Hi everyone! Welcome to my stop on The Codes of Love blog tour. It means an awful lot to me that you’re checking out this post – considering the state of the world at the moment I’m sure you have far more important things to…
Tag: three star review
Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down. Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart…
‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that came, and never left.’
When Mila’s brother Oskar vanishes, her older sister Sanna is sure he has abandoned his family just like their Papa did years before.
But Mila knows Oskar wouldn’t do that, and she’s pretty sure it has something to do with the mystical man who stayed on their property the night before he disappeared.
A mystical man who didn’t sink into the snow.
A mystical man who knows their names.
Setting off on a journey across a land trapped in an eternal winter, Mila must enlist the help of a mage called Rune if she is to have any hope of finding her brother, let alone saving him.
There isn’t actually much to say about The Way Past Winter. I enjoyed it to start with, but the journey across the frozen lands quickly became stale and repetitive and stopped holding my attention. I found myself grateful for the book to be over, rather than dreading the story coming to an end.
I loved The Girl of Ink and Stars and hoped that The Way Past Winter was going to captivate me just as much, but this novel had less of a spark than Millwood Hargrave’s debut.
However, there were some aspects that were written brilliantly, and they’re the reason that I decided to write a full-length post.
The way Millwood Hargrave writes about grief is highly accurate. Mila’s Mama dies in childbirth and her Papa can’t handle it, so he walks out on the family and never returns. It’s not the best way of dealing with the situation, but that’s the thing about grief: it’s messy and personal and everyone copes in a different way.
I also loved the fact that the focus was entirely on family. Mila tries to leave her family behind when she goes looking for Oskar, but Pipa knows her well enough to know what she’s trying to do, and it isn’t long before Sanna follows her as well.
However, the characters didn’t feel all that well-developed, so I didn’t emotionally engage with any of them. This is particularly true about Rune, the mage who helps Mila on her journey, who we learn hardly anything about. I was so interested in his story, which made the focus on family both a blessing and a curse – if it doesn’t directly relate to Mila or her siblings, it’s hardly developed.
If you haven’t read any of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s novels yet, I wouldn’t recommend starting with The Way Past Winter, but it is still a enjoyable and rather short story that you’d probably be able to read in one sitting.
New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see. While the other students…
Jon Keller never though he’d be at a conference in a hotel in Switzerland when the world ended, but that’s exactly how it happens. One moment, he’s having a hotel breakfast, the next there’s a woman screaming at her phone, devastated to learn that there’s…
Hello there, and welcome to my stop on the Before I Find You blog tour.
Sorry for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks: we’ve moved home and trying to get WiFi installed has been a nightmare, so it’s been a blogless fortnight for me. Luckily they should be coming to install on Friday, so I will be back and blogging more regularly throughout the rest of the year.
I’m using my partner’s mobile data to get this post up, so it’s going to be short and sweet (and less polished than my blog tour posts normally are!) but I’m going to share a bit about Before I Find You before I give you some of my thoughts.
Maggie is a husband watcher. A snooper, a marriage doctor, a destroyer of dreams, a killer of happy-ever-afters. She runs her own private detective agency specialising in catching out those who cheat. And she’s very good at it. Until Helene walks through her door.
Helene is a husband catcher. A beautiful wife, a doting stepmother, a perfect home maker and a dazzling presence at parties. She counts herself lucky to have married one of the most eligible men in town – Gabe Moreau. Until she sees something that threatens her little family of three.
Alice is a perfect daughter. Apple of her father’s eye, a kind stepchild to Helene, a tragic daughter of a dead mother. She lives a sheltered but happy life, until she finds a handwritten note on her father’s desk: ‘You owe me. I’m not going away.’
All three women suspect Gabe Moreau of keeping secrets and telling lies. But not one of them suspects that the truth could result in murder…
Before I Find You is Ali Knight’s fifth novel, but it’s the first of hers which I’ve read. I was instantly intrigued by the premise: Maggie sounded like a version of Jessica Jones (well, without the superpowers!) while the family dynamic between Helene and Alice – both of who suspected the behaviour of the head of the family – had a lot of potential.
Unfortunately, it took me a while to get into Before I Find You. Maggie’s acerbic attitude was refreshing, but Helene and Alice were so similar that at times I found myself getting confused by which one we were following. Alice is a bit of a spoilt brat, but she’s lived such a sheltered life that her sudden confrontation with reality causes a dramatic shift in character which kept me turning the pages.
Meanwhile, Helene is the catalyst for the entire story – if she hadn’t seen a seemingly intimate exchange between Gabe and a woman at a gala, none of this would have happened – but her chapters for the middle of the story became unengaging. This is the problem when you have three viewpoints which all have their own interesting storylines: I was racing through every other chapter, but struggled to motivate myself to get through a couple of them.
It’s difficult to review a book like Before I Find You without giving spoilers, because I think the story is more successful when you don’t know what’s going to happen. What I can tell you is that there are going to be twists which you’ll never see coming, and you’ll have your heart in your mouth towards the end of the book. It helps that there’s a scene at the beginning of the book which the entire story leads towards – you’ll constantly be asking yourself how the characters find themselves in that situation.
Maggie is a very strong character, and the Blue and White detective agency has a lot of life left in it, so I hope that Ali Knight decides to revisit the agency in one of her future releases. I can’t see any plans for a sequel just yet, but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.
Thank you again to Hodder and Stoughton for allowing me to be part of the Before I Find You blog tour. Hopefully I’ll be more active again from next week, so I’ll see you then!
“Why would they be afraid of us? We have no powers.” “Of course we don’t,” she says, looking away from me. “But the humans do not understand that. They fear that their men will be overcome with madness and dive into the depths of the…
Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Beardies’ World blog tour. First off I’d like to say a huge thank you to Faye, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, and to Joyce Ives, author of Beardies’ World, who has written a lovely guest…
Hello, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon. A debut novel widely agreed to be one of the most anticipated novels of 2018, it’s an honour to have been invited to participate – a huge thank you to Grace from Little, Brown for reaching out to me.
In case you haven’t heard of The Incendiaries, before I share my thoughts on the title I’m going to give you a bit of information about it:
A shocking novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.
Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.
Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group – a secretive extremist cult – founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe’s Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he’s tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.
The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most.
If you’re interested in learning more about The Incendiaries, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
So what did I think?
It’s hard to find the words to explain how I feel about The Incendiaries, because I’m very much on the fence about it. This is primarily because it reminds me a lot of The Girls by Emma Cline, which was one of the best books I read in 2017. I’d been hoping for a similar read from The Incendiaries, but because the majority of the story is told through Will’s viewpoint – a step removed from the Jejah cult – it didn’t have the same intense plot as Cline’s debut.
However, The Incendiaries has its own kind of intensity. The characters of Phoebe and Will are realistic because they’re flawed, both consistently performing misguided actions. Will’s love for Phoebe ultimately drives her away, while Phoebe’s guilt over the death of her mother sends her running into the arms of John Leal, the Jejah leader. While I was rooting for Phoebe to find redemption from someone other than John, it felt like a futile wish throughout the story: I won’t tell you the details, but I will say that you shouldn’t reach for The Incendiaries if you’re looking for a book with a happy ending.
I don’t often read literary fiction, and I did find R.O. Kwon’s writing style difficult to gel with at first. The speech is reported, which I’ve never been a fan of, but I know people who have a marked preference for that style so I’m sure that will come as a recommendation to a few of you! But because The Incendiaries is literary fiction the focus is on the way that the story is told rather than the events taking place, meaning that I did find my attention wavering at points throughout the novel. The blurb that I’ve featured above is taken from Goodreads, but I actually feel as though it needs to expose less of the tale: most of the events featured in the synopsis don’t take place until the last quarter of the novel. If my expectations hadn’t been so high it’s likely that I would have given The Incendiaries four stars, but unfortunately it just didn’t quite hit that mark.
For a book which is just over 200 pages, The Incendiaries squeezes as much as possible into its short length. Primarily discussing religion, obsession and grief, there’s also an exploration of first love. Although I found the ending frustrating I was impressed with R.O. Kwon’s attempt to deal with so much in such a brief novel. I’m excited to see what she produces next.
About the author:
R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, is published by Riverhead (U.S.) and forthcoming from Virago (U.K.) in September 2018.
She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere.
She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, and the Normal Mailer Writers’ Colony.
Born in South Korea, she’s mostly lived in the United States.
I hope you enjoyed my stop on The Incendiaries blog tour. Once again, a huge thank you to Grace for inviting me to take part – this isn’t a book I would have instantly been drawn to, but I ended up caring deeply for the compelling characters.