Book Review #79: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (Review Copy from Hachette Australia)

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“Vowing to discover the fate of her missing cousin, a woman returns to her family’s Kansas estate where she spent one haunting summer as a teen, and where she discovered the dark heart of the Roanoke clan that left her no choice but to run.”

Title: The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
ISBN: 1473648394
Pages: 277
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery
Format: Paperback
Date Published: March 14, 2017
Publishing House: Hodder and Stoughton
Goodreads Rating: 3.73
Personal Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. Allegra, abandoned by her own mother at birth and raised by her grandparents, introduces Lane to small-town life and the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But there is darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.

Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. “Come home,” he beckons. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago. Her return might mean a second chance with Cooper, the boyfriend whom she loved and destroyed that fateful summer. But it also means facing the terrible secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between the summer of Lane’s first arrival and the summer of her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart. [Goodreads]

My Personal Thoughts

Wow! This book is very controversial, dark, and twisted; and I don’t know where and how to start this book talk (face palm). I rarely read stories that are unconventional. I actually had no idea that this is one of them when I requested for a copy to read and review here on my blog. However, despite the fact that it is somewhat disturbing, I found myself being thrilled to find out more about the characters and how the story will progress.

The story took place in Kansas; a small town where the population is just few and everybody knows almost everyone’s secret. It is perfect for the story because every family has a secret and the Roanoke clan was able to preserve their most precious one; not until it’s already too complicated to hide all their skeletons in the closet.

The main character is Lane, the only remaining Roanoke girl. She had a troubled childhood because she did not really have an amazing relationship with her mother. I feel sorry for her because she went through a lot and suffered too much because of the Roanoke family’s curse. All the women in the family underwent through a lot of struggle because of this. Lane’s love interest is a man who also happened to be a person with a tragic family history. I guess misery loves company. Lane’s cousin, Allegra, is the main reason how she was able to unravel all her grandparents’ secrets. She did everything she can to find out how and why her cousin suddenly went missing and she did not stop until she finally discovered the truth; the shocking and horrifying truth. Lastly, Yates, the Roanoke girls’ grandfather is the antagonist in the story. I don’t know what to say regarding his character because I despise his existence. I’ve read one particular story like this before but this is the most disgusting so far. I don’t want to get into details because it will spoil you if ever you’re interested to read it. Overall, the characters are all well-crafted and the masks that they were all wearing made the story even more enticing.

The writing style is pretty fine. I was able to finish the story in 6 hours and I was really hooked (not in a very positive way though). I did not put the book down (literally) because I was full of rage towards the antagonist. I wanted to find out more and be done with it. It was a nice ending but that does not make the story great and impressive. The story is uncommon and I find it creepy. Maybe it is not my cup of tea. In addition to this, everything was also very predictable. When I just started, I already made a guess as to how the story will go and what in the hell is going on. And I was right. I hope the author made it more mysterious so readers will crave for more. But still I liked the way it was executed, all the other elements are good especially how the characters made a connection to each other. I also like how it ended, it is the proper ending but I was hoping that other than the person who was convicted, the actual person who has been committing a crime decades ago should be the one behind bars. It was a story where the sinner was not able to accept that everything was his fault. Right until the end, he was firm that he was just doing the best for everyone and that is bullshit. Sorry but things as delicate as the controversy involved here should not be discussed as if it was right and natural and needs to be accepted. However, I still gave this story a four because like what I always say, psychological thrillers always excite me. Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you are an open and mature reader because I know that you will appreciate what’s within. But if you are a conservative reader, I suggest that you stay away from this book. Young adult readers can also read this as long as you don’t let it get to you because I was not kidding when I mentioned that it is “DISTURBING”.

Thank you, Hachette Australia, for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest and fair review. This, however, does not affect my views and opinions.

~JaNnA

 

Movie Review #4: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Film Synopsis

Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI’s training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and cannibalism. Crawford believes that Lecter may have insight into a case and that Starling, as an attractive young woman, may be just the bait to draw him out.

Watch the trailer H E R E

DETAILS [Wikipedia]

Directed by Jonathan Demme

Produced by Kenneth Utt, Edward Saxon, Ron Bozman

Screenplay by Ted Tally

Based on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Music by Howard Shore

Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto

Edited by Craig McKay

Production Company: Strong Heart/Demme Production

Distributed by Orion Pictures

Release Date: February 14, 1991

CAST

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford

Ted Levine as “Buffalo Bill”

MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS

Okay, so I personally picked this movie during a random sleepover/pyjama party because of the reviews and high ratings on the internet (I love reading Rotten Tomatoes reviews). Dr. Hannibal Lecter is actually one of my favourite psychopath fictional characters of all time, aside from Norman Bates (of Psycho). I remember watching the TV series a couple of years ago. Moving on, this was aired 1991 so I did not really expect that much. Surprisingly, given the kind of technology that the world of entertainment has during that time, this movie still managed to give me goose bumps and left me in deep awe! I was also able to read one book about Dr. Lecter a few years ago, so I already have an idea as to how the story will evolve. I love and adore Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkin’s acting! It was superb! Hannibal Lecter made me cringe all throughout the story! He portrayed the character in a dignified and perfect way. I am so impressed! Watching this movie made me realise that I really want to pursue a career in Mental Health Nursing, I have always been fascinated with the human brain and people’s behaviour. I love reading and watching psychological thriller books and movies, not because I am MAD, but because it is always amazing and entertaining to know how troubled people behave and what are the reasons behind their personality disorders. This is undeniably a classic movie that deserves all positive feedback and praises from viewers!  The plot twist and turn out of events are all good and gripping! The characters are all perfect and fit for their roles. I can say that the effects are still not that left behind compared to the ones that film producers have today. Given the fact that it was more than two decades ago, this movie still and will always deserve the hype and a standing ovation! I have no plans of watching the sequels because according to my research, they are “no match” compared to this and I want to leave it that way, plus the fact that Jodie Foster did not play the lead role of Clarice Starling in the succeeding films. Overall, I only have one rant, maybe the sensitive topic about homophobia, transphobia, and sexism, other than the above-mentioned stuff, this movie definitely NAILED it. IT WAS JUST TOO AWESOME and I LOVE EVERY PART OF IT.

Watch full movie on N E T F L I X

~JaNnA

Book Review #72: Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten (Advance Reader Copy from Scribe Publications)

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Title: Berlin Syndrome
Author: Melanie Joosten
Pages: 256
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Format: Paperback, Film Tie-In edition
Date Published: January 12, 2017
Publishing House: Scribe Publications
Goodreads Rating: 3.42
Personal Rating: 4/5
Synopsis
2006, Berlin. The once-divided city still holds its share of secrets.

One afternoon, near the tourist trap of Checkpoint Charlie, Clare meets Andi. He’s a native Berliner and English teacher; she’s an architectural photographer who has taken leave from her job in Australia to travel through Eastern Europe. There is an instant attraction, and when Andi invites her to stay, Clare thinks she may finally have found somewhere to call home.

But as the days pass and the walls of Andi’s apartment close in, Clare begins to wonder if it’s really love that Andi is after … or something more sinister.

This closely observed and gripping psychological thriller shifts between Andi’s and Clare’s perspectives, revealing the power of obsession, the fluidity of truth, and the kaleidoscopic nature of human relationships. Berlin Syndrome is a startling debut from a talented new writer. [Goodreads]

My Personal Thoughts

WHOA! This story made me cringe a couple of times!I’ve heard and read mixed reviews about it especially from people who compared the story with the movie adaptation last February 2017. They said that the movie was boring, some said it was intense and gripping, while a majority said it was different from the book. I have no idea, honestly, I requested for a copy because of its synopsis. It is so intriguing, I remembered the time when I finished reading Stolen by Lucy Christopher. It was kind of similar to this story because both have victims slash prisoners and they both sort of fell in love with their captor although in this story the prisoner is also messed up and a little fucked up. This was so INTENSE. I must admit that there were moments of boredom but as the story progresses, the author made me like the flow even more! I thought it will just be another case of stockholm syndrome where the victim felt attached to the captor. I was wrong, the main character named Clare is also twisted and sick. She is as crazy as the antagonist and it made the story way better compared to previous novels published with the same plot twist. I admire the author for creating a masterpiece that talked about the effect when someone leaves a person during his vulnerable age  and what might happen to his interaction with other people and his way of life as well. I was in deep awe because the female character became accustomed to being trapped in an apartment far away from anyone who can hear or notice her absence. The male antagonist on the other hand is just so freaking crazy but every move and decision that he made sort of convinced me that he was doing the right thing. I can’t believe that I even felt sorry for him.  Frankly, the cover is not stunning because it is a movie tie-in edition and it looks boring. Probably I will give the movie a chance and find it out for myself how it goes.

Overall, the story is a must read for readers who enjoy dark and twisted stories. I liked it! It may be slow-paced during the first part but it definitely caught my interest! Kudos! I am giving it a four out of five for a beautiful setting (Berlin), for messy characters, for an impressive writing style, and for mind-boggling life lessons that it wants to convey to its readers. I really do appreciate novels like this one and I am definitely recommending it.

~JaNnA

Book review #49: My Husband’s Son by Debborah O’Connor

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Title: My Husband’s Son
Author: Deborah O’Connor
Pages: 352
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Format: Large Paperback
Date of Publication: June 16, 2016
Publishing House: Bonnier Zaffre
Goodreads Rating: 3.61
My Personal Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis
Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples.
Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.
By chance, Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is Barney.
But Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.
Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s newfound quest for the truth… (www.goodreds.com)
My Personal Thoughts
Deborah O’Connor’s debut novel is beautifully written and executed! Everything that I anticipated and hoped for in a thriller/crime/mystery story is present. It is, indeed, a gripping and mind-boggling roller coaster ride! At first, I felt somewhat frustrated and disappointed because of its slow pacing. As I flip and turn the pages, I found myself being hooked and very eager to unravel the secrets and mysteries that the characters are trying to conceal. The book’s synopsis is very intriguing and that’s the exact same reason why I personally requested for a copy of this masterpiece to read and review here on my blog.
Heidi and Jason proved that misery loves company. They are bound together by their individual loss and suffering. Heidi’s daughter was murdered a couple of years ago while Jason’s son was suspected of being kidnapped; he never gave up searching for his kid. Grief has always been a part of their relationship, they are happy together but there will always be that part of them that longs for their departed and missing loved ones. One day, Heidi bumped into a little boy whom she strongly believed is Jason’s son. She did everything she can to stalk the boy and his family. She even risked her own life just to find out the true personality of the kid. Unfortunately, Jason did not believe her. He is so firm that the boy is not his son and that his wife is just hallucinating.
The setting is fine. It is well-suited for a story like this which involves crime. It is a simple neighbourhood where people are accustomed to keeping secrets and pretending that things are normal. The characters are promising. Heidi is very admirable because of her perseverance and devotion towards Jason. The husband, on the other hand, is lousy, frustrating, and such a waste of time. I don’t want to get into too much detail because I might spoil the most important part and the twist of the story. I was mind-fucked! Yes, I expected those turn out of events but I was surprised with Heidi’s decision in the end. I am impressed! I like it because it’s not every day that I get to read books where the ending will shock you. It became fast-paced as the story went by; I think I managed to finish it in two days. It is pretty intense especially when Heidi is playing detective-ish.
What I liked most about this story is that it contains a lot of lessons. First, no matter how much you think you know someone so well; there will always be secrets between the two of you. Second, frustration and sadness can ruin a lovely and fruitful relationship among two people. And lastly, we just have to move on no matter how badly we are hurt. We have to move forward and still be the best person for those who are still here for us.
Thank you, Allen and Unwin Australia, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.
~JaNnA

Book Review #42: The Silence between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe

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Title: The Silence between Breaths
Author: Cath Staincliffe
Pages: 263
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781472118004
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery
Date of Publication: September 22, 2016
Publishing House: Constable
Goodreads Rating: 4.2
Personal Rating: 4.5 / 5

Synopsis

Eight people, one deadly secret.

Passengers boarding the 10:35 train from Manchester, Piccadilly to London, Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. On board customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .

(Credits to http://www.goodreads.com)

Personal Thoughts

The Silence between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe is a story about life, death, and second chances. I honestly find it difficult to give my thoughts about this book because it discussed a very sensitive topic which is terrorism. I don’t want to say things that might offend any nationality and religion so I will just give my opinion about other things that occurred in the story. I absolutely enjoyed reading this masterpiece because it is action-packed and thrilling. I received this copy from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

The story took place in Europe. All the eight characters mentioned in the book’s synopsis are riding the train going to Euston. The first part of the story basically occurred inside the train then after the incident that changed all of their lives, the story is scattered into different places where the survivors reside. London… Why London? Maybe because it is full of life and fun. There are people who are very busy with their responsibilities in life. This scenario is not impossible; it happened a lot of times before to different places where there are plenty of people who might be affected, die or incur massive injuries. It is very sad but a story like this is an eye-opener for everyone. The setting is perfect for the plot.

There are eight characters so there is an alternation narration. I liked it! I was able to understand every character; their life, sorrow, ambitions, and everything. This is the same in our everyday life; we get to meet a lot of people in the street, on our way to work, in the bus station, etc. Each person out there has their own dose of happiness and fear. We all have our problems and shortcomings. We may judge other people based on their appearance but the truth that we don’t know anything about them will still remain. This is very heartbreaking, each person in that train is undergoing some major difficulties in their lives but sadly the incident still took place. Naz is very brave and helpful. Jeff is a promising employee. Holly is an independent woman. Nick is a jackass husband and father. Meg is sick. Caroline only wants to relax and rest for a while from her responsibilities. Rhona is a desperate mother. And Saheel, Saheel destroyed each and every one of them including a hundred more people on the same train.

The writing style is impressive. I am hooked on the story and I am able to finish it in three days. You will never put the book down once you start reading it. It is very intriguing and mysterious. Terrorism is one of the major problems that the world is facing today. We all have our different opinion about it. It is excruciating to know that some people who became victims of tragic incidents like this even from the past are still not yet over it. The story is about a train explosion caused by a university student named Saheel. He believed in his religion so much that the thought of sacrificing himself crossed his mind. He believes that if he washes away all the immorality in this world by committing suicide through hijacking a train, then he will be considered a hero in their sector. He idolized a lot of people who did it before. He resents his own family for not abiding in their religion wholeheartedly. Saheel is a very nice student who excels in school. He is a good brother and son. He thinks that homosexuality is a major sin and that people who commit it should repent. I will definitely never understand why he did it and why some of them actually want to do it. I feel sad for the people who lost all their loved ones; those who were injured, the ones who were amputated, the scars, the trauma, and all the shit that they went through. Their lives will never be same again. They will always carry the horrifying incident that happened to them. The first person narration is okay with me, I like how the way it was written. This is one great book is highly recommended to every reader out there. I am impressed by how the author presented the problem and eventually made a solution for each and every one of them in the end.

I made a lot of realizations here. Moving on and forgiving are two things that are very hard to achieve when you lost someone you love. Surviving a terrifying incident is a challenge. People who were able to make it alive after the explosion are left not just with scars but hatred and pain. Dealing with what’s left is the most difficult part especially the ones who had their limbs amputated. The most important thing here is to appreciate that you are still alive; that God gave you another chance to live. Some people died but here you are, you are alive and you can still be with your family. There a lot of things to be thankful of despite all the difficulties. Forgiving someone is a process and it will take time.

~JaNnA (@BibliophileMom)~

Book Review #38: The Witch’s List by Andrew Cairns

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Title: The Witch’s List
Author: Andrew Cairns
Pages: 232
Format: Paperback
ISBN13: 978178535348
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Supernatural
Date of Publication: June 24, 2016
Publishing House: Cosmic Egg Books
Date Read: September 23, 2016
Goodreads Average Rating: 4.17
Personal Rating: 4.5 / 5
The African culture is one of the cultures that I honestly know nothing about. After reading this novel, I discovered a lot about it and I seriously want to know more!  According to Wikipedia, this culture is well-known for its arts and crafts, folklore, and religion, clothing, cuisine, music and languages. And I couldn’t agree more. All these elements are present in this book, and I like how I got to have a glimpse of the African’s beliefs, traditions and preferences. This book is the first installment of The Witch’s List trilogy by Andrew Cairns and the author’s debut novel at the same time. I honestly did not expect this to be so good! I was amazed by how totally hooked I was! On the day that I received my copy, I immediately started reading it and found myself already halfway through it after two hours. It is a combination of magic, love, life and series of horrifying events. To say that this book is good is an understatement; this is definitely one of my best reads this year!
Synopsis
Sandy Beech doesn’t believe in witches and the supernatural. However, certain strange events occur which put his skepticism to the test: a burning book, a falling crucifix, a mysterious illness, and a fire in a convent which kills all twelve nuns. On her death-bed, Bernadette, the last surviving nun, warns him to control his lusts and avoid African women. Sandy finds this difficult, since he is attracted to exotic, dark-skinned women and after his hedonistic university exchange year in Paris, marries Rocky from the Ivory Coast. Five years later, childless and, with the marriage souring, they decide to visit Rocky’s home country. Sandy is drawn into a world of strange beliefs and practices: he finds out about the Witch’s List – a list of people destined to die, and is attacked by various animals starting with a ferocious dog in Abidjan. He delves further and further into the realm of African witchcraft, but the horrific truth remains obscure…
(Credit to www.goodreads.com)
Setting
This book brought me to three different countries, and I was fascinated by that ecstatic experience. First is in Scotland, this is where the male protagonist grew up and spent most of his childhood and adolescent years. Second is in Europe, the country where he studied for a year and eventually became the place where he settled and decided to build a family. Third is Africa, where the ancestors of his wife reside. My journey is breathtaking! I love how I was able to travel in three different places and explore everything that’s great and not-so-great about them.
Characters
Sandy Beech. I must admit that Sandy’s name is really funny! Anyway, I like the idea that the author presented his life in a manner that started when he was a child until the moment of his middle adult years. It’s like reading a biography, but at the same time I get to find out and unravel all the mysteries that Sandy is experiencing. As a child, he is good. Sandy as a high school student transformed from being a good boy to a naughty-ish young adult. And then from that, he became a successful man with an almost-perfect relationship. After that, well, you have to start reading this book to find out what happens next. Seriously.
Rocky. She is the sweet, gorgeous and ever-loving wife of Sandy. I was surprised, and at the same time impressed by how the author made me like her character and despise her afterwards.
Writing Style and Plot
I will definitely recommend this book to all of my bookish friends! I am undeniably astounded with the author’s writing style. It is fast-paced. You will never get bored once you started reading it. All the mysteries that you have to unfold will have you totally hooked. I cringed over and over because of all the creepy scenes. I was mind-blown with the twist! I haven’t seen that one coming! I actually had goose bumps because I did not expect those turn out of events. I want to commend the author for three things. First, I am always into stories with the first person narration so this one nailed it! It felt as if I’m with Sandy all throughout the story because I was able to see things in his perspective. Second, the title in every chapter is really appealing! I get the chance to contemplate before proceeding with the chapters, and I was able to analyse why that specific part has that specific title. Third, I love how multicultural the story was! Discussing different cultures of people from different origin is actually new to me. As a reader who likes historical fiction as well, this is a first! Diving in a story which tackled different backgrounds is very informative and interesting. For me, that is the best part of this book. Furthermore, I kind of had a hard time with some of the words. I find them deep and unusual and looking up in the dictionary really took up my time. But overall, this is a highly recommended book!
Conclusion
I have three realizations:
  • It may sound cliché’ or funny, but I think there’s nothing bad if once in a while we take into consideration or believe in on some mysterious stuff in this world. I know its 2016 already but respecting other culture’s traditional beliefs still and will always matter.
  • Fun is good. Fun is tempting. Fun is definitely needed in a person’s life. But sometimes too much fun will lead a person to do stupid and wreck less things which in the end might cause trouble or regret.
  • Just because we have known someone for eternity doesn’t mean we know everything about them. People are sometimes good at hiding secrets especially if they are dark and twisted.
    ~Janna
I receive this book from SocialBookCo (www.socialbookco.com) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. You might want to check out their site for the lowest price of books.
You can grab a copy of this book here:
The Witch’s List