Bonfire ~ #JNGReads

Just in time for Jessica Jones season 2 to be released on Netflix next week (you can read my review of the first season here), I decided to crack the spine of actress Krysten Ritter’s first foray into literature, the thriller Bonfire.

Bonfire is a good novel. I have to say, I was surprised by how easy it was to read and how well it was paced and constructed. I’m embarrassed to say this now, but I wasn’t expecting much from Ritter in the way of creating a strong narrative voice or a well-composed plot, and I certainly wasn’t expecting her writing to be as good as it was. But, I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised on all fronts and I really do think Ritter could have a career as an author. Bonfire was fast-paced and compelling, and even a reader like me, who isn’t all that knowledgeable about environmental law, will be enticed to continue reading and get to the resolution of the crime. I also liked Abby as a character and narrator, and I was very intrigued by Abby’s continued reflections on her past life in her hometown of Barrens. I really liked that the plot didn’t feel linear and instead at times felt like a stream of consciousness, with memories bombarding Abby at inopportune and frequent moments. I think Ritter has this knack for creating an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty and personal darkness.

My main issue with Bonfire, though, is a pretty big one and is something that made it so that I could only ever call Bonfire a good novel and not a great one. I believe that the plot and characters of Bonfire are extremely cliché. I should qualify this assessment by admitting that I don’t read very many novels in the thriller/mystery genre. However, I know enough about the genre to recognize over-used clichés and to be annoyed by them. For example, the fact that Abby is a young woman who left her rural hometown right after high school to escape bullying and has now become a lawyer, forced to return to said hometown to investigate the criminal negligence of a large corporation, is a plot I have heard and seen recycled many times before. Abby’s evident drinking problem, her strained relationship with her religious father and her reluctance to become friends with her high school enemies are further stereotypes that I have witnessed used countless times in both books and films. Finally, the plot of a large company contaminating the water supply of a small town also seems to not be very fresh or original, and it reminded me heavily of the plot of the movie Erin Brockovich in so many ways that were distracting and frustrating. Yes, Ritter does succeed in writing a very atmospheric novel that has its intriguing and chilling moments, but I think her reliance on popular clichés and plot devices distracts from her skill as a writer.

Would I read another novel by Ritter? Sure! But I would like to see Ritter challenge herself to come up with a story that is a bit more unique and creative. Again, her writing of characters and her first-person narrative style is well done, but I was looking for something special in the actual plot of the story that was severely lacking. I hope that Ritter will take a few more risks with her next novel because I feel that she has a lot of potential as a writer…and while Bonfire is a good first attempt at a novel, it is sadly nothing more special than that!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart


The Roanoke Girls ~ #JNGReads

How does an author come up with an idea like this?

I don’t mean any disrespect to Amy Engel. This is a legitimate question I am asking. How does an author come up with a concept for a novel that is so deeply disturbing, strange and sinister? I don’t know where this sort of plot could possibly spring from – it must be from a mind much more creative, or perhaps haunted, than mine. It would really make a good basis for the next season of American Horror Story or something!

The Roanoke Girls is a controversial novel…that much is probably an understatement. As many other reviewers have mentioned, it’s virtually impossible to say anything about the plot without giving it away. I’ve also seen reviewers mention that it is best to go into The Roanoke Girls knowing as little as possible about it, and I have to agree with that. The plot is so twisted and unsettling that I feel the right kind of reader will enjoy reading it with that minor description alone, without looking up a synopsis prior. And any sort of real synopsis would have to contain major spoilers anyway.

That being said, The Roanoke Girls is absolutely not the sort of novel that every reader should dive into, and even readers of primarily mysteries or thrillers should give it serious consideration before picking it up. Although it is compulsively and addictively written, it also deals with subject matter that can be extremely upsetting at times, such as sexual abuse, sexual manipulation and child abuse, to name a few. Other reviewers have listed the exact triggers far more thoroughly and accurately than I ever could, and I would encourage any reader who is thinking of picking up The Roanoke Girls to read one or two spoiler free reviews before doing so to be sure that it is the right novel for them. For many it isn’t, and I can certainly understand why!

Having said all of this, and considering that I did find the relationships in The Roanoke Girls to be very dysfunctional and in some cases disgusting, I did actually enjoy reading the novel. I think this is largely down to how it is written: Engel creates a narrator in Lane Roanoke who is at once hardened and emotional, world-weary and trusting. Lane was definitely my favourite part of the novel because, although she is very damaged in many ways, she is also unfailingly loyal and loving in a lot of surprising ways too. She is also fearless without denying her fears, brave without keeping her eyes closed to the injustices and inhumanities of the world, and her quick wit, sharp comebacks and sarcasm really endeared me to her. She surely isn’t a perfect character, or even a perfect and unbiased narrator for that matter, but she is interesting and complex, and I appreciated that as a reader. There was a lot to unpack in all of the characters, but particularly in Lane who I believe hides so much turmoil and angst amidst her narration.

For whatever reason, I couldn’t put The Roanoke Girls down, even in the moments when it disturbed me, and I found that I blazed through it when I sat down to read. Despite that, though, one major criticism I have with it is the pacing. While Lane is a great narrator and the story itself is addictive in that the reader wants to get to the bottom of the puzzle and mystery that is the Roanoke family, a lot of the family’s secrets are revealed at the very start of the novel, and then nothing much happens, no situations change and no new details are revealed, until much later in the story. It felt, to me, like there was some dead/dry space in the middle of the story, when Lane is waiting for her cousin Allegra to be found. Although the flashing back between past and present helped some, I still got the sense, after plowing through around 70 pages in the middle of the novel in one sitting, that nothing much had happened and that the story wasn’t moving forward at all and had pretty much stayed put. At the same time though, like I mentioned, I couldn’t stop reading…so this is a paradox I haven’t yet figured out.

To summarize this rambly review: The Roanoke Girls was fascinating – that’s probably the best word I can use to describe it. It will turn your stomach at times, you’ll want to put it down or throw it against a wall, but it is guaranteed to get a reaction from you, whatever it may be. I’m glad I read it and found out what all the hype was about, but I don’t know that I would rush out to read another novel just like it anytime soon (or ever).

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

The Marriage Lie – #JNGReads

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle is a fantastic novel, and it is just what I needed to read at the moment. After feeling so indifferent toward my last read that I couldn’t even review it because I had nothing interesting or worthwhile to say about it, and after quite frankly despising my read prior to that one, I am so happy to be able to write a review now that will be nothing but glowingly positive. The Marriage Lie is an addictive novel, it is fast-paced, well-articulated and just the right length – I would highly recommend it to any and all readers!

I haven’t read a mystery novel or a thriller in a very long time, and I can’t say it is a genre I am particularly well-versed in. Sure, I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s novels and I of course encountered a classic Agatha Christie tale every now and then in my English literature classes, but other than that, I haven’t delved too deeply into this realm of literature and although I intended to read both Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train when I heard all the hype about them, I just never got around to it. Psychological thrillers are rarely at the top of my list of books to read, because they just don’t come onto my radar all that often. That is until The Marriage Lie which I couldn’t avoid spotting on Goodreads – it seems to have absolutely taken the literary world by storm, and I read nothing but rave reviews, so I immediately added it to my To Read List and picked it up as soon as I next went to the bookstore.

Boy, am I glad I read this novel because it was so utterly enjoyable and absorbing that it took my mind off absolutely everything and was the quintessential escape novel. I liked absolutely everything about this novel, from the plot structure and pacing to the main characters, including Will (who despite his imperfections and flawed morality, I happen to fancy quite a bit). The only aspect of the novel that lowered my rating is the fact that I did predict some elements and revelations – there was not one huge twist in the story, and I didn’t mind that at all, but I did suspect one of the revelations from the very start of the novel, so that was a bit anticlimactic in a sense. It didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the novel whatsoever, though, so I wouldn’t have any qualms recommending the novel to mystery lovers despite the predictability of the whole story. I should say, though, that the very ending of the novel shocked me and quite literally took my breath away – I actually found the entire final chapter to be very charged and emotional, and difficult to get through, but it was an absolutely perfect conclusion!

My favourite aspect of the novel was probably the characters, and how well they are articulated and described. I was astonished by the fact that each one of them had such a distinct personality, from Iris’ twin brother and best friend Dave to Will’s old “friend” Corban. Each one of the main and secondary characters was fleshed out and thoroughly developed, and they each added a clear drive and depth to the overall story and contributed in some way to Iris’ search for answers about her husband, Will. Iris was by far my favourite character because I found her incredibly endearing, and I think the fact that Belle made her a psychologist really worked well with the premise of the story because it meant that Iris was smart enough to piece together the mysteries and complexities of her husband’s past life, but also that she wasn’t a complete expert on every layer of the mystery. She had just enough knowledge and expertise to get her through her search and investigation, but she was also often lost and confused in much the same way I was as a reader, so it was really comfortable going on the journey with her. I also have to admit that I truly did like Will, although he doesn’t feature literally in too much of the story. The plot is very complex and there are so many moral issues presented in it, but I think that at the very root of everything is this immense love that Will has for Iris. I’ve read many reviews where readers said that the book really kicked off for them in the second chapter, and I totally agree, but I will say that the first chapter was my absolute favourite because it is so simple and subtle, and gives such insight into the relationship that Iris and Will have. This first chapter was perfectly detailed and was the ideal introduction to the story because it allows for the reader to sympathize and empathize with Iris’ emotions later in the novel, including her depression and sadness as well as her anger and frustration.

The Marriage Lie is complex and compelling, and I think it is the perfect blend of thrilling and realistic. There wasn’t anything too far-fetched about it and the characters were so utterly believable that I had no real criticisms about it whatsoever. I highly recommend it to all readers, because I think even those not accustomed to the mystery genre will thoroughly enjoy the ride!

❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart


I’m now finished reading my first non-Charlotte Brontë related novel of recent weeks. Ironically enough, it’s called A Study in Charlotte and is by Brittany Cavallaro, an author I’ve never encountered. It has nothing at all to do with Charlotte Brontë though – the Charlotte in this case is Charlotte Holmes, a descendant of that venerable and brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes. In this modern adaptation of a combination of many of the great adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte teams up with the narrator and descendant of Dr. Watson, James Holmes. All I have to say about this novel is that it was such fun!

But honestly, I enjoyed this book thoroughly and I finished it within 3 days because it was light and easy and fast-paced. I haven’t read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the original Holmes and Watson, so I’m no expert on the works, but like so many people today, I adore the BBC version of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and I’m always open to a modern take on a classic.

Cavallaro’s story is different in that it turns Sherlock into a girl, makes the two main protagonists teenagers, and gives their relationship a bit more romantic electricity. While I think this made the novel more juvenile and took away from the potential for maturity and sophistication a bit, I admit that it was very easy for me to become interested in Holmes and Watson’s camaraderie and budding relationship (both professional and otherwise). I’ve also always enjoyed the mystery genre (I was a huge Nancy Drew fan as a child and I spent hours inventing my own crimes and mysteries to solve, with my trusty notebook and spectacles!), and although aspects of this story were predictable, as I said, I finished it quickly and that’s testament to the fact that it was entertaining.

I also truly enjoyed Cavallaro’s use of a male narrator – James Watson is very endearing, and he comes across as intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and very caring. I enjoyed following the tale he told and created and I was eager to get back to his story because of how genuine his manner of telling it seemed. In the Epilogue, when the voice switches to Charlotte’s, I did notice a clear distinction between the tones and styles, and I did think Charlotte’s more logical, precise and scientific voice suited her character. She’s harsh and hard at times, but I did grow fond of her relationship with Jamie in the end.

The only aspect of the novel that I struggled with is its classification. I cannot decide if it’s a young adult novel and what age category it is targeted towards. Obviously, Charlotte and Jamie being teenagers suggests that it’s best suited to that age group; however, the story does deal with mature themes (such as drugs and sex and violence) in very explicit detail, so I think older teens are the correct demographic. I don’t think I’d want my 13 or 14 year old reading this story, but someone around the age of 16 or 17 would probably be able to deal with the mature subject matter. I think it’s a little too simplistic for most adult readers to be totally content with, but I enjoy a good YA novel every now and then, and A Study in Charlotte really is a good one!

Overall, I would absolutely recommend this novel to anyone looking for a quick summer/beach read. It’s not difficult or dense, and it provides the right amount of entertainment and intrigue to fill a summer vacation! Although I won’t be ranting and raving about it for weeks to come, I enjoyed the time I spent reading it!

❥❥❥ (out of 5)


Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart