The Conjoined

The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee
Published by ECW on September 13th 2016
Genres: mystery

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

I read The Conjoined last year, as I was so kindly given a review copy from ECW Press (thanks guys!). Unfortunately, since I was silly enough to let my hosting lapse, that review is no longer up. Why past Mackenzie, why?! Luckily for me I really loved this book and still have my notes.

Going into The Conjoined, I assumed it was going to be some sort of psychological thriller. You know from the synopsis that Jessica finds two bodies in her mom’s freezer when she’s sorting through her mom’s belongings after her funeral. You read that and you’re like but why?! That’s certainly something I wanted to know! I’d be curious as hell if I found evidence to what I can only assume is my mother murdering two people.

The thing is, this book is more than just a thriller. It’s a heart-wrencher. It’s less so about figuring out who did it, and more about finding out what lead up to Casey and Jamie ending up in that freezer. It’s quite a sad story. The atmosphere surrounding these two kids is HEAVY. I wanted to reach through the pages and fix their lives, to tell the people surrounding them what was going on and save them the fate they end up with. I so badly didn’t want them to end up the way they did, but I was absolutely powerless to stop it. And that just made it worse.

Although we shift between different timelines, stories, and characters, it’s all done with ease. Not once did I forget who was who, or what I’d read about them previously. Jen did a wonderful job of weaving everything together, and I never once got bored.

I didn’t get the ending I wanted, but I’m okay with that. I think it was better that way.

Thanks again ECW Press! You’ve published a great book.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

By Gaslight

By Gaslight by Steven Price
Published by McClelland & Stewart on August 23rd 2016
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 731

London, 1885. In a city of fog and darkness, the notorious thief Edward Shade exists only as a ghost, a fabled con, a thief of other men's futures -- a man of smoke. William Pinkerton is already famous, the son of a brutal detective, when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead. His father died without ever tracing Shade; William, still reeling from his loss, is determined to drag the thief out of the shadows. Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London in search of her; what he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried. What follows is a fog-enshrouded hunt through sewers, opium dens, drawing rooms, and seance halls. Above all, it is the story of the most unlikely of bonds: between William Pinkerton, the greatest detective of his age, and Adam Foole, the one man who may hold the key to finding Edward Shade.

I dnf’d it.

If you’re wondering, earlier this month (last week? Time is a thing I can no longer keep track of) I didn’t know if I should continue By Gaslight or not.

Reasoning: pacing was slow, writing style (no quotations and a TON of run on sentences) were annoying the poop out of me.

Funny thing is, I actually continued reading it after I posted. I’d rented it from the library, so why not?

A couple of days before it was set to go back from the library, I went to renew it online and found out I couldn’t. I looked at the book, looked back at the notice saying I couldn’t renew it, looked at how many pages I had left, and then flipped to the end of the book and read the ending.

It seemed like an okay book, but again, had it been half the length, it probably would have been much better.

Oh well. Moving on.

The Psychopath Test

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
on May 1st 2011
Genres: non-fiction
Pages: 288

In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and everyone else who studies them.

The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath.

Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.

I’m not usually a non-fiction reader, but I love anything that has to do with the human brain. I love when people try to analyze the way people tick. It’s just so fascinating to me.

I think I originally saw this book on someone’s YouTube channel (don’t remember who, sadly) and I immediately marked it as a to-read. But because it’s a nonfic, I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to buy it. And then a couple of weeks ago I refound my love for my local library and they had The Psychopath Test. Score!

Although this book doesn’t delve too deeply into exactly why psychopaths are the way they are, it was interesting to see the different thought patterns behind labeling someone a psychopath. And reading the reactions of those who are labelled that way. It was a very surface level dig into the madness industry, but it was incredibly fascinating. Especially if you don’t know all the lingo, as it doesn’t take too much outside knowledge to understand.

If you want a light, fun read about what possibly makes a psychopath a psychopath, definitely give this a try. If you’re looking for a book to tell you whether or not you’re a psychopath, this isn’t it.

And if you are looking for something to tell you whether you are or aren’t one, chances are you aren’t. If you were, you wouldn’t care. This was pointed out in the book and made me laugh.

“But isn’t Tony kind of a semi-psychopath? A gray area? Doesn’t his story prove that people in the middle shouldn’t necessarily be defined by their maddest edges?

Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Published by Vintage Classics on January 1st 1970
Genres: science fiction
Pages: 177

Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller - these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

Oh man. I don’t know, entirely, what I was expecting when I went into Slaughterhouse 5. I can’t quite tell you if I had any expectations whatsoever.

What I came out of with, though, was a great appreciation for Mr. Vonnegut. Man, can he write. I’ve never read something so pointless and so entertaining all at once.

But, I gather that’s the point.

I love that there is no backstory, no trying to explain events, no fluff. You’re simply reading about a man who comes unstuck in time. You don’t even question it, because…well, I’m not entirely sure why. Just because. Because that’s the way it was written and don’t try to go figuring it out. Just enjoy the ride while you’re on it.

It was a great departure for me. I tend to read a lot of fantasy, where half the book is spent explaining the who and the what of a scenario, so you can understand everything that is going on. Sometimes I don’t need to know all that. It just needs to be written in a way that allows me to lean in and enjoy it.

It’s also helped me realize that there are great novels out there like this. When I write, I don’t explain a lot of my backstory. It just is. It’s good to know it can work that way.

I will read more Vonnegut.



One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star


Jackaby (Jackaby, #1) by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on September 16th 2014
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 299

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.

A lot of people describe Jackaby as a sort of Sherlock….and they have every right to.

If Sherlock hunted the Supernatural, his name would definitely be R.F Jackaby.

I love how we’re showed the world through Abigail Rook, who at the beginning of the book has no idea who Jackaby is. She simply needs a job and he has a posting for an assistant. It made the story more interesting for me, because there was never any info dumping about the world and its supernatural elements. You simply find out about things as she does, which made me connect with her confusion more, but 100% in a good way.

It also made Jackaby more mysterious, sometimes frustrating, but always enjoyable to have on the page and in the story. While some might think he’s cocky or obnoxious, I liked his personality. He sees things that no one else can, so he has very little time to explain things to people. It’s a very easy way to only keep the “important” people around, in my opinion. He doesn’t have to hide himself or spend hours explaining things to people who choose not to believe what he sees. Call me crazy, but I like it. He also has a wicked sense of humour without meaning to.

The case itself was okay. Nothing mindblowing, but it kept me guessing. I’m interested to see if book numero two gets any more thrilling.

Yes, I already bought it. Have you seen those covers?? They’re just too pretty not to have.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star


Hidden by Catherine McKenzie
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd on June 18th 2013
Genres: fiction
Pages: 366

While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life.

Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

Hidden read like I was getting little glimpses into these characters lives, which I love. I mean, I guess you are (that is the whole point of reading) but as if they were REAL people walking around and they had stopped in to tell me their story or something.

Warning: this may get spoilery.

The multi character narration was incredibly useful, and I don’t usually like more than one narrators in my stories.

Jeff I liked, although I felt a little bad for him. Especially since he, you know, dies. His relationship with Claire could have been explored a LOT more, but we got enough surface details to know they weren’t 100% happy. Their relationship just wasn’t very…meaty…for me.

Claire was okay as a character, but she wasn’t my favourite. She seemed like a good person, but she had some stuff going on that caused her to push Jeff away and I, I don’t know. She felt mopey to me. Mopey before her husband died, I can understand being mopey after he dies.

And Tish, the coworker. As you can probably guess, Tish and Jeff had something not purely work related going on. They emailed back and forth, which pissed me off. Who carries on a personal relationship via office email?? Especially someone in HR who knows they can be read at any moment!?! And who ditches their daughter’s competition to fly to a coworkers funeral who she MIGHT have been sleeping with, where she knows she’d come into contact with his family? I wanted to like Tish, but everything she did screamed fucking selfish to me. There was not one time during that entire scenario where she went “hmmm, how is this going to effect other people?” Tish, you are a fictional character, but you are also not a very nice woman.

I liked the book enough, but I wish it was a billion times better so I could justify keeping it on my shelf because THIS COVER <3 Which doesn’t actually match the story, since I don’t think either of the women are redheads. Or was Claire and I just pictured her as a blonde?

I don’t know anymore.

One StarOne StarOne Star


Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
on July 31st 2007
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 657

Where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. Criminal mastermind Kelsier teaches Allomancy, the magic of metals, to another Mistborn, urchin Vin 16. The unlikely heroine is distracted by rich Venture heir Elend. Can Kelsier's thieving crew take on the tyrant Lord Ruler and bring back colour to their world?

What isn’t there to love about this book?

I love, love, loved the magic system that we’re presented with. It’s so simple but so imaginative at the same time. I guess the magic itself is simple, but what each Allomancer chooses to do with it is fascinating.

I really liked Vin’s history, with her brother and how she was treated. No matter what she does, she still hears his voice berating her for her choices. Her viewpoint on the world was interesting, and I liked her hard edge. It made her strong and her narration superb. You learn about the world of Mistborns as she does. It’s a great way to have the story unfold.

Kelsier was just a hoot. First off, love the name. Second off, he’s an ass but he doesn’t care and you have to love him for it. Even though he’s got quite a screwed up history, he’s able to put on a good face and be upbeat. Even if he is an ass.

The rest of the gang was wonderful and I liked how we got to explore the different type of Allomancy through each member. They were all vastly different but they all flowed so well.

Everything that this book stands for is amazing. I bought the second one as soon as I finished. I want nothing more than to immerse myself back into this rich world.

I understand why there are a lot of people who rave about Brandon Sanderson.

Favourite Kelsier quote:

Kelsier felt that a skaa Misting’s life wasn’t so much about surviving as it was about picking the right time to die.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

All The Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Published by Scribner on May 6th 2014
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 531

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

I love history. I love historical fiction. When I first saw All The Light We Cannot See, I was very intrigued but also a little afraid. I wanted to love this book so much, but I wasn’t entirely sure how it would play out. Especially since one of the main characters is a blind girl; would her story come across on the page?

I picked up the book anyway. I wanted to absorb this story, I wanted to read about these people. The first couple of pages took me a bit to get through. After all, they were setting the stage for the wondrous, rich prose that would follow. And pretty much from the 10th page in, I was hooked. And I couldn’t put it down.

If I was hesitant reading a story from the point of view of a blind girl, I should not have been. Anthony Doerr does a magnificent job at explaining exactly what is going on around Marie-Laure with all of the other senses she possesses. It’s like I was in her head experiencing everything she was experiencing, but I was also outside of her and able to see what she could not. It was wonderful, it was beautiful, and it made Marie-Laure my favourite character. I was tense the entire story, waiting for something bad to happen to her, hoping it wouldn’t, and afraid if it did.

Werner was a little harder for me to fall in love with, but I did. It was hard following him through his story with all the hardships that are put in front of him, and watching him as a little boy and young man make the best decisions he can. It’s interesting to see this part of history from his point of view. The simple hobby of fixing radios gets him a spot in Hitler Youth, and propels him forward on this insane path during the war. The assurance and innocence of a young boy turn into the questioning nature of a young man, and you get to watch it all unfold.

Now, what’s interesting for me was how insignificant the mention of the radio is. You think “oh it’s just a radio, just another piece of technology.” But this simple piece of machinery has such a powerful impact on the plot, and I loved the way it ended up tying the story lines together. After all, a simple thread can unravel an entire sweater (that’s a saying, right?).

If you love historical fiction, read this book. If you love getting emotionally invested in characters, read this book. If you love to read, read this book!

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Thin Space

Thin Space by Jody Casella
Published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse on September 10th 2013
Genres: young adult
Pages: 256

Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

I wanted to love this book SO BAD. I mean, the concept of it is amazing. Who out there would not try and find a thin space to see a lost loved one? Unfortunately, the execution fell flat for me.

Alright, you can go now. No need to read the rest of the review. Jking.

The first issue I had was the bare feet. Does this count as a spoiler? I don’t think so. It doesn’t ruin any of the book, it’s just an integral part of the plot. In order to find a thin space, you have to be able to touch it with your bare toesies. Which makes complete sense to me. So he doesn’t miss finding a thin space, Marsh walks around bare foot. All. The. Time. To school, to the mall, in the middle of winter. All. The. Time. And I get that the adults want to let him grieve, but I don’t think in reality, people would let a kid walk around with no shoes on. I would assume the school would have had to send him home, at the very least. I know my parents wouldn’t have accepted it.

I wanted to like both Marsh and Maddie, but I didn’t feel connected to either of them. I’ve never gone through the type of grief and guilt that Marsh was experiencing, but his attitude towards life was a little much for me to handle. I liked the blooming friendship between him and Maddie (the girl who moves into the house with a thin space) but I didn’t really get a good sense of her. She was just kind of there.

Also, how Marsh knows about thin spaces just seems a little too coincidental for me. He learns about them then BAM, his brother is dead. The timing on that is just a little too perfect.

And finally, the ending. This was weird for me. I actually liked the ending, but I walked away going “that’s it?”. Maybe because I was basically done by this point, but I would have liked it if this whole part was a lot bigger. It’s twisty and I like it.

I mean overall, it wasn’t a HORRIBLE book. I read the entire thing, which is saying something since I’ve DNF’ed a couple of books lately. I’m trying not to push myself into reading things that don’t catch my full attention. So if it interests you, pick it up.

Just set your expectations low and maybe you’ll be blown away.

One StarOne Star

Nowhere To Hide

Nowhere to Hide by Tracey Lynn Tobin
Published by CreateSpace on October 3rd 2014
Genres: horror
Pages: 236

Nancy King's life was simple. Wake up. Go to class. Work nights at the bar. Flirt with the cute EMT. Sleep through her alarm and burn supper. Then life got complicated. Irrational news reports. Violent wanderers. Sudden attacks. Insane neighbor with a taste for flesh. Now Nancy's life is about running, staying alive, and staying human; but how can she continue to survive when there is simply nowhere to hide?

*I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.*

Hm. Where to start? Nowhere To Hide had a lot of promise.

1. Zombie apocalypse
2. Zombie apocalypse
3. Zombie apocalypse

Yes, I am making a joke.

It started off pretty okay, but the more I read, the more I wanted to not read, but I had to see it through because a small part of me wanted to find out what caused the zombies. And even that part disappointed me a little bit.

Our main character, Nancy, is a bartender. She’s alright, but I never really gave a crap about her. There was nothing that made me root for her and I thought she was quite silly at times.

A lot of the dialogue and scenarios felt very forced and awkward. 0.5 seconds after meeting Greg, Nancy adopts him as an honorary brother. Huh? You just met the kid! More than one character liked referring to people as “my dear”, and Nancy liked using the term “my lover”, which was SO weird. Not once in any internal monologue have I ever called a boyfriend, a fling, whatever “my lover”.

One of the BIGGEST problems I had with Nowhere To Hide was all the telling that happened. We’d be given a scene, something would happen, and Tobin would write, “They shouldn’t have done that.” Or something along those lines, which created some of the most awkward cases of scene transition that I’ve ever read. It just did not flow.

I’m not even going to discuss the errors. Double words, names not being switched. It needs to be cleaned up a bit.

I am, however, giving it two stars for the following reasons:

1. I did finish it, without really wanting to put it down (this might have been different if the book was longer)
2. The zombies and the scenarios they created DID kinda scare me

The plot itself had a bit of promise, but it could have been worked on and expanded SO much more.

One StarOne Star