The Unquiet Past by Kelley Armstrong

Tess has always been haunted, literally, by visions of ghosts that she can’t explain…When the orphanage randomly burns down, Tess is left without a home. She then decides to works up the courage to learn more about her family and past so with only a phone number and an address, Tess sets out on her own.

2/5 stars.
ebook, 174 pages.
Read from September 14, 2020 to September 16, 2020

One of the perks of paying for a Kobo membership is that I get one free ebook from them a year. The selection is often limited and not always of the quality of books that I would read but for the most part I’ve enjoyed my selections, well, except for perhaps this one.

Set in the 1960s, Tess is seventeen has been in an orphanage in Ontario for as long as she can remember. Tess has always been haunted, literally, by visions of ghosts that she can’t explain. For a long time she feared there was something wrong with her but as far as she can tell, she is perfectly normal besides her visions. When the orphanage randomly burns down, Tess is left without a home. She then decides to works up the courage to learn more about her family and past so with only a phone number and an address, Tess sets out on her own. When she finds herself at ramshackle house in rural Quebec, she learns that the home was once home variety of mental health patients that were severely abused. While trying to unravel the mystery of the home she gets some help from an unlikely (but handsome) Metis stranger named Jackson. Could this home be the key to her past? What gruesome horrors occurred at this home and is she due to suffer the same fate?

When you read the blurb it sounds like a fascinating paranormal horror mystery with a little YA romance on the side right? Well, that’s not what I felt I got. I’ll put it out there that when it come to YA books I don’t generally care for the majority of love relationships that tend to build in YA books but if the rest of the book comes together I’m often willing to look past the relationship stuff. In this book, the story starts out strong but fell apart for me when Tess met Jackson. The story falls prey to all the standard YA tropes and falls away from the unique concept of this book. After Tess meets Jackson, the plot becomes less about her paranormal abilities and the mystery of the home and rather about their obvious impending relationship. The story went from screaming souls to sappy teenage romance full of tropes and stereotypes. Further the structure of the plot felt like it fell apart after Tess meets Jackson. Not only is Tess’ best friend, that she left in Ontario completely dropped from the story, but the parts about the home and its mental patients felt rushed, and you only get fleeting details on her mother (the most interesting part, in my opinion) before the writing is focused back on Tess and Jackson’s relationship and their random side quests. The book severely lacked in depth as well as a missed opportunity to expand on an interesting concept and plot that may have been series-worthy.

This story had a lot of promise and started off with a bang that quickly died away for me. I appreciate that the relationship is why many readers liked this book but this was not my cup of tea. Further, the book wasn’t structured well enough outside of that for it to be redeeming for me. I did enjoy the French that was through the book and the descriptions of the Canadian settings but I actually forgot that this book was meant to be set in the past and have some sort of historical fiction thing going for it. The author could have expanded on this a lot further.

Sadly, this will probably be my first and last Kelley Armstrong.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This is by far one of the most popular books published in the last year. With the insurgence and popularity of twisted thrillers and mysteries, like Gone Girl, it’s no surprise that this novel has received a substantial amount of attention.

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4/5 stars.
Read from June 16 to 25, 2015.
Paperback, 316 pages.

This is by far one of the most popular books published in the last year. With the insurgence and popularity of twisted thrillers and mysteries, like Gone Girl,  it’s no surprise that this novel has received a substantial amount of attention.

Rachel takes same train every morning and every evening. Wondering what goes on in the houses she passes everyday Rachel fixates on a couple that she often sees and envisions what their lives must be like, which is obviously much better than the life she is leading. The house she watches is right beside the home she use to live in where she was happily married. That is until she found out that her husband Tom was cheating on her with another woman. That woman, Anna, is now living in that same house with their new born baby. Rachel has not been able to move past the split and drinks heavily. Rachel’s drab life takes a curious turn when the couple she has been watching from the train suddenly becomes the focus of a police investigation as the woman has gone missing. Trying to piece together what may have happened, Rachel gets a bit too involved in the case and uncovers some horrifying truths.

Rachel’s life is unbearable and miserable and as a reader, you get to slowly unfold the events in her life that brought her to her current state. It’s tragic. You’ll also get frustrated with the poor choices that Rachel continues to make in her life. However, despite her sadness, her story is extremely compelling; the novel slowly releases set segments of Rachel’s life in which you are pressed to read on just to find out what happened to her and what goes on during the nights she has had too much to drink. In addition to Rachel’s problems, the additional driving forces of this book are the other characters. As you get to know Anna, Tom, and the couple, you are just as enthralled with their own unique lives and how they interact with Rachel.

This book really shows that not everything is as it seems. Especially with people. That appearances are deceiving and that even the most loving couple has their secrets and troubles.

The ending was one hell of a surprise and was successful in stumping me completely. All I will say about the ending is that it’s extremely satisfying and that readers will not be disappointed. In terms of recommendations, mystery lovers should definitely take a look at this book but I would also say that anyone who is a fan of Gillian Flynn and her books (Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects) will definitely take pleasure in reading this novel as it has the same dark vibe and feel and her novels.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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3/5 stars.
ebook, 434 pages.
Read from January 06 to 15, 2015.

Gone Girl, is probably Gillian Flynn’s bestseller. While this book isn’t any less twisted than her other novels, this one has been made into a motion picture and it has a level of crazy that people are intrigued by.  Flynn has an amazing knack to write about some very twisted and mysterious plots, making her one of the most popular and most read mystery/thriller authors around right now.

Nick and Amy Dunne are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy suddenly goes missing. After the couple both suffer lay-offs, they move to Nick’s hometown to be closer to his ailing mother. The move was not one that Amy wanted which just adds to the tension of their fumbling marriage. Things were not always that way with the two of them however. While Amy comes from a family of some money, thanks to a series of children’s books that were written about her by her parents titled “Amazing Amy”,  her parents have been reckless with the money and found themselves in debt and are unable to assist the couple. When Amy goes missing, fingers start to point towards Nick, especially since things had been so tense before her disappearance. His demeanor with the press and police doesn’t help either as he appears cold and nonchalant about his missing wife. Did Nick do something horrible to his wife? Or is it one of the Amy’s crazed book fan stalkers? The end result, I assure you, is unlike anything you could have imagined.

Amy and Nick are not particularly likable characters, a trait which Flynn is quite adept in applying with her other novels as well, yet she seems to be able to keep her readers curious enough about her peculiar characters that they continue on. I found that when I read Dark Places, I eventually came to really enjoy the lead characters and I was rooting for them by the end, however in this novel, I never came to like Nick or Amy, which is why I probably enjoyed this novel less. However, in typical Flynn fashion, I was intrigued enough to continue on. Nick is self-centered and emotionless and Amy is a bit of a snob, however, it’s still hard to watch their blossoming and seemingly perfect love dissipate so harshly just before Amy’s disappearance. Nick also does something pretty despicable, which I won’t spoil for you, which set me off of him for good.

The ending of the book is the embodiment of twisted. I imagine Flynn just relishing in these perfectly wacko scenarios. You may not approve of the characters but you can’t deny the perfect calamity of the ending and feel some sort of weird satisfaction with it. I think this is the reason why Flynn is as popular as she it. She knows how interested and curious people are with the realm of the weird, borderline insane, or dark aspects of the human mind. I think the reason we are so intrigued is that deep down we know that we are all capable of doing some pretty messed up things, and what’s scarier, is that we could find a way to valid them too.

Overall, I did enjoy this novel, though in my opinion it didn’t compare to Dark Places. It’s a sassy, psychological mystery-thriller that is sure to appeal to almost any reader. Now I just have to read Sharp Objects and I can pick my favourite!