Book Review: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

Book: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas – paperback edition, 485 pages.

Synopsis: At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event.

The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.

What unfolds is a powerful, haunting novel about love, sex and marriage, parenting and children, and the fury and intensity – all the passions and conflicting beliefs – that family can arouse.

My thoughts: I felt like reading some contemporary Australian fiction this month, and pulled this off my shelf because it seemed to suit my mood. I’d heard positive things about this book from quite a few people in my life, and I figured that plus the fact it had been turned into a television series (and subsequently adapted for American audiences) meant it was guaranteed be a good read.

I ended up in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I loved the setting. I don’t read nearly enough books that are set in Australia, and they’re always such a joy to read when I do. Also, at one point in the story two of the characters travel to Bali which was a pleasant surprise for me because that’s where I happened to be when I read the majority of the book. I found the story interesting, and the characters well developed (if for the most part completely unlikeable). The book switches between character viewpoints in each chapter, and I felt like this detracted from the book a little bit because it interruped the flow of the story for me.

Now for the negative. I don’t consider myself particularly prudish but I found the language used to be really shocking and confronting, and I was even considering putting the book down because of it. The racist and homophobic terms used made me feel really uncomfortable, and I really had to make an effort to push past the language to be able to continue reading the book. If this is something you are particularly sensitive about, I would not recommend this book for you.

Rating: 6/10

Book Review: Shift by Em Bailey

Book: Shift by Em Bailey – paperback edition, 304 pages.

Synopsis: Olive Corbett is not crazy. Not anymore.

She obediently takes her meds and stays under the radar at school. After “the incident,” Olive just wants to avoid any more trouble, so she knows the smartest thing is to stay clear of the new girl who is rumored to have quite the creepy past.

But there’s no avoiding Miranda Vaile. As mousy Miranda edges her way into the popular group, right up to the side of queen bee Katie – and pushes the others right out – only Olive seems to notice that something strange is going on. Something almost… parasitic. Either Olive is losing her grip on reality, or Miranda Vaile is stealing Katie’s life.

But who would ever believe crazy Olive, the girl who has a habit of letting her imagination run away with her? And what if Olive is the next target?

My thoughts: Honestly, there is nothing worse for me than starting a book only to find out it has paranormal themes in it. Not my scene at all. In this case, it is entirely my fault because I did little to no research before picking this up. I liked Em Bailey’s book ‘The Special Ones’, so I thought I’d give this a go. I persevered with this despite the fact it included paranormal themes, mostly just because it’s rare for me to stop reading a book once I’ve started. It has to be truly terrible for that to happen.

There really wasn’t much I liked about this book. I did like that it was set in Australia, although it took me a while to figure that out (not until the protagonist started using “mum” instead of “mom”). I didn’t like any of the characters in the book, and at one point the main character pissed me off so much I nearly gave up on reading. Who leaves their baby brother home alone (granted, asleep) and goes out to party? I really wish there had been repercussions following that to serve as some sort of lesson, but nope – things carried on as usual. There was also an insta-love thing playing out throughout the book, which I’ve never been a big fan of.

All things considered I actually didn’t mind the paranormal element of this book, it was probably the most interesting aspect of the story. I’m not sure I’d recommend this, but if you’re after a quick read that involves a unique kind of paranormal element, you might want to pick this up.

Rating: 4/10

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Book: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson – audible audiobook edition, 12 hours & 49 minutes.

Synopsis: It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough. Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?

My thoughts: This was such a fun and summery read, and it was exactly what I was in the mood for when I picked it out from Audible’s library catalog. It gave me flashbacks to the summers of my youth (lol, I’m so old), and the all-consuming feeling of best friendship between teenage girls. I really liked the concept of the story revolving around Emily’s summer to-do list, and I thought the way it all played out was adorable. The build to the romance was believable, and there was no “instalove” which can unfortunately feel quite refreshing in a YA contemporary romance. The friendships that blossom throughout the story were well developed and felt real enough to become invested in as a reader.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like about the story. One in particular was to-do list items that Sloane set as a challenge. It was something that Emily had stood up to and flat-out refused to do in the past. The fact that she then felt obligated to do it because it was part of the list bummed me out a little bit. There were also some plot holes that were left unanswered that I really would have liked to see resolved. I wish Emily had came to more of a realization that Sloane was actually not a very good friend at all, but all of the Sloane-related issues were sort of swept under the rug at the end.

Despite those minor issues, I think if you’re looking for a lighthearted summer read, this is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Book: Final Girls by Riley Sager – kindle edition, 352 pages.

(Advanced Readers Copy)
expected release | June 2017

Synopsis: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

My thoughts: This is the kind of book I’ve been looking for since I finished reading ‘You’ by Caroline Kepnes. A psychological thriller that would take me on twists and turns and keep me guessing until the very end. I’d heard good things about this book, and when Tonile from My Cup And Chaucer mentioned it was on Netgalley and available for review, I immediately applied for a copy.

I think with most thrillers knowing less about the story is always more, as you’re able to enjoy the ‘ride’ in an authentic spoiler-free way. With that in mind, I will keep this review short and sweet. I loved the concept of this book, and I loved having the two mysteries playing out alongside each other and coming to a joint conclusion and reveal. I wish there had been more of a push towards the mystery at the start of the book, and that the ending had been a little less rushed and slightly more drawn out; but overall I thought the story as a whole was well executed. It was fast paced throughout the majority of the book, and the flashbacks kept driving me towards the end so I could figure out what the heck had happened. The majority of the characters were unlikable and they make some extremely questionable decisions, but somehow it all still worked for me.

There are a lot of thrillers available on the market at the moment, and this one was unique enough to stand out from the crowd. If you’re looking for an engaging thriller that will keep you guessing right until the end, I highly recommend checking this out when it’s released later in the year.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Masked Innocence by Alessandra Torre

Book: Masked Innocence by Alessandra Torre – kindle edition, 304 pages.

Synopsis: The man was sinful. It wasn’t just the looks that made him dangerous, it was the cocky confidence that dominated every move, every touch. And the frustrating yet ecstatic fact about the whole package was that he could back it all up…

Julia Campbell never knows what to expect with win-at-all-costs Brad De Luca. And she’s starting to like it that way. She gave up safe, conventional relationships when she let the elite divorce attorney seduce her into his world. Now that he’s determined to strip her naked of every inhibition, she’s in danger of falling too deep and too fast.

But their affair begins to feel even more dangerous when a murder leaves a trail of suspicion that points straight to the mob… and Brad. Trusting a man with a bad reputation and a past full of secrets seems like a mistake. But when she’s forced to make a choice, the consequences will take her further than she could ever have imagined.

My thoughts: The first book off the shelf for 2017 was something a little bit different for me, as you could probably tell from the synopsis. I read the first book in this series last year, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. My introduction to Alessandra Torre was through her Deanna Madden ‘Girl in 6E’ series, and after absolutely devouring those I decided to check out some of the other books she had written. Although the majority of what she writes falls more under the chick lit/erotica banner than crime/thriller (which is more my cup of tea), I’ve found that her books are always a lot of fun and I enjoy reading them.

Having said that, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the first in the series. I’m not sure if it was because it wasn’t as new and fun to me as the first book was, but I felt like it fell a little flat. I found the protaganist in this book quite grating, and I’m not sure if that was because she made some terrible decisions throughout the book, or because I’m not a fan of “sassy” characters in general. The ‘hero’ in the book was also far less appealing to me than he was in book one. At one point in the story the lines of consent get a little bit blurry, and although I know erotica can push the boundaries in this area I’m still not a fan of the idea in general.

Overall I didn’t find this as fun and lighthearted as book one, which was the appeal for me in the first place. I think if you’re looking for an easy read (that’s more than a little bit raunchy), try Blindfolded Innocence; if you’re a fan of that, check this out… just go into it with mid-to-low level expectations.

Rating: 4/10