BOOK REVIEW: Foe by Iain Reid

foeCanadian author Iain Reid’s new book hits bookstores tomorrow. And, Foe has already gotten a ton of buzz.

Why’s that?

For starters, it’s a damn good read, set in the not-so-distant future, with a simple—though unsettling—premise. It features three characters: Junior, his unhappy wife Hen, and a stranger whose big news disrupts the couple’s routine lifestyle.

The reader dives into Junior’s troubled psyche after he’s been voluntold for a space mission. Junior tries to come to terms with the prospect of leaving his farm, without any say, to go live on a space station. At the same time, he struggles with the strain of his marriage caused by both the unwelcome news and the unwanted stranger’s presence in their home. With every turn of the page, you’ll feel that there’s a slight dissonance, something “off” with the story, much like the songs Hen plays on her out-of-tune piano.

The other reason behind all the hype?

Anonymous Content just bought the film rights to Foe. No surprise, because the mind-bending plot feels ideal for a script or a teleplay—perfect for an episode of Black Mirror. I can’t wait to see how Reid’s novel will be adapted for the big screen. There’s enormous potential for a hit psychological thriller. (Pssst! Casting directors! Joaquin Phoenix would make the perfect Junior.)

So, while I had figured out what was happening by the start of book’s second part, I had a blast reading on to see how the story would play out. And, boy, was it ever a satisfying conclusion!

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I’d like to thank Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me an advanced reader’s copy of the novel. Honest thoughts are my own.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

the-unforgottenThe Unforgotten is a fitting title for Laura Powell ’s mystery with two timelines—one set in 1956 and the other about 50 years later—and whose characters are consumed by secrets. Secret feelings. Secret love affairs. Secret obsessions. Secret details about a slew of murders at the hand of the ‘Cornish Clever’ in the coastal English village of St. Steele. While these secrets many have remained buried for half a century, they were never forgotten.

Mary was but 15 years old during the summer of the killings, and she has felt the weight of the secrets surrounding the events most of her life. They affected her relationships then and in the present. When the story of the Cornish Cleaver resurfaces in the media, Mary is in her sixties. She starts to unravel. The advice of a landlady in a neighborhood pub hits close to home: “If I’ve learned one thing from spending half my life listening to people from behind this bar, it’s that lies are worse than cancer. Trust me. They eat you up and poison you, so you either let them rest for good or you cut them out.” And so, Mary starts a pursuit to rid herself of the secrets she’s been harbouring, for so long, and find out the truth once and for all.

For me, the pleasure in reading this story was not trying to figure out who the true culprit was (which was pleasurable, mind you), but seeing how guilt, fear, and love rule the characters’ decision-making. While the roiling tension in the final chapters keeps you reading until the final line, the palpable sentiments of Mary, Betty, and John are the true driving force of the story.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and Gallery Books for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy of The Unforgotten in exchange for an honest book review. Hardcopies hit Canadian and American bookshelves on February 6, 2018.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

BOOK REVIEW: Top 5 reasons to read Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis-Book-Cover-Andy-WeirAndy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, was an out-of-this-world hit. Fans loved the plot, the tension, and the humour—but can the author deliver yet another outer space story that’s as fun and successful as the first?

He sure can! I’ve had the joy of reading an advanced copy of his sophomore book Artemis. It hits bookstores on November 14, 2017, and I’ve listed the Top 5 reasons fans of Weir will love it.

 

5.  The setting is a not-so-distant-future Moon city, Artemis. Regardless of the challenges due to lack of air, abrasive moon dust and lethal radiation, Artemis is home to a couple thousand inhabitants and has a thriving tourism industry. This remote place—made up of large, connected domes—feels real, so you can easily imagine where all the action takes place.

4.  Every sci-fi book needs a geeky sidekick to help solve pressing, techie problems. Svaboda fits the bill with his quirky personality. His latest invention alone is sure to make you chuckle.

3.  When compared to Earth, there’s only 1/6 of gravity on the moon. This difference adds an element of fun in various scenes—from travelling in heavy gear to fighting off the bad guys. It also gives new meaning the phrases “kids bouncing off the walls”.

2.  The hero of the story, Jazz Bashara, is as likable as Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon in The Martian film adaptation). She’s a sassy badass full of pluck and clever ideas (some good, some bad). I welcome strong female characters in any sci-fi adventure. And hey, Ransom star Nazneen Contractor would be a dead ringer for Jazz in the Artemis movie. Casting directors take note.

1.  The plot has all the classic elements of a heist, yet has a new twist. Who doesn’t like a fast-paced sci-fi caper about misfits with a risky, urgent plan? A plan that feels like mission impossible? Zooming through this book with a smirk on your face—guaranteed.

Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest book review.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A THRILLER WITH A TWIST: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

GoneGirlCover

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Crown Publishing Group,
August 2014.
432 pages, $18,00.

I wanted to read at least one light, fluffy read this summer. One that fell under the ‘guilty pleasure’ category. So I chose a thriller —Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I don’t read many whodunit books because they often feel contrived, like the writers used the plot of a Scooby Doo episode and adapted it for adult consumption. A couple of my friends had like Gone Girl, called it fun. So, I gave it a shot. Turns out, I rather enjoyed it.

The premise: Amy Elliott Dunne goes missing. The media frenzy surrounding Amy’s disappearance swallows up her handsome, charming husband Nick. We learn her fate from the alternating narrator point of views of Amy and Nick. Flynn lays out the husband’s experiences, while he tries to piece together what happen his wife. We uncover the missing woman’s thoughts by reading excerpts from her diary. Amy comes off as idealist and naive in her writing:

“I am fat with love! Husky with ardor! Morbidly obese with devotion! A happy, busy bumblebee of marital enthusiasm. I positively hum around him, fussing and fixing. I have become a strange thing. I have become a wife. I find myself steering the ship of conversations- bulkily, unnaturally- just so I can say his name aloud. I have become a wife, I have become a bore, I have been asked to forfeit my Independent Young Feminist card. I don’t care. I balance his checkbook, I trim his hair. I’ve gotten so retro, at one point I will probably use the word pocketbook, shuffling out the door in my swingy tweed coat, my lips red, on the way to the beauty parlor. Nothing bothers me. Everything seems like it will turn out fine, every bother transformed into an amusing story to be told over dinner.”

Later, when Amy starts talking about her marital problem in her diary, we get the feeling that her picture-perfect husband has a darker side. So do the police and the bystanders who start to view Nick as the prime suspect.

Just when you think you have it all figured out comes an unexpected, clever twist. Oh, want fun!

At times, Flynn’s wording is off-putting, like when she describes Nick as “a placenta of stink” and an elderly, posh woman as having a “vaginal scent”. Sometimes, she reached too far when trying to evoke a visceral tone. She makes up for that problem with her dark humour.

The Hollywood movie adaptation Gone Girl hits theatres today. It’s had great reviews so far, so I look forward to watching it, preferably with a big tub of buttery popcorn in hand. I think that Ben Affleck will be portray Nick Dunn well. In fact, knowing that he was the lead actor in this movie, I imagined Affleck when I was reading. It worked fine for me. My only hope for this rendition: a different ending.

If you haven’t read Gone Girl before watching the movie adaptation, I recommend you grab and read a copy. It’s a quick read and you will puzzle about the transition of the book to script. You’ll be even more curious about the film once you read the gripping thriller.