Thursday, June 24, 2021

Tyrell Johnsons: The Wolves of Winter

Tyrell Johnson, in his debut novel, takes reader to a small family group living in the Yukon after the collapse of civilization:
Forget everything that you knew before, as it will not help you survive in this new world. Civilization has collapse. Everyone who had Nukes used them and now Lynn and her family forge ahead, learning how to hunt, trap and grow their own food in order to survive. But everything is about to change when Lynn happens upon a stranger, it starts a chain of events that no one could see coming and the life that Lynn knew is about to change forever.
Really enjoyed the book (though I will say that I found the middle a bit slow) and it did not read like a debut novel as I found the plot, world and characters really fleshed out. I liked the atmosphere that Johnson created in this book, it was one that was all about survival and what it takes to survive and I think many people would be shocked to realize what we can live on and what we can live without. I liked that this book was all about nature and elements that one needs to survive not only in the forest by in Yukon (think way northern Canada, so long winters with lots of snow and -40 temperatures). I was on the edge of my seat each time Lynn decided to venture into the forest as you never know if she was going to return if nature or the elements would be the thing to take her, and trust me there are a few times where you do know if she will make it.
I enjoyed that Johnson took sometime to set up the past as to why Lynn and her family are now living in the forest, away from big cities and what caused everything to fall. Without these tidbits we would really be left wondering what was the point of it all. I like that Lynn does not know everything as this does leave some elements of surprise along the way as the book unfolds.

Lynn is a great character, that you really feel that you know right from the start. I could feel her struggle of trying to come to terms as the what her life is like now (she remembers, cell phones, TV and all the conveniences of modern life) but she really does excel at it. I find it funny that even in the need for survival and feeding the family, there were times when Lynn was told she was not allowed to hunt even though she was great at it. Lynn has an adventurous streak about her, and wants to know more about what happened to the world, though this does get her in trouble, but it is this that has helped her fight and survive this long.

One thing that was very interesting in reading this book in 2021 is that we learn along the way that civilization collapsed due a virus that was started in China which caused a pandemic. There are some other revelations around this aspect as well but I will leave them for you to discover when you read this book. If was just interesting foreshadowing on Jonhsons' part.

I will say that overall I did find the twist and overall layout of the plot a bit predictable, this did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the book, but I felt that the book followed a fairly standard formula, but I will also forgive part of this as this is his debut novel.

Although this book does not need to have a follow up or sequel, I would enjoy the chance to return to this world and Lynn as a character. I enjoyed the world, atmosphere and characters that Johnson has created here and I look forward to reading more books by him.


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Friday, June 18, 2021

Alex Michaelides: The Maidens

Alex Michaelides shows readers how susceptible people can be when they are entranced by an older man:

Mariana is a group therapist who is trying to combat her own trouble since her husband died in a tragic accident. Mariana knows that group therapy will not only help her but those in the group as well if they will let it. But Mariana is going to have to put her group session behind her when her niece Zoe calls her to tell her that her roommate is missing, and the police are investigating. Mariana knows that Zoe needs her so she drop everything and head to Cambridge, a school she once studied at as well. While Mariana is on her way, her body is found. What Mariana discovers when she reaches Cambridge is the murderer in Edward Fosca, however, no one is willing to believe her and he appears to be untouchable. He has created a group of young women called the Maidens who he rules over and they will do anything for him. Mariana will have to put all her training to work in order to prove that Fosca is the murderer before any more of the girls get hurt.

I think this will be a different type of review, as I am sure that most people who read The Maidens really enjoyed Michaelides debut novel, The Silent Patient. I'm here to say that I was one of the few that did not enjoy The Silent Patient, however, I did recognized that Michaelides had the ability to tell a story, I just found The Silent Patient was too much of a slow burn for me

So now that we have that out of the way, I will say that this book is the complete opposite of The Silent Patient and a much more traditional mystery novel. So if you are here for something different, like what was presented in The Silent Patient, you will be disappointed. I don't think I can say this enough, this is NOT The Silent Patient.

I wasn't a fan of Mariana "detective" type work? I found it a it mundane. Mariana was a slightly boring as a detective character as she just seemed to muddle her way through it, and thought that by just asking questions she could get the answers that she wanted. This is not how one would conduct an investigation as she completely ignores other evidence. Yes, questioning people is one part, but people are so subjective, remember things differently, and eye witness statements are often not trusted as you can have 10 different people tell you 10 different things after witnessing the same event. That said I think that Michaelides did a good job of lining up quite a few people who could be the murderer and I was just frustrated that Mariana seemed to focus on only one person, I guess it was a perfect example of tunnel vision in regards to a case. For me the more attention the author focuses on that person the less likely I'm going to believe that it is them, as everyone seems to believe there needs to be a big twist in the end, nothing is so straight forward any more. I was not able to figure everything out and did not see one of the twists coming that is for sure, so well done Michaelides, well done.

I liked the nod to The Silent Patient that Michaelides put into this book, it was fun to read and added a time context to everything that was happening and in a way changed how I saw certain things in the Silent Patient. It was not needed in this book but I think that is was a fun add.

I think that as Michaelides keeps writing his books will get better and better. I enjoyed this book much more than his debut and you can tell that Michaelides has the ability to tell great stories, just some of the details need to be worked out.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Tracy Deonn: Legendborn

In her debut novel Tracy Deonn she has brings the story of King Arthur to modern times:

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree is willing to do anything to try and get away from those memories. So when an opportunity for smart and bright high school students to attend a college, especially when her best friend Alice can go to, Bree jumps at the chance. Bree hopes that this will be the fresh start in her life and a way to figure out what she is feeling. That is until she witnesses a magical demon attack on her first night. Bree learns of a secret society called the Legendborn, who hunt down these creatures, and have for centuries as they are all descendant of King Arthur and his men. After witnessing the attack it it unlocks a memory that Bree had when her mother was in the hospital after her accident. This leads Bree to need to know more about these Legendborn, what she finds out will change her life forever.

This is Deonn’s debut novel and Wow did she start off with a winner. This book was well written, had interesting characters and story, the world building around the society was really well done. Simply put this was an Awesome Book, that I did not want to put down. Yes, there are a few slower parts in the book, but these are needed to help set up the world and Bree as a character. Yes, sometimes there is a little bit of a data dump for information about the world and society, but these are well placed in the book and make sense when they occur as we learn about everything at the same pace as Bree and well it is a big learning curve.

I think what I like about Bree the most was that she was so normal. She is attempting to deal with her grief of losing her mother and not sure how to deal with those feelings. She is living away from home for the first time and that is a struggle too. Additionally, when she is finding out about the secret society she is not afraid to be who she is and has to hit back at the racism that many of the members present to from the very beginning. I appreciate that Deonn did not have Bree hide behind Nick. To sum it up, although Bree is a normal girl who has entered into a crazy world, she is strong, fearless, smart and willing to push herself in order to find out the truth.

I like that Deonn did not shy away from the inherent racism that is part of society as well in of wealthy and white secret societies and how those within  it either embrace it, accept it or are blind in the fact that it was occurring (looking at you Nick). Additionally there are all the subtle and not subtle showing  of racism of what Bree faces on a daily basis.

I really liked the use of King Arthur and the retelling that Deonn has presented here but this seems to a common occurrence these days, this retelling  of the story or bringing it into modern times. I do wonder where one main character that is part of Arthur's story that is not mentioned at all in this book and I hope it is addressed in the next book. I think this is the third book I have read in the past few month that has followed King Arthur's story, I’m not complaining but I think I need a break from it for awhile.

I was not a fan of the insta-love with Nick, I think you understand why it is there once the story unfolds, but at the same time I think it hindered Bree's growth at times. I will not pass judgment on it yet, but I get the feeling of a love triangle coming, and I truly hope that Deonn does not follow many other YA authors into this trope of needing this. Are their things within this story that makes me think that she would have a better match with Selwyn at times, yes, but I guess I just have to wait and see how Deonn is going to play it in the next book.

What can I say, I really enjoyed this book, cast and world that Deonn has written was fantastic. It is great that Deonn has added her voice to world of authors, and I cannot wait to read the next book in this series. I still cannot believe that this was her debut novel. Bravo Deonn, Bravo.

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