological thriller, which for me was a very good thing.

Aside from being a compulsive read, the book helps to see manipulations in all relationships, which unfortunately are not that uncommon and how important it is to trust your intuition. The difference in this case was the extent of damage Marco did and would have continued to do, if Waite hadn't removed herself from the situation. A support system, like she had with her family and friends, is crucial in understanding and recovering from an experience like this. 

Waite makes no excuses in relaying what happened to her. By reliving her story, she tries to fathom when and why things went so wrong with her marriage and if there were signs early on that she chose to ignore. 

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing is enlightening in it's confirmation that we want to see the best in those we love, but sometimes this only helps in enabling their poor behaviour. It is hard to break a cycle of acceptance when there's little to no comprehension that what is being done to you isn't your fault or is actually happening, for that matter. Waite writes with painful honesty and emotion. I found this to be a captivating book which I had trouble putting down. Recommended.

From the publisher:
What do you do when you discover that the person you've built your life around never existed? When "it could never happen to me" does happen to you?

These are the questions facing Jen Waite when she begins to realize that her loving husband—the father of her infant daughter, her best friend, the love of her life—fits the textbook definition of psychopath. In a raw, first-person account, Waite recounts each heartbreaking discovery, every life-destroying lie, and reveals what happens once the dust finally settles on her demolished marriage.

After a disturbing email sparks Waite's suspicion that her husband is having an affair, she tries to uncover the truth and rebuild trust in her marriage. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment from the last five years that isn't part of the long-con of lies and manipulation. With a dual-timeline narrative structure, we see Waite's romance bud, bloom, and wither simultaneously, making the heartbreak and disbelief even more affecting.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Last Magician

The Last Magician
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Publication Date: July 18th 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse

The Last Magician is a fascinating YA novel about a girl named Esta who must travel back to the 1900s to steal a mysterious book, the Ars Arcana, that could save the future. 

Esta is Mageus, one who has an affinity for magic. Her ability is to warp time. In her world, Mageus are feared and misunderstood, especially by the Order of Ortus Aurea, who wish to harness and control their power. The Order uses artificial and corrupt ceremonial magic to create the Brink, an invisible boundary that keeps Mageus from leaving New York City with their magic. However, the Brink not only destroys the affinity, but the person as well, leaving nothing left of who they had once been.

Arriving in the past, Esta meets Harte Darrigan accidentally and sparks fly – even more so as he is the very magician she was sent to stop from destroying the Book! She joins Dolph Saunders’ team in a rush to prevent this from happening, but must keep the truth about herself and where she is from, a secret. 

Lisa Maxwell’s historic city is filled with intrigue and danger lurks around every corner. The story is bursting with lavish descriptions of an alternative New York. Maxwell employs lush and vivid detail and I became instantly immersed in the realm she created. The depiction of smells, lights and sounds is filmic in quality and visually appealing – from the ornate splendour of the buildings owned by members of The Order to the dark, shadowy back streets.

As sumptuous as the settings are, the characters are the heart of the story. The conflicts and attractions between these personalities are all underscored with an intensity that makes them seem all the more believable. 

Esta is plucky and strong. She is willing to risk everything she can to save those she cares for. Her relationships with so many of the characters, both in the past and her present are touching and real. Traveling back in time is made all the more dangerous because of the potentially disastrous changes she can make to history as well as to the very existence of some of the people she holds dear.

When Esta manipulates time and travels through it, the author paints interesting changes between the different time periods in the same locale. Esta was able to see the stars in the past, when she couldn’t in her own time while standing in an identical place. 

I enjoyed reading the background about Mageus and their magical attributes and strengths. Magic is their very existence, it is warm and alive. By contrast, the Brink and the alchemy utilized by The Order, is cold and desolate. Maxwell frighteningly describes the destruction it wreaks on those who come into contact with it. It is terrifying in what it can do and it shows the lengths The Order will go to remove the affinities of Mageus, in spite of the repercussions. 

The book had me questioning destiny and how much changing the past can affect the future.  
Fearing what you don’t understand and the unknown were also important themes represented.  

The Last Magician is an epic tale of time travel, adventure and a sprinkling of romance, with lots of twists along the way. It’s beautifully written with a thought-provoking story and likable characters who are not only fascinating, but inspiring. There is plenty of action and suspense, which kept me thoroughly entertained and rapidly turning the pages.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC provided.

From the publisher:
From Unhooked author Lisa Maxwell comes a captivating new world filled with magic and deception, about a girl who must travel back in time to find a mysterious book that could save her future.

Stop the Magician.
Steal the book.
Save the future.

In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she's been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Last Magician here.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: Final Girls

Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: July 11th 2017
Publisher: Dutton/Penguin Random House

Something horrible happened to Quincy Carpenter at Pine Cottage. What she experienced there was so terrifying, much of her memory of that time has been wiped out. Along with Lisa Milner and Samantha Boyd, she becomes what the media dub a 'Final Girl'. All three were the sole survivors of separate serial killer massacres. Now Lisa is dead, apparently having committed suicide. Will the Final Girls have to pay a price for being the last girl standing?

Quincy maintains an ongoing friendship of sorts with Coop, the cop who saved her life. They have an interesting relationship. He is very protective of her, but there is also a lot of mystery surrounding him. Although he continues to look out for her, he keeps his distance physically and emotionally. 

Shortly after her ordeal, Quincy suffers from anorexia. She acts destructively, but can't remember anything after the incidents occur. Now she appears to have a fairly enjoyable life with the help of prescription drugs. She runs a successful blog and lives in a lovely apartment on the Upper West Side with her public defender sensitive boyfriend, Jeff. However, there is a lot going on beneath the idyllic surface. From early on it's apparent that Quincy is still deeply troubled. She responds in unusual and somewhat disturbing ways to ordinary situations.

The story flashes back to when Quincy first approaches Pine Cottage. The scene is made all the more terrifying because it's already clear it's not going to end well for the five friends accompanying her.

After Lisa's suicide, Quincy is visited by Sam, the other Final Girl and allows her into her life and home. From there things start to get really interesting and suspenseful, with Quincy's repressed memory becoming an important theme in what happens next.

I thought Final Girls was great fun with lots of thrills. It had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn't read it fast enough. There was a depth to the characters and story that made it stand out for me. I loved all the surprises the author revealed throughout the book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fast-paced psycho-killer novels and slasher films. 

Thank you to Dutton & Penguin Publishing Group for the eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. 

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on Final Girls here.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Review: Mister Tender's Girl

Mister Tender's Girl
Author: Carter Wilson
Publication Date: February 13th 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

I am completely fascinated by urban legends, so when I heard Mister Tender's Girl by Carter Wilson was inspired by the very real 'Slender Man' stabbing, I couldn't wait to read this creepy novel.

Alice owns a coffee and sweets shop called the Stone Rose. 'Silence, memories and nighttime' frighten her. She suffers debilitating panic attacks. Her fears are not unfounded; she lives her life scared with good reason.

When Alice was a young girl living in London, her father created, wrote and inked a series of graphic novels about Mister Tender - a part human, part demon bartender who listens to his customer’s tales of woe and then convinces them to do very bad things.

A few nights before Halloween, Alice is walking home with two school friends. They are obsessed with her father's books and stab her multiple times claiming they were instructed to do so by Mister Tender. She survives the attack, but shortly after she is released from hospital her father stops writing the stories and her parents divorce. Alice and her brother move to America with their mother. Her father is later killed by an unknown assailant, the murderer never caught.

Now an adult, Alice keeps to herself. She is lonely and decides to check a dating site she has signed up with and is horrified to see she has a match under the screen name ‘Mister Tender'. Since moving to the US she has changed her name and never shared her past with anyone.

Wilson composes a very troubling, specific history for Alice and she grabbed my attention from the moment she was introduced. She has trained herself to be physically strong, but mentally she is a mess. Her paranoia is palpable. It overwhelms her and affects how she lives her life. Multi-faceted and flawed, Alice is a complicated personality who maintained my focus and holds her own in the story. She managed to gain my sympathy as well as my admiration, carrying her scars both inside and out.

All of Wilson's characters are rendered with lovingly exquisite detail and he is somehow able to do this with very few words. There is an intensity in his descriptions - from the interactions Alice has with her mother and brother to the customers in her shop.

The tension builds quickly and you know something very bad is coming just around the corner. Wilson's writing conveys a brooding sense of fear that is unrelenting. He convincingly unleashes a terrifyingly real creation into his fictional world. Dark and chilling, Mister Tender's Girl fully lived up to my expectations. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Sourcebooks for the advanced eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
How far are you willing to go for Mister Tender?

At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn't exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, nothing more.

Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but he is never far behind.

Addictive and chillingly surprising, this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller will have you transfixed until the very last page.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Child

The Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Publication Date: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada/Berkley (U.S.)

Everyone's got a story to tell.

When a baby's skeleton is found on a building site, reporter Kate Waters becomes fascinated by the case and decides to delve deeper in the hopes of landing a big story for her newspaper. Her investigation leads her to two women – Emma Simmonds and Angela Irving.

Decades earlier and shortly after giving birth, Angela's baby Alice disappeared from the maternity hospital. Although Angela still has hope, no trace of her child was ever found. When the bones are unearthed at the building site, she is convinced they are those of her lost daughter's. 

As a child, Emma and her mother Jude, lived in the house where the dead baby is found. Emma, now an adult and living with her supportive husband, is a book editor who suffers from severe anxiety. She also has many secrets. Over the years she has had a difficult and strained relationship with her mother. 

At the heart of it all is an intriguing mystery in a slowly developing and engrossing story. Who is the mother of the baby and how did it die? Who buried it? As the women's lives intersect, more is revealed about them while the pace quickens. 

The Child is well-written with a strong plot, detailed settings, complex characters and unexpected surprises. With it's intriguing premise and low-key suspense which builds to a crescendo, it is definitely a novel I recommend.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Netgalley for the eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
The author of the stunning New York Times bestseller The Widow returns with a brand-new novel of twisting psychological suspense.

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Child here.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: Blackout

Author: Marc Elsberg
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Blackout starts with a bang! Ex-hacker Piero Manzano is driving home one night in Milan, Italy and finds himself in the midst of a disastrous traffic accident when all the street lights suddenly stop working. It's the first day of Winter holidays and Europe is plunged into darkness as electricity grids begin collapsing due to an attack of cyber-terrorism. Fuel pumps no longer work and many are stranded without transportation. There is no TV, internet or heat and water stops flowing through pipes. This is going to become the least of Manzano's worries, along with the rest of the population, as more threats loom on the horizon. 

Manzano initially joins forces with the authorities to discover what is causing the blackout, but unfortunately finds himself the victim of a set up. He goes on the run with journalist Lauren Shannon in a race to find out not only who is behind these acts, but how to stop them from causing more devastation.

It's a frightening thought that so little holds society together and what could happen if the electricity that we rely on so heavily, was taken away. The novel plays out well and it's certainly a page turner. The one negative for me was that there were quite a lot of characters and places to keep track of. I would have preferred the author focused more on developing the main protagonists, their backgrounds and interactions instead. However, the pace moved deftly from one scene to the next, so I was able to sit back and enjoy this exciting disaster thriller.

From the publisher:
This is no accident.
This is no act of God. 
This is Blackout.

A terrifyingly plausible million-copy selling debut disaster thriller.

When the lights go out one night, no one panics. Not yet. The lights always come back on soon, don't they? Surely it's a glitch, a storm, a malfunction. But something seems strange about this night. Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electrical grids collapse. There is no power, anywhere.
A former hacker and activist, Piero investigates a possible cause of the disaster. The authorities don't believe him, and he soon becomes a prime suspect himself. With the United States now also at risk, Piero goes on the run with Lauren Shannon, a young American CNN reporter based in Paris, desperate to uncover who is behind the attacks. After all, the power doesn't just keep the lights on―it keeps us alive.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on Blackout here.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: One of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publication Date: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press

One of Us is Lying begins with five Bayview high school students entering detention together, because of breaking a no cellphone rule. All five claim the confiscated phones aren’t theirs. After an hour one of the students is dead.  Simon, the victim, writes and runs a school gossip app, so he had many enemies. Did one of the students in detention kill him, did all four together or was it someone else entirely? Who had such a terrible secret it was worth killing to keep Simon silent?

The Bayview Four (as they are dubbed in the press) are initially introduced as stereotypes - the Jock, the Brainiac, the Princess and the Bad Boy. As the story progresses it's revealed there is so much more to each of them than that and they all have something they'd desperately like to hide. I loved getting to know each of the suspects, finding out the secrets they want to keep hidden and how they individually deal with the accusations by the police and grow from their experiences as a result. 

The story is told through multiple viewpoints and it's a testament to the author's writing ability that I was easily able to distinguish the different characters from chapter to chapter. I found the four main characters well-developed and very likeable, so I anxiously looked forward to the conclusion to find out who the killer was and why Simon was killed. This was a fun YA mystery, with an uncomplicated style I really enjoyed. Highly recommended.

From the publisher:
Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club” ( in this “flat-out addictive” (RT Book Reviews) story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. 

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
    And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on One of Us Is Lying here.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Switch

The Switch
Author: Joseph Finder
Publication Date: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Dutton

Michael Tanner, CEO of a specialty coffee company, mistakenly picks up the wrong laptop going through airport security in a rush to catch his plane. In his haste he leaves with the MacBook of US senator Susan Robbins. Unfortunately for Tanner, the ambitious senator has downloaded classified government documents. Robbins and her chief of staff, Will Abbott, will do anything possible to get it back and prevent anyone from finding out.

After reading only a few pages of The Switch I was already hooked and interacting with the book shouting 'No! No!' in the vain hope that Tanner would hear me and realise his error. I suppose if he had there wouldn't be a book!

Finder writes with such detail, yet somehow manages to keep up such a quick pace, I was left a bit breathless. There is never a slow moment. He gets inside the minds of his characters, depicting nuances in all their reactions and experiences with a subtlety I only noticed in retrospect.

From the way Tanner runs his business and communicates with others you know he's a good guy. But now Tanner's life is on the line. The excitement accelerates as he navigates through multiple twists and turns. Will he find a way to survive?

The book is chock full of action and once it gets going, it never stops. As with all the novels I've read by Finder, The Switch was well written and gripping. He's a masterful storyteller who manages to build tension in all the right places. I raced through this clever, suspenseful thriller!

From the publisher:
A simple mix up throws one innocent man into the crosshairs of sinister government secrets and ruthless political ambitions in New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder’s timely, electrifying new thriller.

Michael Tanner is on his way home from a business trip when he accidentally picks up the wrong MacBook in an airport security line. He doesn’t notice the mix-up until he arrives home in Boston, but by then it’s too late. Tanner’s curiosity gets the better of him when he discovers that the owner is a US senator and that the laptop contains top secret files.    

When Senator Susan Robbins realizes she’s come back with the wrong laptop, she calls her young chief of staff, Will Abbott, in a panic. Both know that the senator broke the law by uploading classified documents onto her personal computer. If those documents wind up in the wrong hands, it could be Snowden 2.0—and her career in politics will be over. She needs to recover the MacBook before it’s too late.

When Will fails to gain Tanner’s cooperation, he is forced to take measures to retrieve the laptop before a bigger security breach is revealed.  He turns to an unscrupulous “fixer” for help.  In the meantime, the security agency whose files the senator has appropriated has its own methods, darker still—and suddenly Tanner finds himself a hunted man, on the run, terrified for the safety of his family, in desperate need of a plan, and able to trust no one.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Switch here.