Review: The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney

32621113*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Blood Miracles

Author: Lisa McInerney

Publisher: John Murray, a Hachette UK Company

Publication Date: April 6, 2017

ISBN: 9781444798890

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Like all twenty-year-olds, Ryan Cusack is trying to get his head around who he is. This is not a good time for his boss to exploit his dual heritage by opening a new black market route from Italy to Ireland. It is certainly not a good time for his adored girlfriend to decide he’s irreparably corrupted. And he really wishes he hadn’t accidentally caught the eye of an ornery grandmother who fancies herself his saviour. There may be a way clear of the chaos in the business proposals of music promoter Colm and in the attention of the charming, impulsive Natalie. But now that his boss’s ambitions have rattled the city, Ryan is about to find out what he’s made of, and it might be that chaos is in his blood.

From what I’ve seen online, I should have first read McInerney’s Glorious Heresies before reading The Blood Miracles. Many writers seem to be of the opinion that GH is necessary in order to understand the backstory and references throughout this new novel. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but I disagree with this statement. Without having read GH, I found The Blood Miracles to be a full, easily understood, suspenseful narrative. If there were any blanks, McInerney does an excellent job of filling them in, because I certainly do not feel as though I’ve missed out on anything by not reading her previous novel. Often with sequels, one cannot pick up the second or subsequent books to read on their own, but The Blood Miracles does stand on it’s own two feet. I found it to be incredibly engaging, moving, and well-rounded, with enough backstory that I walked away feeling satisfied that I knew the characters, where they came from, and where they were headed. I think I’m even more inclined now to pick up Glorious Heresies to see how it compares.

I love, love, loved that this book is written with Cork slang. It sucks you right into the story. You can hear the characters in a fully immersive, visceral experience. It brings Ryan to life in a very real way. Ryan is barely a redeemable character. In fact, I hated him in the beginning. And then I began to love him for evoking such conflict in me. He became a character that I loved to hate, yet I was rooting for him all the same. I do not generally read or enjoy stories as hard as this one, so I was very skeptical and a bit resistant to reading it at first. But there’s something about Ryan–a something that the women in this novel also experience–that just draws you in. Through him, I was able to let the story grip me and really take me on a dark adventure.

I now cannot wait to get started on Glorious Heresies. I think I’ll really enjoy it, based on the reviews I’ve seen and the recommendations I’ve received. I hope those who loved GH will keep an open mind about this new novel. From what I understand, this book takes a very different turn and many people seem wary of this change. But I think The Blood Miracles has a lot to offer. I know I, surprisingly, really liked it, and I hope you will too!

Review: Beyond the Wild River

30753746*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Beyond the Wild River

Author: Sarah Maine

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 9781501126956

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled. Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father. Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences.

It’s not often that I pick up a historical novel, so I did feel a little out of my element reading Beyond the Wild River, however I will say that I was actually quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s a story of a young woman, Evelyn, who is coming to understand her world as she grows up, and doesn’t always like what she sees there. She wants to be a part of something bigger, to make a change, but as a young woman in the late-Nineteenth Century, she faces a lot of restrictions. Along side her growing up, her father is amassing his wealth and building his reputation and is building relationships with men who are expressing their interest in this his daughter. This novel entwines business deals with romance, adventure with ambition, betrayal with intrigue.

What really stuck with me was the second half of the novel. In my opinion, the book gets off to a slow start. I attribute this to my lack of familiarity with reading historical fiction. It’s always a shift and takes some time to get used to. As the novel develops, however, Maine reveals many intricacies about her characters and the plot. Her characters have hidden stories and many secrets. A covered up murder shows that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. People are not who we the reader, nor the characters in the book, expect. There are many twists and turns as the story progresses. I really got sucked into the book as it went along and as the story turns into more of an adventure and found myself eager to keep reading as I neared the end.

Overall, I thought that Beyond the Wild River is a very interesting tale with some unexpected twists. Evelyn is a compelling character who really comes into her own as the story progresses. This book is as much a coming-of-age story for her as it is a suspenseful tale of murder, deceit, and fortune. In the peak of the action, it’s full of heart-stopping moments. I think any lover of turn-of-the-century historical fiction will really like this particular read.

Review: Himself by Jess Kidd

33023729*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Himself

Author: Jess Kidd

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 9781501166099

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Blending strange kindnesses, casual violence and buried secrets: an unforgettable debut from a dark new voice in Irish fiction. When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies. His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers. Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.

Himself is a darkly humorous novel, a murder mystery in a small Irish town filled with wacky characters, restless ghosts, and secrets of a lost childhood. In this debut novel, Kidd builds a fantastical town of mystery and darkness. Everyone knows everyone’s business and characters jump at the chance to involve themselves in the lives of others, whether out of a genuine caring desire or out of a nosey need to meddle in order keep the town’s sense of homeostasis–that is, to keep it’s secrets hidden.

Mahony is an outside who can see the town’s ghosts and who is on the hunt to find out what happened to the mother he never knew. His adventure leads him to the ever humorous and incredibly prying Mrs. Cauley. They two make an unlikely pair. They are brought together by a shared ability to see the dead and a desire to see the town’s mystery solved. Mahoney is this irresistible bad boy type who’s got all the ladies in town wrapped around his finger with his good looks and Dublin charm. Mrs. Crawley has asserted herself as the town’s playwright. With her crazy wig which she only sometimes wears, and her need-to-know attitude, she’s positioned herself as the towns eccentric busybody. Although this story is a murder mystery, and there are many dark things afoot in this little town, these two provide comic relief, filling this tale with humour.

Kidd creates many well developed characters in the town, while some others are left undeveloped, but serve a small purpose to the overall story. Each character, however far along in the development stage, is unique and useful to the story as a whole. There are some more wiley characters that I would have liked to see fleshed out a bit more. Characters like Tadhg, Jack Brophy, Thomas Sweeney, and Annie Farelly, all play important rolls in the story and are essential to the plot, but we don’t get to know them quite in the same way that we get to know Mahony and Mrs. Cauley. I would have like to see more of them and their backstories to understand their actions and motives throughout.

As a whole, this book was very easy to read, the characters were likeable and relatable, the story was funny and intriguing, and the mystery was not easy to solve until the end. It’s a great whodunit kind of story and is overall, a very entertaining read.

Review: One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

30753637*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: One of the Boys

Author: Daniel Magariel

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 9781501156168

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Magariel’s One of the Boys is a heartbreaking tragedy of a family torn apart by drug use, emotional manipulation, and physical abuse. It’s a tough read to swallow and I had quite a hard time digesting things as I read. The author does not shy away from the intense difficulties that the two young boys face as their father falls further and further away into his life of drugs and abuse. For him, the hits take precedents over his children. He does what he can to manipulate them to get them away from his wife, and then to pit them against each other, using them to his sick ends. It’s quite terrible to read and even more terrible when you realize that this actually occurs in our world. Thankfully, it’s not a long book and Magariel has a very readable style. It’s quick to get through, but is powerful despite is small size.

What I thought was most intelligently crafted was the fact that no names are used for the main family. They are “me”, “brother,” “father,” and “mother.” I believe it is the author’s intent to use the tactic so that this family can really be any family in America. It’s not a story about a specific family, it’s more of a comment on the terrible reality that many families face across the country and around the world. Although one cannot “enjoy” this story in the traditional sense, it definitely can be appreciated for employing writing strategies such as these.

I had a hard time rating this book, but I could only give it three stars because there was nothing in it to redeem the terrible and tragic deeds done within the plot. I’m someone who likes hope or happiness at the end of the book, and there wasn’t enough given in One of the Boys to leave me feeling better about what I’d just read. This story really traps the reader within the confines of the story, the way that the boys are trapped under their fathers quote unquote protection. In terms of composition, this book is well-written and employs strong literary devices, but because I found the content too much to handle, I don’t think I could read it again.

I wouldn’t deter you from reading. It’s a thought-provoking and devastating story. For those of you who have read it, I’d love to know what you think. 🙂



Review: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

356047.jpgTitle: A Complicated Kindness

Author: Miriam Toews

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Publication Date: 2004

ISBN: 9780676978568

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City’s East Village. Instead she’s trapped in East Village, Manitoba, a small town whose population is Mennonite: “the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager.” East Village is a town with no train and no bar whose job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir or churning butter for tourists at the pioneer village. Ministered with an iron fist by Nomi’s uncle Hans, a.k.a. The Mouth of Darkness, East Village is a town that’s tall on rules and short on fun: no dancing, drinking, rock ’n’ roll, recreational sex, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities or staying up past nine o’clock.

It’s hard to articulate how I feel about this book, so I’m struggling a bit to write this review. I can’t say I loved or hated this book. Reading it years after the fact, I feel like there was so much hype surrounding this book that when I finally got to reading it, there’s no way it could have ever lived up to my expectations. For that reason, I did not love A Complicated Kindness in the same way that I did The Flying Troutmans.

Nomi is a teen in a mennonite town ruled by it’s minister, Nomi’s uncle. There is no room for freedom and those who oppose the religion are banished. This leaves Nomi and her father without her mother and sister. They’re living an empty existence in this town. Nomi in particular is trying to reconcile the religious beliefs she’s been brought up with and the rebellious ways of her kin. Nomi is quirky and is seeking meaning her her life. She doesn’t have aspirations beyond the pre-determined life of working in the town factory, but she can’t help but wonder what it is her mother and sister saw outside of their community. Nomi is really the best part of this book. She is our eyes into this small community, showing us what it’s like and how she lives. Her perceptions are influenced by her youthful opinions and naiveté.

What I didn’t like about this book is that I found that nothing really happens. It wasn’t exciting or as engaging as it could have been. We’re really just privy to Nomi’s day-to-day life, but the conflicts aren’t fully developed and really could have been much more dramatic. I felt like there could have been stronger feelings or greater conflict between Nomi’s family and without that, I was a bit disappointed. It was an enjoyable read, but I wish I’d read this book back when there was so much buzz about it, and perhaps I could have been a part of the group of readers who were generating all that hype. Alas, reading it so many years later, I was let down a bit. Still, Toews is an excellent writer who creates interesting and well-developed characters. I will continue to make my way through her collection of writing!


Rats Nest by Mat Laporte

29902260Title: Rats Nest

Author: Mat Laporte

Publisher: BookThug

Publication Date: October 16, 2016

ISBN: 9781771662444

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Mysterious and sometimes hallucinogenic, RATS NEST builds a narrative out of the complexity and dialectical uncertainty that many people feel about being alive in the 21st century. This first full-length book by Mat Laporte introduces readers to a protoplasmic, fantastical underworld, as navigated by a self-reproducing 3D Printed Kid made especially for this purpose. As the Kid descends the layers of a seemingly never-ending pit, its nightmares and hallucinations—recorded in stunning detail—unfold in twelve chilling chapters of unreality that will make readers think twice about what it means to be a human (or humanoid) on the planet we call home.

I am never disappointed by the books put out by Canadian publisher BookThug, and RATS NEST is no different. I picked this book up one Saturday morning and had it finished by noon. I just couldn’t put it down. It’s a story about a 3D Printed Kid who is descending into a bottomless pit and is sending recordings back to scientists of all the fantastical things it uncovers as it travels further into the ground. It’s nightmares and hallucinations become worse and more powerful the further it goes, affecting the world above ground as well. Although a fictional novel, through sci-fi and fantasy, this book reflects on the apprehension that many feel in modern society, the fears surrounding what the human race has become and where it is going. It almost reads as a series of short stories, but is in fact, a complete novel. Each chapter presents as it’s own unique experience, but is tied together in a hallucinogenic way, both real and unreal simultaneously.

It is hard to put into words what this story is about overall. It’s a very visceral book that evokes a sense of feeling throughout, rather than overarching plot. It’s incredible imaginative and moving in it’s commentary. It’s a story that provokes thought and asks the reader to ponder it’s creations and their reflections on our own reality. Laporte’s writing is so unique and beautifully crafted. I know for a fact that this is a book I’ll be returning to in the future. I’m trilled to have it in my collection.

Review: Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

30724110.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Quicksand

Author: Malin Persson Giolito

Publisher: Other Press

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 9781590518571

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Eighteen-year-old Maja Norberg is charged for her involvement in the massacre that left her boyfriend and her best friend dead. She has spent nine months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. How did Maja—popular, privileged, and a top student—become a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of the public? What did Maja do? Or is it what she failed to do that brought her here?

Mass shooting meets courtroom drama, meets teenage struggle. Giolito’s Quicksand is an intense and immensely moving story about Maja, the lone survivor of a school shooting who is inextricably tangled up in the deaths of her classmates. This novel tells of a troubled youth, Sebastian, who has no one in the world but Maja, and his slow unravelling and deterioration into depression. Touching on themes such as family, love, lust, substance abuse, anger, fear, and abuse, Giolito’s complex story reveals the darkness that can live within a person, and how that darkness can manifest in the world. At the same time, we are shown the sensationalization and glamourization of crime in the media, and the profound impact that journalism can have on the perception of a suspects and the victims. A lawyer herself, Giolito gives us an unhindered account of the tricks and tools lawyers employ to make and win their arguments within the confines of the courtroom.

What I love about Giolito’s writing is that you have no clue how this story is going to play out. We see the whole story from Maja’s perspective. We see her fears, anxieties, struggles. We get to know her very intimately in very many unique settings. However, even though we know her so well, we cannot known whether she is innocent or guilty. The reader may come to sympathize with her, to understand her decisions, and even to like her, but until the very end, Giolito masterfully leaves us to speculate our own outcome. She lets the reader thing for his or herself, which I absolutely adored. Her writing is incredibly skilled in this way. This book is Giolito’s English-language debut and it’s so poignant and moving. It never had me full-out devastated–which considering the topic I totally expected–but I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up much, much later than I normally do to finish it, needing to know what happens and how the story ends.

I think other readers will find this book to be a total page-turner. Giolito serves us tidbits of shocking information a bit at a time, hooking you and reeling you in. I would most definitely recommend this book to any reader. Even if you’re not into crime dramas, like myself, this story is infused with so much more character development and backstory, moving throughout time, that it creates the perfect balance. Overall, a great book!