Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review: The Good Neighbor by Cathryn Grant

This book is told from a variety of perspectives, almost all of whom are from the same neighborhood where a fourteen year old girl, Brittany Cushing, goes missing. From the beginning her mother is adamant that she wouldn't have left of her own volition and therefore she must have been kidnapped by a man who wished to do horrible things to her.

This seemed like an odd assumption until the reader finds out that her mother keeps her very sheltered, she is homeschooled and her access to the internet and the outside world in general is monitored obsessively by both her parents. This becomes a central plot point and makes Moira Cushing (Brittany’s mother) an unlikeable and somewhat confusing character. At its core the book seems anti homeschooling so bear that in mind. I don’t think that is the author’s intent but it does appear to be a cautionary tale of what happens when we hide our children from the world at large and let them think everyone is out to get them. 

One of the perspectives we hear from the most is Taylor Stanwick, neighbor to the Cushing family and somewhat of a busybody who quickly develops an obsession with helping to find Brittany. Taylor has a husband, Duncan, who thinks she is too invested and becoming too distant from him, Taylor thinks he doesn't care enough about the tragedy that has occurred in their neighborhood

Then there's Luke, a somewhat mysterious character who we know to be old enough to be out of high school but not old enough to drink alcohol. He's known around the neighborhood as a bit of a no hoper and a bit "off" but mostly harmless. He does give off a bit of a creepy vibe and he’s horrible to his mother, so again, not the most likeable or sympathetic character. 

Crystal is a wildcard. she's the only character aside from the detectives investigating who doesn't live in the same neighborhood as the Cushings, she finds the facebook page set up to spread awareness of Brittany's disappearance and contacts Taylor. 

This is where the story really starts, and I am not going to tell you much more about the plot, because well, it’s a mystery! 

This is a very well written, incredibly well paced mystery with elements of pure confusion that are written so well and intentionally. Crystal is an unreliable narrator and as the story progresses other perspectives look less and less reliable until you have no idea who is really telling the truth. 

In essence, most of the characters are unlikeable in a way, and definitely hiding things, but that made me love the book even more. Every character had flaws and redeeming qualities and they felt like real people. Taylor looked, on the surface, like a concerned neighbor, but was she really? or was there something darker at play? And were Moira and Alan really the grieving parents you’re led to believe? 

This is the first book I've read by Cathryn Grant and I've already bought 3 others on kindle to continue reading her great fiction. 

The pace is fast but not racing to a conclusion without building suspense and making you feel something. I felt a lot of things reading The Good Neighbor and most of them can be summed up with this: Oh my god, what is wrong with these people? 

The writing is tight, well constructed, with just enough descriptions so that you can visualise the neighborhood but not so overdone that you sit there going “oh my god, enough with the courtyards already!” 


I would recommend this to readers of authors like Ruth Ware and Riley Sager, though with the cautionary note that this book is not a creepy thriller, it is a mystery with thrilling elements.

4 stars for The Good Neighbor by Cathryn Grant. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Review: Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

For my first review back after the unintentional hiatus, I've decided to review one of the ARCs I was gifted by my local bookstore (seriously, go hang out at your local bookstore and get to know the staff, they get a ton of ARCs that they don't have room for and the staff can't possibly read all of them, which means you might get lucky the way I did). 

This book is, in a single word: amazing

But I think for a review, you'll probably want more than a single word. Allow me to gush about this book for the next few hundred words. 

Firstly, Hyder's voice is so unique. This is experimental fiction at its absolute finest. It isn't pretentious or over-gilded. 

The book is written from the perspective of a young boy who is just learning to read and write, and as such the language is simple and the phonetic spelling is a unique way of reading a book that by rights could be overwritten and use more words than strictly necessary, in the vein of other dystopian/sci fi authors. 

Liz Hyder has taken a possibly pretentious concept and turned it into a charming writing choice creating a fleshed out character in Newt, a young boy who is forced to work in Bearmouth doing hard labour, with the promise that in the next life with the benevolence of The Mayker. Newt is young and naive, and as such accepts what the adults tell him, the way we all do when we're children. Newt is a vividly relatable and believable character despite, or perhaps because of, his naivety. 

Newt works in a mine, called the Bearmouth, toiling for "not much coinage" and accepts that this is his lot in life, until the arrival of Devlin, who shakes things up. He inspires Newt to ask questions, and things slowly change for Newt. 

Newt's journey towards finding out "The Truth" of life in Bearmouth is deeply moving and evokes strong emotions from the reader. I found myself so thoroughly invested in the plot of this novel that when I was interrupted from the reading experience I found it jarring to realise I was on the couch in full daylight, and not down a mine in the dark. 

I can't say too much more about the plot without giving away spoilers but suffice to say Newt is endearing, and the atmosphere is deep, dark and creepy. 

This is a debut novel which I find absolutely breathtaking. To have such a unique voice and story to tell with a debut novel is a rare find. I suspect that Bearmouth will be talked about for years to come and Liz Hyder will become synonymous with experimental fiction.

If you liked Lisey's Story by Stephen King then you may like Bearmouth, not because they are similar in plot or even target audience but because Newt's outlook mirrors Lisey's, the confusion and unfamiliar territory they find themselves in creates a sense of darkness and depths of both earth and emotion that one finds claustrophobic and intriguing. 

If you liked Red Rising by Pierce Brown you may like Bearmouth, again, not because they are all that similar, though Red Rising is a lot more similar to Bearmouth than Lisey's Story, but because Newt is reminiscent of a childlike version of the main character from Red Rising. 

In conclusion, Bearmouth is in my top 5 books for 2019 and I think it may just be my number one book for 2019. 

SETTING: 5 STARS
CHARACTERS: 5 STARS
PLOT AND PACE: 5 STARS
OVERALL RATING: 5 STARS. 

Yeah, I really loved Bearmouth, could you tell? 

Stay tuned for the next review! Let me know if you've read Bearmouth and tell me what you thought in the comments. 

Review: Little Bones by NV Peacock

  Overview This is the first adult thriller by N.V Peacock, who has previously written young adult horror/supernatural books. This debut int...