The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train
By: Paula Hawkins

Genre: Crime/Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train… – Goodreads

Having reached a decent popularity after its release, The Girl On The Train is compared with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (review), which happens to be one of my favorite books. While its not quite the same level as Gone Girl, the novel embraces the culture of people watching to its full potential and structures its point of view between three main female characters as they each experience different sides of the spectrum. The first being Rachel, the girl on the train who lives a routine life and envies the life of this home and couple that the train she commutes on at the same time everyday, making her reminisce her own marriage before it was broken and when she used to live a few houses down from this couple. As she fantasizes about this couple, the second point of view turns to the woman of the house that she looks at, Megan who ends up missing and the police investigation opens for her which leads Rachel to share what she’s seen that could be suspicious and also approach Megan’s husband, Scott which opens up another can of worms as she ends up peaking the attention of her ex-husband’s current wife, Anna who takes up the third point of view. Through these three, the mystery unfolds as to what happens to Megan and who is involved.

The Girl On The Train is a good premise. Mystery thrillers have been rather plentiful to say the least however this one does build up a pretty decent reveal. The novel is well-written and the structure is good as well as the first person view from three characters helps piece together the novel but still with a good amount of unknowns from both their own characters and the people around them. It helps construct these three very different sort of female characters with their own pasts and different values that end up setting up their relationships around them as well. Alternating between characters and point of views is probably one of my own favorite novel structures and this story fits in it really well. This in turn builds up these three characters so that they each can also have their own interpretation. In this case, Rachel takes a center stage since she is “the girl on the train” which is the book is titled after and her character is by far the one with the most depth which crafts her into a rather realistic sort of character who has plummeted into alcohol after her divorce, making most of her life rather blurry and spiraling downwards with this mystery giving her something new to focus on.

The mystery element of the novel is the highlight of the story as a whole. It builds up and is crafted rather well. The thriller element is definitely there mostly because these characters all are rather imperfect in their own ways, making them feel hard to truly erase them from suspicion for one reason or another. However, the thrill is mostly with all the characters, not just the main three female characters but also the other ones who all feel like its one big cycle of waiting for their stories to unfold to rid them of suspicion. It throws a few twists here and there, some land more unexpectedly than others. The big reveal of who is responsible does end up being rather surprising and a decently executed twist.

Overall, The Girl On The Train is pretty good overall. There are some little bits here and there that feel like it could be polished a little better in execution. Sometimes, reading a slew of characters which was completely imperfect also feels a little hard to completely bond into the book and its events as is the situation here which at times feels a bit tiring as it cycles around some events a little too much. However, the mystery is decently crafted, the structure keeps things moving from one side of the story to the next, even if some of it jumps back and forth in the timeline and the thrilling parts are mostly from character development and a believable yet unpredictable reveal.

Goodreads score: 4/5

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
By Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fairy Tale Retelling

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles.

She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life.

When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own. As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.  – Goodreads

The sequel of Cinder (review) and the second book of The Lunar Chronicles picks up right the events of the first. As Cinder is imprisoned and she tries to make her escape, the story shifts simultaneously to Scarlet, a fairytelling retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in this world when her grandmother, an ex-military pilot, goes missing and she ends up meeting a fighter called Wolf who joins her in her search as they trace down the leads. Much like an escaped Cinder who finds companion with Thorne in search of Scarlet’s grandmother as well. More characters and an expanded storyline fills up Scarlet as these two join paths with some help.

Cinder built up a wonderful foundation and world building in the first book, setting up the politics of the story, the feud between Lunar and Eastern Commonwealth, Queen Levana’s plot against Emperor Kaito and Cinder’s basic character and backstory. The strong foundation sets up a great platform for Scarlet to jump off from as its main story is adding more depth to Cinder as she is the key focus of the entire plot that’s being constructed but still having room to discover more with Scarlet’s side especially since her story doesn’t unfold until they do find her grandmother and know what secrets she hides that links to Princess Selene. The whole progression of events is well-paced and pretty adventurous as the dangers pick up one after the next for both Cinder and Scarlet. Scarlet’s story is pretty good since it uses this world to give a decent twist to Wolf who plays into a genetically modified soldier giving them wolf instincts.

To be fair, these stories are fairly straight forward. On one hand, its good because the world takes precedence and its a very easy read to pick up and get into the story quickly. Even if this is the sequel, its not hard to follow where it picks up from the first book and catch up a little on the context fairly easily. If there was something to criticize, Scarlet’s story does have its moments which feels a little bit like the typical love dramas especially in dialogue when things start to take a more romantic take on her and Wolf. The whole thing gets a little soapy and cringe-y at times. However, the story never does forget that the end game is to set up Scarlet and Cinder’s meeting as they join forces to set up their next step to fight against Queen Levana.

Despite its slight shortcomings, Scarlet is overall a fun read. It sets up a decent platform for the next book as well. As an ending thought, I’m definitely enjoying the world the most as they take these fairy tale retellings and puts them into a sci-fi future. Hopefully, I will be taking a look at Book 3 sooner rather than later.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale (The Handmaid’s Tale #1)
By: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy

This is the story of Offred, one of the”Handmaids” whose purpose is to breed. In the new social order in which women are told they are being controlled for their own good, Offred lives in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is sent out once a day to the food market, chaperoned; she is is not permitted to read; and she is hoping the commander makes her pregnant, because if not she’ll be sent to a toxic work camp, or end up as a sex slave in Jezebel’s. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, and a husband and a child. But all of that is gone now… everything has changed. – Goodreads

There’s no doubt that I once bought this novel at the TV series height and wanted to read what it was about in anticipation for when I would get the chance to watch it. Until this very day, I haven’t watched the series yet but here we are, the first book of this series done as well as the first Margaret Atwood book done and dusted. While I want to say that I had in incredibly great time with it, it definitely was not the case. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of Atwood’s most known and popular titles (according to the blurb in Goodreads) and its no surprise that it was adapted into a TV series considering its premise and characters. It is quite suitable content to make for some engaging and compelling TV series. However, as the book itself, there are certain things that aren’t quite to my own preference.

Before we start with the cons, let’s start with some of the good stuff. The Handmaid’s Tale creates a wonderful dystopia future. This future is harsh and takes away the basic rights of women decreasing fertile women to simply being emotionless and obedient birthing machines as their life from what they eat to their lifestyle to their purpose being derived solely from being impregnated by the Commander of their household. What does make it more messed up is that they are doing all this in the presence of the Commander’s wife just like a substitute body. The dystopia world has its underground guilty pleasures and as Offred, the main character starts to be asked to do things against the norm from the Commander and his wife separately, she starts seeing these hidden elements of this dystopian world. That part of the story is where most of the fun is as Offred’s experiences from past and present do shed light on how the situation came to be, how she got to where she is and her observations from the things happening around her.

The issue with the writing itself is that it is very descriptive, at times a little bit overly descriptive that makes the pacing feel a little dragged out in parts. At the same time, the writing also tends to jump around between the past and present a lot. While the story itself doesn’t have an issue, there are times that it takes a while to know exactly which is in the past without warning. Especially in the beginning when learning about all these characters around Offred and their connection and purpose, etc. Perhaps its that I prefer a little more obvious structure in the writing structure and style which makes this element something that doesn’t appeal to myself as much. Its also that as I get older, the amount of structure and description also makes for a great deal of the read experience itself. Over the course of the novel, it does slowly become easier to catch on the past and present since the characters are more familiar. Just for a simple example, there was one part that bothered me was this whole meeting that was supposed to happen and then it goes on this whole detour of a few chapters before it actually happens.

With all that said, The Handmaid’s Tale is an okay reading experience. Overall, it has a really good world building and the dystopia concept is pretty well-executed especially since it is the first book of two and does build a good foundation, seeing as the story does end on a cliffhanger of sorts. The writing structure and style isn’t exactly something that I’m a big fan of but if you don’t mind those elements I mentioned above, then this might be up your alley!

Goodreads score: 3/5

Want (Want #1) by Cindy Pon

Want
By: Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?  – Goodreads

Want is a dystopian sci-fi novel set in a future where the oxygen is no longer good to breath. Viruses and pollution allow only for the most wealthy to be able to travel in suits that circulate good air for them to breathe while the majority who are poor need to live short lives and deal with the horrible environment that surrounds them. The story itself isn’t just a dystopian setting but there is a secondary plot involving the romance between the main characters of the story as they sit on different sides of the situation, a little Romeo and Juliet but a little less dramatic and a lot less tragic. The main plot being the one that does have much more resonance than the romantic angle which seems much more basic.

The story takes place in futuristic Taipei setting. The setting itself is the center of where the “evil” big corporation is located despite its international stance with the wonderful technology that its created for the rich and as it starts to expand to the normal everybody in order to achieve better living. However, the ploy does run a little deeper as the main character Jason Zhou and his friends starts to infiltrate into their operations as he dives into a growing friendship with Daiyu. The whole technology layout and the big Jin Corp building as well as the layout of the city between the rich and the poor area is well-described as well as the world/city setting is rather immersive to read. Its one of the bigger elements of the story especially in the big showdown when the big plan unfurls as it dives into the whole structure of this prominent building in the city.

Another element of this is the friendships between Jason Zhou and his friends. These characters are built really well. There are certain friendship connections and romances and a lot of them are fairly subtle until the big situations happen. All of the characters also have very distinguishing traits where gives them their own set of skills worthy of being a part of this group. The whole infiltration plans one by one also reveals a lot about each of the characters that Jason works with which makes them not dispensable. Of course, the focus is on Jason since he gets to be a character torn between knowing about the struggles of the poor and trying to go through this whole revolution/payback against the big evil corporation while at the same time, he has an undercover identity and gets closer to Daiyu who may be the daughter of the CEO of the corporation but also is a fairly upstanding character overall.

Overall, Want is a pretty decent dystopian sci-fi novel. While the romance sometimes seems to drag out a little, the most exciting part is the world building as it focuses on the Taipei setting but also the economic and social issues of the world. The focus on the technology is also pretty cool plus this future doesn’t feel completely a leap in imagination as the world we live in together struggle with potential causes of what could happen in the future.

Book Tour: Ekleipsis: The Abyss by Tamel Wino (Review)

Ekleipsis: The Abyss
By: Tamel Wino

Expected Publication Date: October 29th, 2021
Genre: Horror/Anthology

SYNOPSIS

Ékleipsis: The Abyss is the second short story collection by the award-winning author.

Tales of depravation and insanity are woven together with unrelenting style and depth, scrutinizing human nature’s degeneration when compromised by tragic, vicious circumstances.

These complex, wretched individuals and the irremediable conditions they are desperate to claw out of—or into—invoke the unfathomable question: What devastation are we truly capable of when left with no way out but down . . . into the obscurity of the abyss?

” It is at times appalling, strange and outright frightening, but Wino’s way with character development is outstanding. The display of artistic creativity and character creation really sets “Èkleipsis: The Abyss” apart in the field of short story collections.”
Reader Views

“The stories are well-packaged and generally have the feel of watching a syndicated crime drama. Fans of this form of entertainment will likely enjoy these well-crafted stories about everyday people whose lives are shattered by lunatics.”
The US Review of Books

“Wino’s writing is vivid, unsettling and filled with brilliant hints that contribute to the exhilaration of its pacing. Ékleipsis: The Abyss is a clever and creative horror offering worth checking out.”
―Independent Book Review

” Tamel really captured that essence of society and the dark side of people. Readers will appreciate the dark undertones of this horror anthology. Ekleipsis: the Abyss will surprise you more that you can imagine.”
―Literary Titan

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Available on Amazon

REVIEW

Ekleipsis: The Abyss navigates through six different stories of insanity and vulnerability as it goes through the horrors of human nature. The six stories all differ in the content and the skeletons that are hiding in each of their closets making them all relatively intriguing reads. As with most anthologies, there are always stories that stand out more than others. Looking quickly over them, they each do have their own sense of unsettling and sinister moments.

You can group the stories into two different styles. The first three stories having more resolved endings, while the second half consisting of the last three stories all have more a open-ended approach. Right off the bat, it starts off with “Marlene” which feels like a much more familiar tale of paranoia and delusion. Its one of the more normal unfolding of its premise but does show its craft and the writing that makes its a rather fun read and sets up a great tone for the rest of the stories to come. “No Place Like Home” takes a turn to dive into a warped family unit full of replacement, manipulation and suspense. Its one that does grab rather well but the ending does feel a little abrupt. However, the premise is rather solid. “En Prise” is where the strength of dialogue and tension truly builds the best as it lingers around two characters that are developed really well through their conversation. The conversation is an odd and dangerous one and yet, so intriguing as its almost like two people seeing whose bluff works the best and who is actually telling the truth and whether this tactic will work in the end. Its both a clever approach and very well-written.

The second half of the anthology kicks off with “All Day and A Night” which is a rather intense story as prison guards talk about their extreme schooling program to tame the new inmates to two people on a hunting trip when things during the trip take a turn for the worse when things get out of their control. In terms of story development, this one does take a more predictable path however, the whole descriptive element of very vivid right down to the ending. “Blue Devils” is a different type of story and probably in the whole group feels like it falls a little short. Its premise is rather similar, the description is done well and yet the characters also feel a little empty. It is still a dangerous situation and there is some intensity to it but it all feels fairly familiar that it loses its exciting element a little. The whole anthology ends with “The Descent” which dives the deep into human nature/psyche as the main character experiences this hero complex or adrenaline rush that changes his perspective of life and finally spirals into something much more insane. In some ways, this one does pack a lot of surprise especially in how it ends.

Ekleipsis: The Abyss is really quite an outstanding horror anthology. Human nature is a great premise for horror as a lot of other horror writers have proven before as its hard to grasp the extremities that the darkness and instability and insanity can take a person. There’s a good variety demonstrated in each of these stories which also dive into different settings and premises. It keeps the read very refreshing as it moves from one story to the next. Each has decently executed twists and while one or two felt like it had some little issues, the overall feeling was still a rather entertaining and intriguing read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tamel Wino is a Canadian fiction writer from the resplendent British Columbia whose works focus largely on degeneration of sanity and morality. He studied Health Sciences and Psychology, which only furthered his interest in human nature.

With inspirations including Alice Munro, Joe Hill, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood and Edgar Allan Poe; Tamel’s expositions are strongly grounded in traditions of dark fiction. Yet, with his bold narrative voice and incisive plot construction, Wino is paving a new movement within the space.

When he’s not reading or scribbling away on his laptop, Tamel loves listening to jazz, rewatching good ol’ classic shows and traveling.

Ekleipsis | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway: Signed copies of Ékleipsis and Ékleipsis: The Abyss
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October 25th

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October 26th

Rambling Mads (Review)
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October 27th

@tiny.bibliophile (Review)
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October 28th

Tranquil Dreams (Review)
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Book Tour: The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice by Fred Yu

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice
(The Red Crest Series #1)

Expected Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Genre: Asian Fantasy/Epic Fantasy

SYNOPSIS

He was born of prophecy. If he can’t embrace his destiny in time, his country is doomed.

Ancient China. Spoiled and overconfident, eighteen-year-old Mu Feng relishes life as the son of an honored general. But when his sister is abducted and his friends slaughtered, he flees home. He soon discovers the mystical birthmark on his body has attracted an enormous price on his head.

Pursued across the Middle Kingdom, Feng finds allies in two fierce warriors and a beautiful assassin. When he learns his ultimate enemy plans an incursion with advanced weaponry, he must call on his friends and his own budding military genius to defend his country. His plan is desperate, and the enemy outnumbers him twenty-five to one…

Can Feng fulfill a duty he didn’t know he had and unite the empire against a terrifying force?

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REVIEW

The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice is an Asian epic fantasy novel set in Ancient China. Being Chinese, its actually the first English novel of this type that I’ve read. However, for those unfamiliar to the genre, its a great way to be introduced to a Chinese epic fantasy. It has a lot of elements and themes commonly seen in a lot of other Asian epic fantasies like the concept of sworn brothers or the war and politics or the world itself with its martial arts and the different techniques that might rule over the different sects. Its an expansive world and being the first novel, it does set up the characters and the world building pretty well. The story itself has a little bit of everything you’d imagine to see in sort of novel from fight sequences, secrets, betrayal and plotting and some romance as well.

Looking at the array of characters, much in the spirit of epics, there are a lot of characters that gets introduced. The core characters all having their fundamental part in the whole story as their characters get developed through the different conversations and their actions. If there was something to criticize here lightly would be that the main focus is on the main character Mu Feng who ends up having the most exposure as a character in this journey and also the most development. There is a well-constructed idea of the boy to man as he goes through his ordeals unlike the other characters which have more of a snippet of their backgrounds but feel a little more one dimensional. This isn’t a huge issue as the main character is the key element here as it is his journey. Hopefully in future novels, the other characters will have more detail added.

There’s a lot to like about The Orchid Farmer’s Sacrifice. For one, it did have its own view of the genre. It still feels fairly well-constructed and at this point, there are lots of classics who have thread this territory and a mountain of TV dramas that have also been released so to create this world is hard to be create something completely unique. Yet, it is still an engaging read throughout as Mu Feng is an interesting sort of character. What does stand out the most is the use of descriptions to make the action sequences and different ordeals that happen very vivid. Overall, as the starting point, this is a great take on an Asian epic fantasy.

Available on October 5th on Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a lifelong student of martial arts, and growing up watching martial arts flicks in the 80s and 90s, Yu decided early on that he would write in this genre. Inspired by George RR Martin’s work, he decided he would write a series in English in this centuries-old Asian genre. Yu has written three previous novels, The Legend of Snow Wolf, Haute Tea Cuisine and Yin Yang Blades. Yu has a BFA Film and Television from NYU Tisch School of Arts. He was born in Guangzhou, China, but presently lives in New York City.

GIVEAWAY

International Giveaway: Paperback copy of the book
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October 4th
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October 6th
@NerdyFoxReads (Review) 
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October 7th
Balancing Books & Beauties (Review)
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October 8th
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Book Review: The Visitor by Terry Tyler

The Visitor
By: Terry Tyler

Genre: Mystery/Post-Apocalyptic

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and a hundred per cent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or someone from outside? As the body count rises, paranoia sets in; friend suspects friend, and everyone suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that no one knows who’s next on the list… – Goodreads

Having read two books before by Terry Tyler, The Visitor continues on being able to showcase her ability to craft engaging murder mystery thrillers. The Visitor’s plot benefits from our current pandemic situation as it sets itself in the future after another pandemic has struck the world which is 100% lethal and much more brutal but sets it in a little village where another threat has hit them simultaneously in the form of a murderer which causes the fear to grow in its inhabitants. The backdrop is one that feels almost like it could happen in our current landscape with variants popping up in our current landscape, making it hit home a little more.

There’s a lot to love about The Visitor other than its familiar backdrop. One of them is a familiar form in Terry Tyler’s books which focuses around the point of view from a few of its core characters. In this one, its from the view of the few inhabitants living in the cottage and bunker who ends up there through some connection whether it is the leftover family and companions of friends that had gotten the invitation. As they gather in the bunker and keep it secret, they observe the people around them and get to know the different members of the village. As they each struggle with their own loss and current situation, they each have their own speculations. The benefit of jumping between characters is that it leaves some blind spots and blank spaces giving the unknown to spark. At the same time, who actually knows the depths of someone’s mind although the killer’s perspective usually does draw certain clues from one chapter to the next and slowly does give an idea of who is behind it by the end.

The Visitor also crafts really good characters. The group in the bunker themselves having their own differences and backgrounds and how they get there is one that definitely sets their own character as much as what they do after the settle into the village and each having their own pursuits and responsibilities. Two of them being best friends but also old flames, one of them being a survivalist (but also could be viewed as selfish), one dealing with her massive loss but navigating through being more of a loner: add in their own sort of purpose and personality that grows throughout the story as they get more involved into the village’s affairs and the villagers themselves, human nature is a tricky thing to say the very least.

The great part is how the focus of the novel smoothly shifts from its beginning of the big threat with this mystery virus which takes the front seat and determines their own means to survive and the desperation of the whole situation due to its lethal nature. However, subtly the story shifts to the murder and slowly the routine of surviving through this “post -apocalyptical” world becomes secondary as the murders become more frequent. It almost blends the two together so well that the story and character plot shift is done incredibly well.

Overall, The Visitor is a fantastic murder mystery. Not only does it have well-developed characters but it also builds a great post-apocalyptic world that is not only relatable in the current age but also pushes it further. Perhaps at times it feels a little bit too soon to be already diving into it but it also adds to the unsettling and uneasiness. Smooth plot transition and executed well, The Visitor is a well-paced and engaging thriller to dive into.

Wayward Kindred by Allison O’Toole

Wayward Kindred
By: Allison O’Toole

Monstrous families both spooky and sweet

They say that blood is thicker than water, but you may wish it weren’t, if your mom has to drink animal blood to survive. Home is where the heart is, even if your sister lives in another city–and is a shape-changing monster. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so how can you know who you’re supposed to be if your parents are a human and a vampire? – Goodreads

Following the previous anthology Wayward Sisters, this next Toronto Comics anthology is Wayward Kindred which expands to all kinds of creative stories stemming from kins. Much like its other anthologies, this one has probably the greatest diversity and variety in its stories bringing in different types of monsters and creatures, which without further research, stems from different country’s lores and such (mostly from memory from other things I have read or heard about). There are different art styles and different forms of execution for its stories.

Consisting of 17 stories in this graphic novel anthology with a diverse group of writers and illustrationists, there’s a lot to love and probably the anthology so far that has a lot of stories that stand out in comparison to previous anthologies released. With that said, while I won’t be reviewing all the stories in the anthology, here’s a quick rundown of the ones that stood out to me and a little capsule review in no particular order.

Long-Distance Sisters: This story circles around an older sister that only finds the courage to tell her younger sister about her differences. The younger sister promises to be there for here and in the end, as the older sister has to go away and their communication becomes less, the siblings love is still there. This one shines absolutely from the poignant story that it tells between these two sisters and just through simple words and illustrations, the connection between the two exceeds their differences or distance.

The Egret Widow: Beautiful illustrations pair this story where an aunt recounts the story of her past to her niece while taking her Egret form to fight the serpents to protect the land. Whether its the illustration or the story itself, there’s a lot to love about it. Almost reminds me of the Fantasy Chinese Dramas where it involves people taking forms of other beings as their spirit.

The God of Roadside Memorials: A lovely art style shows off this story about mourning the death of a loved one from a roadside accident as the god takes them away. This story has no dialogue and just its illustrations that tell the story from one panel to the next.

Grain Mother: While I’m not exactly sure what the story is for this one, it rides a parallel between a story shown at the bottom of the page in a blue strip of comic panels and the more dark camp setting on the top. It looks like some kind of lost children or something but while I can’t quite piece the two together as the blue portion doesn’t really have any dialogue, the kids and the interaction at the top definitely shows something a little more and was pretty enjoyable to read overall. Plus, I think the whole parallel story is pretty unique.

Black, White, And Walks With The Night: As a vampire halfling approaches her sixteen year old birthday, her family holds a party that invites her prep school friends, her home friends and her vampire family. As she fears putting the two separate parts of life together and how they wouldn’t get along, she also needs to think about whether she has the vampire element in her that should awaken on her sixteenth birthday but she soon realizes that both parts make up her as a person and a vampire. The art style here is really nice and the colors are very vibrant. Plus, the story takes a fun and positive angle.

That’s something like the Top 5 of this anthology for Wayward Kindred. To be fair, I swapped stuff around quite a bit to get that list since every story has its own merit and most of them were pretty fun and unique. Some had some oddity to it but the whole execution with how the comic is shown is pretty unique like From The Ground Up. Demons from the New Dimension and Cursed Uncle Teoscar is more comedic and light-hearted overall. Then there’s a cute friendship from Words between a creature and a little kid. Last one to mention which almost is like a different type of belief in creatures and spirits (maybe?) is Common Grounds and Various Teas which was pretty cool also.

The point is that there’s a lot to discover with this anthology. While most anthologies will have better and worse stories, this one overall was ranging from good to awesome, nothing that really felt off or didn’t seem to work or anything, which is always great.

Other graphic novels reviewed from Toronto Comics:

Yonge At Heart (Toronto Comics #4)
Osgoode as Gold (Toronto Comics #5)

Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan

Lost Girls and Love Hotels
By: Catherine Hanrahan

Margaret is doing everything in her power to forget home. And Tokyo’s exotic nightlife—teeming with drink, drugs, and three-hour love hotels—enables her to keep her demons at bay. Working as an English specialist at Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute by day, and losing herself in a sex- and drug-addled oblivion by night, Margaret represses memories of her painful childhood in Canada and her older brother Frank’s descent into madness. But Margaret’s deliberate nihilism is thrown off balance as she becomes increasingly haunted by images of a Western girl missing in Tokyo. And when she becomes enamored of Kazu, a mysterious gangster, their affair sparks a chain of events that could spell tragedy for Margaret in a city where it’s all too easy to disappear. – Goodreads

Lost Girls and Love Hotels has a decent premise that explores Japan’s culture and nightlife. At the same time, the book is primarily about Margaret’s journey into this city. Moving between her present and her past, it pulls together the pieces of why she decided to go to Japan to be alone and the reason to escape her life. The novel is a fairly quick read (finished it in 2 days). It mostly has to do with the fact that everything is fairly concise and moves quickly from one event to the next. It moves through Margaret’s past quickly as well, jumping through her past in something like 2 year age progression and using one significant event between her and her brother Frank to portray their sibling and/or family relationship. Drawing a parallel with this is her present to be in Japan to be alone, a concept which outlines how “being alone isn’t about people” (I’m paraphrasing at best, I can’t remember the exact line). An interesting angle for sure as it does focus on Margaret’s trek through how she deals with her loneliness and how she fills up her own void through her nights with strangers at love hotels and her days at her uptight job that she doesn’t seem to take very seriously for the most part.

There are a few elements that is explored in the novel as a whole and everything does get touched on lightly. Which does progress the story quickly but at the same time, some of these elements feels like it could have benefited from having some more depth. Especially in terms of characters, it lacks in building up Margaret outside of the pieces of her past or constructing her decisions. Probably because it strays away from going too in-depth into any scene construction and simply leaving the space for the reader’s imagination. Its not a bad route at times but other times, it can feel a little empty. Much like Margaret, the people she meets and the emotional connection she has with them are also fairly shallow as well. Unlike the synopsis of the dangerous yakuza she meets Kazu, this relationship isn’t nearly as fleshed as it could be. Not in terms of the sexual elements but simply the connection that she has with him. At least not enough to support the extent that she goes and the “suffering” she ends up going through because of this.

Despite the shortcomings though, the setting itself and the pace of moving through the different scenes and the love hotel settings plus the nightlife all does feel very intriguing. The shortcoming from the character development is compensated by the overall structure of the novel which helps in being intrigued by how Margaret grew up and seeing what the deal with her brother is while moving in parallel with her life in Japan. The setting of Japan is portrayed fairly well while it intertwines the missing girl tangent that might not have been explored enough but still manages to bring in the thriller element as it becomes a question of whether she is missing and if so, whether the dangerous life she leads might take her down to some unfortunate endgame.

Goodreads score: 3/5 (its probably more of a 3.5)

In comparison to the film adaptation (you can check out the review HERE), Catherine Hanrahan also writes the screenplay however surprisingly, a lot of the events of the book right down to the characters and how certain elements are panned out are fairly jumbled together. There are pros and cons to either where some elements are done better in the book since it dives in Margaret’s past which the film doesn’t do and outlines her motives of being in Japan more while in terms of Kazu, the film does a better job of giving them a strong romantic connection but still not bringing in some of the elements of Kazu’s personal life that gets intertwined with Margaret which would endanger her. The film does also fall short when it comes to the missing girl plot point. Like I said, a lot of the film is the basic scenario and structure that stays the same but a lot of the events are executed differently which works in one way and doesn’t in some other way.

Blog Tour: The Littlest Dinosaur by Bryce Raffle & Steven Kothlow (Review/Giveaway)

Welcome to the tour for the most adorable story, The Littlest Dinosaur by Bryce Raffle and Steven Kothlow, illustrated by Tessa Verplancke! We also have a fantastic giveaway — Digital Prize Packs which include the ebook copy of the book, two desktop wallpapers for the computer, two cell phone backdrops, plus three printable activity pages including colouring two book pages and a maze.

The Littlest Dinosaur
By: Bryce Raffle & Steven Kothlow
Illustrated by: Tessa Verplancke

Publication Date: November 2nd, 2020
Genre: Children’s Literature

SYNOPSIS

Ty, The Tyrannosaur just wants to make a new friend.

Sadly, the other dinosaurs are all afraid of his sharp teeth! So Ty must go on an adventure to find a dinosaur brave enough to be friends with a Tyrannosaur.

ADD TO GOODREADS

REVIEW

While children’s books isn’t exactly a staple in our household, its always fun to give a read at a simple picture book and screen it for my friends and their little ones. The Littlest Dinosaur caught me with its cute illustrations from its book cover of a little dinosaur. Being a fan of The Land Before Time as a child, dinosaurs are fascinating characters for stories.

The Littlest Dinosaur is a simple book to read and yet, between the lovely and cute illustrations of Ty’s adventures as he tries to make friends with the other dinosaurs he encounters. Being a Tyrannosaur, he is caught in prejudices of how dangerous he could be as they all would be his snack. That’s until he meets The Littlest Dinosaur who doesn’t have these prejudices and listens and helps correct the views. It has a pretty decent and positive message about accepting those around you and learning about them before forming prejudices. Its rather witty on how it plays with some fun little details of what Ty likes and the little encounters.

The illustration also brings a lot to the picture book. Its captivating and colorful. The art style is really nice. The different settings also have their own little fun designs. Plus, all the dinosaurs are different types and each illustrated with different colors and shows their characteristics.

There’s a lot to love about The Littlest Dinosaur. Its simple enough for young children to enjoy as a story and has a nice message behind it that kids can slowly learn and has all the cute illustrations to be fun to look at.

Purchase Links
The Littlest Dinosaur
Amazon
Lulu
Lulu Hardcover

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryce Raffle was the lead writer for the video game studio Ironclad Games. He also writes stories for young adults and designs book covers.

Steven Kothlow is making his debut as a children’s book writer. He hopes to tell many more stories that help spread a message of diversity and inclusion especially in children’s literature.

Tessa Verplancke is a sound designer by day and an illustrator by night. She lives to tell stories through as many mediums as possible.

BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

March 8th

Reads & Reels (Review)
Didi Oviatt (Review)
I Smell Sheep (Review)
@geauxgetlit (Review)
Lunarian Press (Review)
@_yay_books (Review)

March 9th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight)
@dreaminginpages (Review)
Bonnie Reads and Writes (Review)
Book Dragons Not Worms (Review)
@kathreadsya (Review)
Michelle Meng’s Book Blog 4 (Review)
Books Teacup and Reviews (Review)

March 10th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight)
Jessica Belmont (Spotlight)
@jodys_ig (Spotlight)
Books Rambling and Tea (Review)
@joanna.zoe (Review)
The Faerie Review (Review)
@brendajeancombs (Spotlight)

March 11th

The Invisible Moth (Review)
@devoured_pages (Review)
Ruby Red Romance Review (Review)
Tranquil Dreams (Review)
@bookishqueendom (Review)

March 12th

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Tsarina Press (Spotlight)
Book Review Crew (Review)
Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review)
Sophril Reads (Review)
Bookish Laura (Review)

GIVEAWAY

Giveaway: International

To win a digital prize pack which includes the ebook copy of the book, two desktop wallpapers for the computer, two cell phone backdrops, plus three printable activity pages including colouring two book pages and a maze, click the link below to enter!

ENTER RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY HERE

Blog Tour Hosted by:

R&R Book Tours