Friday, 25 August 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Child Finder

The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld
Publication Date: September 5th 2017
Publisher: Harper/Harper Collins Canada

Three years ago, on a cold winter's day, five-year old Madison Culver disappeared into the woods on a trip with her family. Naomi, a woman known to be the best at finding missing children, is hired by Madison's parents to locate her. She believes it unlikely the girl is still alive. Shortly after their daughter vanished, there had been heavy snow and blizzards. Search parties had been unable to find any trace of her. But her mother insists she was taken and has survived.

Naomi begins to track down what happened to Madison, unravelling each small piece of the mystery via very few clues. She has always been able to connect with the children she looks for, as she herself was once missing. As a child she escaped from what she had called 'monsters', but otherwise has no recollection of her life prior to when she was found.

The book alternates between Naomi's investigation and the voice of the 'snow girl', aka Madison, who speaks of being held captive in a cave-type cellar by a man known only as Mr. B. Can Naomi discover where she is with enough time to save her?

Naomi is a complex and utterly fascinating character. She considers her work as an investigator to be a calling and her cases are the most important thing in her life. Extremely cautious of others, she prefers working by herself which can put her in some dangerous situations. She has a strong intuition and an unusual understanding of mysterious and natural environments. She feels safe and secure while alone in the forest, which is almost like a living being to her. I was transfixed wanting to know what compelled her.

The Child Finder is an emotional, yet suspenseful novel. Rene Denfeld's descriptions of the wilderness with it's quiet stillness and hidden depths are dreamlike and lyrical. Intensely dark and atmospheric, this is a beautifully written story of sorrow, survival and hope which kept me spellbound.

Thank you to Harper Collins for the eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
A haunting, richly atmospheric, and deeply suspenseful novel from the acclaimed author of The Enchanted about an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl.

"Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?"

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as "the Child Finder," Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

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

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.