#BlogTour #Review: A Modern Family by Helga Flatland #AModernFamily @OrendaBooks @AnneCarter #ContemporaryFiction

modern fam blog poster 2019

I’ve yet to meet an Orenda Book that I didn’t love, so when A Modern Family came around I was only a little hesitant that it fell outside of my typical preferred genres. True to form, this baby quietly delivered a heavy punch that left me questioning why I insist on putting my reading preferences into tidy little boxes, because clearly that type of behavior benefits no one. Deeply emotional and undeniably complex A Modern Family explores the deceptive simplicity of navigating everyday life. While it may lack the action that I typically crave in my literary escapes it has a powerful impact and an emotional magnetism that will leave you shattered – an absolute must read!


A Modern Family CoverTitle: A Modern Family

Author: Helga Flatland

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication Date: June 21, 2019

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction

Themes: Family, Relationships

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…


My Review

First, I must offer my apologies. As the vast majority of the tours I take part in are based out of the UK, I always schedule my posts well in advance in order to avoid the Canadian lull in online traffic. Yet, when I took a quick coffee at work to check the blog and do the media thing, I was horrified to discover that WordPress had failed to publish my scheduled post – and not just that, but that the publish feature was not cooperating with my phone either. Cue the panic! Especially since I adored this book and was so excited to share the book love. It may have had to wait until my lunch break, but I am none the less excited to share this review!

When what starts out as family vacation rapidly transforms into an announcement that parents Sverre and Torill are ending their nearly 40 years of marriage, their grown children Liv, Ellen, and Hakon are forced to reconsider their perceptions and relations from perspectives that were previously unfathomable. Told in split narrative between the children, this novel highlights how a singular event can affect disparate individuals so differently as a result of their long-held perceptions and lived experiences. It brings to the forefront the reality the stark contrast of personal assessment against outward appearances, and the reality that our carefully constructed facades rarely reflect our inner truths.

I was certainly more drawn to the experiences of Liv and Ellen, and found both of their emotions, memories, and shared experiences to be deeply touching and heartfelt. Everything from their sibling rivalries to Ellen’s envy of her older sister rang true, and the result was a deeply relatable and touching experience. You feel every ounce of love, jealousy, sadness, hope and despair as if the emotions were passed through a resonating chamber and I walked away feeling as though I had been shaken to my core. This feeling was only heightened by Liv’s painful internalization of her emotions and the ensuing frustration the result from her inability to understand that her process was one unto herself and therefore impossible for her loved ones to grapple with. Now add into the fact that Liv had been using her parents’ relationship as a barometer for her own success as a mother and wife, and you can’t help but sympathize as she struggles to make sense of her life.

Ellen on the other hand, is much less guarded in her emotions, and the depth of her response will leave you bereft. When combined with her persistent struggles to have a baby, her grief over the family breakdown is raw, and at times, insurmountable. Personally, I found her passages the most difficult to read as she struggled with her personal demons, constructed isolation, and desperate need for support from family entrenched in their own complicated processes.

And yet, the bonds that tie and the depth of the love shared between the siblings really shines through – and so too does the persistence of suspicion and long-held grudges that are inevitably carried over from our younger years. As a result, I felt that the characters were beautifully individual, well thought out, relatable and believable. This story is not full of action in the truest sense of the word but the impact is nonetheless profound. It focuses on individual experiences, emotions, and the psychology of the situation in a way that will leave you breathless and bereft. Add into the equation the beautiful poetic prose of Flatland’s and you have an absolute winner.

Read it my friends, your summer TBR will thank you.


About The Author

Helga Author PicHelga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.


Many thanks to Anne Carter at Orenda Books for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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#ARC #Review: The Birthday by @carolewyer @Bookouture #CrimeFiction #Thriller

Look! Another series… but this time it’s a book one (and a fabulous one at that)! As a fan of the DI Robyn Carter series, I simply couldn’t resist checking out The Birthday from NetGalley and my impatience was duly rewarded. Quick paced and complex, the DI Natalie Ward series by Caro Wyer is shaping up to be an exciting new adventure.


birthdayTitle: The Birthday

AuthorCarol Wyer

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: 27 September 2018

Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Police Procedural

Themes: Murder, Family, Serial Killers

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

One hot summer’s afternoon, five-year-old Ava Sawyer went to a party. She never came home…

When five-year-old Ava Sawyer goes missing from a birthday party at a local garden centre, the police are bewildered by the lack of leads. That is until two years later, when Ava’s body is found and another little girl, Audrey Briggs, goes missing. Audrey also attended that party …

Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward . A mother of two teenagers, this case chills her to the bone, and is a disturbing reminder of the last job she worked on. One that ended very badly.

Natalie soon discovers that Ava’s mother has some worrying gaps in her alibi and as she digs deeper, she’s sure Ava’s father is not telling the full story. And what did the owner of the garden centre Elsa see that day? Something that she’s not telling Natalie …

Just as Natalie is facing up to the grim possibility that Ava and Audrey were killed by someone close to home, another little girl from the party doesn’t come home from her ballet lesson. Can Natalie find a way to stop this killer before more innocent lives are taken?


My Review

Whoa, what is this strange magic? Two reviews in less than a week? Don’t get too used to it my fellow book lovers, I’m moving at the end of the month and I seem to be having a bout of productivity as a direct result of avoiding my packing… needless to say things will change!

But enough about me, let’s talk about a book! Today’s review is for Carol Wyer’s latest creation, The Birthday. This beauty marks the start of the DI Natalie Ward series, and has all the promise of a rollicking rollercoaster ride as her story unfolds. As a hardworking mother, and breadwinner in the family, DI Ward is a character that I’m sure many will be able to relate to. She’s strong, dedicated, hella persistent and even a little fickle but she’s written in such a way that you can’t help but feel for her and her family.

I enjoyed the tension created through the juxtaposition of Natalie’s disastrous home life against a chilling cold case and obvious serial killer. Given the sacrifices that Natalie is making to keep her family together and children provided for, the fact that the killer is taking young girls only adds to the horror. Her fear and anxiety as both an officer and a mother is expertly transmitted, and as a result the plot moves along at a break-neck speed.

Surprisingly, I ended up really feeling for Elsa, the garden centre owner despite the outward appearances of avoiding the case. I couldn’t imagine living with the guilt of a child going missing while under your care. The damage to her business was realistic and expected, but in the aftermath of what happened at the hands of her friends and the community I couldn’t help but getting really angry. It simply goes to show how guilt can be misconstrued as guilty, and how fickle people can be.

The supporting cast of other officers and possible suspects was just as intriguing. Everyone from the dance teacher to the school staff, and from the forensics team to the pathologist was wonderfully balanced. There was a reasonable mix of personalities and character types, and their appearances were made in such a way that while these characters were familiar they never felt overly type-cast.

Finally, the writing was exceptional as well. While Wyer tackles some incredibly heavy subjects – adultery, missing and murdered children, addiction, etc. – the lexile used throughout remains realistic and approachable to the masses. While there are certainly some scientific terms bandied about, they are always accompanied by dialogue or description that translates though terms and concepts into the language of the lay-person. As a result, I found that the book was highly approachable.

Would I recommend it? All 4.5 stars of it, you bet! I can’t wait to see where this series will go next as Wyer has laid the foundation for some exciting storylines to develop. I can’t wait to see what case the team will take on next and how DI Ward will handle her husband’s gambling addictions. This book is dark, twisty, and wonderfully gripping – lovers of police procedurals and crime thrillers you won’t be disappointed!


Many thanks to Carol Wyer, Bookouture, and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

#Review: Dark Waters by Mary-Jane Riley #CrimeFiction #Thriller

I’m delighted to be back in the saddle sharing a review for Dark Waters by Mary-Jane Riley. expertly crafted, this third instalment in the Alex Devlin series weaves together multiple story lines, intrigue, personal drama, and a substantial dosage of suspense. If you’re a fan of investigative mysteries and crime thrillers, this one is definitely for you!


dark .jpgTitle: Dark Waters

AuthorMary-Jane Riley

Publisher: Killer Reads

Publication Date: March 16, 2018

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Murder Mystery

Themes: Murder, Suicide, Family, Journalism

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

A darkly compelling psychological thriller, full of twists and turns, perfect for fans of Louise Jensen, Cass Green and Alex Lake.

Secrets lie beneath the surface…

Two men, seemingly unconnected, are discovered dead in a holiday boat on the Norfolk Broads, having apparently committed suicide together.

Local journalist Alex Devlin, planning an article on the dangers of internet suicide forums, starts digging into their backgrounds.

But Alex’s investigation soon leads her to a much darker mystery – one that will hit closer to home than she could possibly have imagined, and place the lives of those she loves in terrible danger.


My Review

I seem to be on a role when it comes to jumping into established series, and Dark Waters is was no exception. With two previous novels already on the table, I wasn’t certain what to expect. But once again I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to open the book on Alex’s life without once feeling lost in her personal storyline.

Picture this, a book opens with a journalistic expose on extreme couponing, and then within a few pages it magically morphs into an investigative mystery with some serious intensity. That, my friends, is exactly what you can expect from Dark Waters. What I enjoyed most about this book was that the protagonist is actually a reporter rather than an officer, which allows for a fresh perspective in an occasionally overdone genre. It facilitated a focus that rested entirely on the characters rather than the process, and genuinely made the minutiae come alive.

This shift in focus also allowed for a full exploration of the suicide forum story line, as well as for the motivations behind both the victims and assailants. It was fun though, to see the coppers popping up around every corner, working as a reminder that Alex’s actions bordered on criminal herself as at times they toed the line of obstructing justice rather than obtaining it.

I really enjoyed how Alex reared her head from doing fluff pieces to investigating a series of murders staged as suicides. But, more than anything I particularly appreciated how Alex not only recognized the constraints of the patriarchal system she was working within but used that system to her advantage. The interplay between Alex, her editor, and her cocky male colleague created enough tension in those character driven moments to keep the plot from ever feeling stagnant. Now add in her complicated love life, a lonely existence, and her son living away from home for the first time and you’ve got a recipe for excitement – forget the multiple murders!

The writing is fun, varied, and the dashes of outside perspective keep you on your toes. Alex is easy to empathize with, you feel her pain as a mother and how the paranoia of such a case can seep into every aspect of your life, and end up utterly wrapped up in the depths of the investigation. Would I recommend it? Oh hells yes! It punchy, complex, and one heck of a ride.

Read it mystery lovers – this one is hard to guess!


Many thanks to Mary-Jane Riley, Killer Reads, and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

#Interview with Eddie Generous – talking Unnerving Magazine and Hardened Hearts @UnnervingMag @GenerousEd

Today on the blog I am delighted to present a Q & A with author and creator/ editor of Unnerving Magazine, Eddie Generous. We’re talking submissions, selections, and Unnerving’s latest anthology Hardened Hearts. Lit lovers, I strongly recommend that you give this little Canadian mag a chance because it has put out some truly top notch productions!


heartsSynopsis

17 stories of difficult love, broken hearts, lost hope, and discarded truths. Love brings pain, vulnerability, and demands of revenge. Hardened Hearts spills the sum of darkness and light concerning the measures of love; including works from Meg Elison, author of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), Tom Deady, author of Haven (Winner of the Bram Stoker award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel), Gwendolyn Kiste, author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Pretty Marys All in a Row, and many more.

Hardened Hearts dips from speculative, horror, science fiction, fantasy, into literary and then out of the classifiable and into the waters of unpinned genres, but pure entertainment nonetheless.

  • FOREWORD – James Newman
  • IT BREAKS MY HEART TO WATCH YOU ROT – Somer Canon
  • WHAT IS LOVE? – Calvin Demmer
  • HEIRLOOM – Theresa Braun
  • THE RECLUSE – John Boden 40
  • WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR MONSTER LOVER – Gwendolyn Kiste
  • DOG TIRED – Eddie Generous
  • THE PINK BALLOON – Tom Deady
  • IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL CRY IF I WANT TO – J.L. Knight
  • BURNING SAMANTHA – Scott Hallam
  • CONSUMED – Madhvi Ramani
  • CLASS OF 2000 – Robert Dean
  • LEARNING TO LOVE – Jennifer Williams
  • BROTHERS – Leo X. Robertson
  • PORCELAIN SKIN – Laura Blackwell
  • THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
  • MEETING THE PARENTS – Sarah L. Johnson
  • MATCHMAKER – Meg Elison


Background Information 

Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine is an indie publisher of horror, dark fantasy and science fiction, crime, thrillers, suspense, and everything in between. Open to subs for the magazine often, but closed for the year for standalone titles.

Eddie is the editor, the slush reader, the artist, the public relations honcho, the layout and design section, and cat wrangler of the whole shebang. He runs Unnerving from a computer on a desk in the town of Powell River.

@UnnervingMag

http://www.unnervingmagazine.com/

https://www.facebook.com/UnnervingMagazine/


Q & A

What drives Unnerving Magazine? And what are your plans for its future?

I mostly want an excuse to talk to cool people and put out books and the magazine. I also like that people butter me up so much in cover letters, particularly in my story choices. For the magazine, I’ll keep on pushing for cool Q&As (last issue had Owen King and Christina Henry), there’s always going to be one or two features, but for Issue #8 I’m going to do an extended inspired by Stephen King edition.

As for the publishing side, I’ll have something like ten to twelve (dependant on contract agreements and final decisions in my slush pile) books coming out this year. The first limited hardcovers offered by Unnerving, and also an anthology (submissions open Feb. 28th) of Gothic fiction and poetry.

Tell us a little about Unnerving came to publish full length print publications.

Mostly I looked at the free time and the empty feeling the week after a magazine came out and decided to fill it. I’d done layout for years before ever thinking of having a magazine. I have long hours into editing (news and fiction) and even longer hours into appreciating fiction. Since I can make adequate-to-great covers and interior art, it meant publishing books only ate time (a little money up front, but not much).

It makes me sad about the state of things when some publishers will pay artists so they can have a good-looking magazine, but not pay the authors involved (paying is the only way to have consistent content… You get what you pay for most times with unpaid labor).

You publish a wide range of prose from flash fiction through to novels between Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine, how do you balance these competing demands?

That stuff isn’t competing with each other, nor with my casual day-to-day life. Casual life has lost the battle to Unnerving. I only watch TV/movies while exercising (Friday nights I watch a movie and eat popcorn, but don’t tell my to-do list), so that frees an absurd amount of time. I have zero social life. Last year I took five days off and I’ve come to understand something about myself since keeping track of hours spent on Unnerving; I’m addicted to work.

Work is good, work demands I consistently challenge myself, which helps bury the constantly impending sense of inadequacy. I have an imaginary enemy and he will always outpace me and grow into the person I want to be before I can get there, all I can do is work to not fall too far behind.

Which is weird in the scheme of my existence, I was a half-asser right up to my late-twenties (I’m thirty-three now).

What do you look for when selecting submissions for publication? What do you think makes a good submission?

I answer this different every time, some stuff is always similar: good grasp of writing, there’s a strong voice, a story with a beginning, middle, and ending, and that the writer HAS FOLLOWED THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

What would you like to see more of in the submissions to Unnerving, and what would you like to see less of?

I would like to see an even split of men and women submitting. I’ve been getting more women with every submission window, but it’s still not even. Also, authentic country stories would be nice.

Less… People rehash TV shows and popular books/stories often, I wish they’d make it less obvious. Also, drugs are booooooooooooooooooring nine times out of ten, send that stuff elsewhere unless it paints a reality of scabs and loss and living on disability.

Is your thought process for choosing a book length manuscript different than choosing short stories and novellas?

Novellas and novels fall into the same category, rather than novellas and shorts. And yes, I give standalone stuff a wider berth. Maybe I read five pages I don’t like, just in case someone was feeling out a story and hasn’t mastered chopping the fat from a story. If I make it all the way through a standalone, it’s almost certainly that I’ll shoot over a contract. If there’s something wrong or hinky, that’s why an editor exists.

With short stories, if I make it all the way to the end of a short story it’s about fifty-fifty. Most stories lose me in two paragraphs, but that’s clunky writing (everybody’s been there at some point, so it’s not a bash or a complaint, it’s just how it works).

Do you have any advice for to writers who are just starting to send out submissions to literary magazines?

READ THE MAGAZINE YOU’RE SENDING STUFF TO. For real. Unnerving is listed on the usual sites, stating sci-fi and fantasy are accepted, but I’ve blogged and ranted that I’m wicked selective about sci-fi and fantasy. And still, here come the dragons and the space opera.

Being located in Powell River, British Columbia, do you have any advice for Canadian writers in particular?

Base your stories in Canada. Canada is interesting. Only New Yorkers and wide-eyed teenagers think New York City is an exciting place for your ANY CITY story.

Are you working on any other anthologies or major projects right now?

As mentioned above, yep. I have a ton of stuff. I’m wrapping up the last of the standalone submission acceptances/rejections. Should all contracts work out, 2018 will include:

  • At least one limited chapbook (two pretty fancy pantsy folks have agreed to send me stuff for this, eBooks for this as well)
  • Two limited edition hardcover novelettes (eBooks for these as well, but no paperbacks)
  • Four novellas
  • Two (possibly three) novels
  • Five collections
  • One anthology (possibly a second)

I’m about two-thirds done the first round of edits for most of these.

I know that this question may have been covered in earlier interviews, but just for a bit of background, what was the inspiration behind putting Hardened Hearts together?

Actually, no it hasn’t. Originally it was going to be five novelettes, but that fell apart. People have novelettes they can’t place, but it ain’t easy whipping one up for a particular call. The heart part came in a backward sense (same way Splish, Slash, Takin’ a Bloodbath came along). I was working on something unrelated and I had an image of a stone heart pop into my head. Then I was playing around on Photoshop, just making stuff (it’s like being lazy and doing work at the same time), and I painted the heart. I thought my slapdash faux-brush looked pretty cool, then I got to the novelettes idea before eventually opening to any old thing that fit my mostly wishy-washy idea of the kinds of stories I wanted.

Setting a theme for a collection can be a complex process, how did you navigate this challenge for Hardened Hearts.

I set out to make a four-star collection. I figured everyone would like at least some of the huge array of story types included. They’re all good, but it’s hard dwelling in Tom Hanks water (everybody loves Tom Hanks), so I figured to some the collection might be Hanks and to others it might be Carrot Top. It’s been a real surprise so many like so many of the stories.

With Hardened Hearts you are both the editor, and a contributor, can you tell us how you came to include your own short story in the anthology?

Ugh, this was a real moral dilemma for me. I’ve had plenty of things published before, but putting my own story in felt icky as hell. But then I flipped between people like Ed McBain putting themselves in anthologies and the opposite, disgusting editors who plaster their name in huge letters on a cover of the anthology, as it’s just a ruse to having a credit to their name when they slam a novella in with a hundred bucks worth of short stories in with it. In the end, it came down to an early reader telling me they loved the story.

Even if Dog Tired is the Carrot Top of the collection, I lucked out with enough Tom Hanks level story submissions. Plus, adding my own story includes zero financial overhead.

What was the last book/ short story you read that stuck with you for days?

I recently reread The Shinning. It’s the ultimate peanut butter on the brain for me. It comes with so many huge emotions, but I’ve gone over all this on another blog (scifiandscary.com). The last recently released book to do this was probably Bone White by Ronald Malfi, it’s intense, set in a barren Alaska, best book on my top shelf list for 2017.

And finally, do you have any must-read or favourite books that you would like to recommend?

  • The Shining by Stephen King (obviously)
  • Bone White by Ronald Malfi (obviously)
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  • The Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Bad Dirt by Annie Proulx
  • Odd Man Out by James Newman
  • The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Imajica by Clive Barker
  • The MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon
  • Red by Jack Ketchum
  • The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
  • And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste
  • Shadowland by Peter Straub
  • The Long Walk by Stephen King
  • Red Harvest Dashiell Hammett
  • Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  • Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
  • Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

There’s more, but this is already out of hand.

 

 

 

 


Many thanks to Eddie Generous at Unnerving Magazine for answering my questions so last minute. And, to Theresa Braun for reaching out, making this possible, and for being unfailingly patient while I ran so very, very behind.

#Review: Drowning Above Water by Alyssa Herron #Fiction #LiteraryFiction

Today on the blog I have the pleasure of reviewing Alyssa Herron’s gut wrenching novel Drowning Above Water. Split between past and present, Poland and the US, this unforgettable story has a power and potency that truly brings it to life.  Suspenseful and socially relevant, this novel is perfect for lovers of character driven stories and thrillers alike.


drowningTitle: Drowning Above Water

Author: Alyssa Herron

Publisher: BooksGo Social

Publication Date: September 30, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, General Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Themes: Family, Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Addiction

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Drowning Above Water is the story of a troubled young girl, barely clinging to life. She is trafficked across the waters to America by her own mother in an attempt to save her life. Twenty years later, she becomes pregnant. She escapes in an attempt to save her own child’s life, to deliver her baby to a safety and love she never knew. If she can give a lasting goodness to an innocent life, maybe her own was worth the pain of living.


My Review

 

Be prepared when you dive into this one, akin to jumping into the deep end, Drowning Above Water has the ability to take your breath away. Without any sort of gentle introduction readers are plunged into the world of human trafficking, sex work, fear, and absolute control. Dark and twisty while simultaneously gritty and hopeful, Drowning Above Water is a tale of fortitude, determination, and survival. It’s filled with villains you can help but pity and heroes you might come to hate.

Malina turned out to be a truly conflicting character, but I love characters that make me debate myself rather than simply rave. While fundamentally broken in some ways, Malina is undoubtedly a complex, strong, and resilient character. Despite her addiction and captive situation, she never loses hope or the will to keep trying. I was floored, however, when the reason for her special treatment was revealed. Once the sadness set in I ended up feeling a touch of sympathy for both Grizella and Malina, but this is one of those scenarios where everyone’s a victim.

I was touched by Malina’s bravery, kindness, and her ability to cultivate relationships despite her situation and restricted contact with the outside world. The loyalty that she inspired from these people really spoke to the strength and quality of her character. And yet, I was equally appalled when she capitalized on the loyalty of Guin during her escape and Petyr in the doctor’s office. Like I said, she’s conflicting, but this isn’t the type of story where things are black and white.. almost everything occupies a place in a vast expanse of grey space and really challenges readers to question their stance on a great many things.

I really enjoyed the constant shifting between her past and present, and especially liked how the flashbacks didn’t follow any sort of chronological order. Instead, their organization in relation to present circumstances creates a delicate balance between drama and insight, and leverages every ounce from the power of hindsight. Often times the flashbacks correlate with events that occurred a few chapters back, leading to so really gratifying ‘ah-ha!’ moments and an absolutely gutting experience.

I actually never liked Petyr. He always came across as a bit of a lap dog, or a little bog in search of his mother… or any mother for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, my heart went out to him. Being trapped as the errand boy for a trafficking ring is no easy deal, especially not after all his loss and suffering, but I always found his lack of will and individual thought or desire to be infuriating. I get it, terrible situations breed broken people, but Petyr’s permanent denial and naivety just never seemed to fit or grow with his circumstances.

I was touched by his undying devotion to Malina, but was never able to fully comprehend the pull behind the attraction. I was saddened by how his story ended, but sadly in the real world stories are all to common. Perhaps it was the reality of his situation that resonated with me – I just didn’t want to accept it as true.

One of the best things about this book is that with little to date it on the pages, it takes on a mournful and timeless quality. Now add in the fact that the writing is both gripping and powerful, and you have a recipe for the type of book that sucks you in and just won’t let you go. It is emotive, evocative, and at times down right frightening. Honest and real, it is evident that all of the characters are based in actuality including those in the periphery like Guin, Abraham, Grizella, Beata, and Voy.

This is one that I absolutely have to recommend! It’s disturbing and often tough to stomach but it’s also poignant and beautifully written. The messages within are both deeply human and overwhelmingly compassionate despite the constant cruelty. Herron maintains a delicate balance between character development, adventure and thrill that is sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers. But get your tissues read, this one will rip your heart out.