Book Review: Normal by Graeme Cameron

Book Review: Normal by Graeme Cameron

Normal

by Graeme Cameron

Normal

Original Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Length: 304 pages
Obtained Via: I was given an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: Mira

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He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving you into the lane ahead of him.

What you don’t know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he’s carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he’s holding there against her will—one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.This is how it’s been for a long time. It’s normal… and it works. Perfectly.

Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room… the others. He doesn’t need any of them anymore. He needs only her. But just as he decides to go straight, the police start to close in. He might be able to cover his tracks, except for one small problem—he still has someone trapped in his garage.

Discovering his humanity couldn’t have come at a worse time.

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Normal tells the story of a man with a deadly and criminal hobby: murder. This book is very upfront about the story it’s telling. It’s often gruesome and horrifying and yet I couldn’t wrench myself away once I got into it. The main character of Normal is never named, never described. He is an adult male, and that’s about the only details we get. He could be anyone, but his “normal” is very different than what most of us would describe as “normal”.

Normal was a page-turning ride for sure. I didn’t put this book down once the entire time I was reading. I HAD to know what would happen. I wanted the main character to get his, of course, but I was mainly just curious as to how the story would play out. The “hiding a woman in his basement” isn’t a new thing for the main character, but this woman is different. Her name is Erica, she’s young, and she’s cunning. Over time, she slowly begins to worm her way out of the cage and into his house & life. Soon, it’s hard to tell who really has the upper-hand. She is revenge-driven and just as deadly, and man did I love reading about her.

Then, of course, there’s Rachel, the cashier mentioned in the summary. The main character wants her, but not in the same way he wants the other. He wants to spend time with Rachel, he wants her to think he’s normal, but all that’s complicated by officials looking into the disappearance of one of the women the main character has killed. There are a lot of factors in play in this thriller.

While I raced through this novel, I had some questions about it that never really got answered, mainly about the main character’s motivations. He doesn’t seem to be a psychopath in the clinical definition of the term, because he’s capable of having a conscience and emotions, though he normally pushes them down. I didn’t understand how meeting Rachel could suddenly make him start thinking differently.

There’s also the issue of why he went after the victims he did. While the main character does kill men over the course of the novel, they’re all men that are in relation to women he knows(either as victims or acquaintances). His crimes don’t appear to have a sexual motive(which believe me, I’m not complaining about), yet he only went after women. When describing potential victims in his head, he uses aesthetic but not sexualized terms. Was it a type of trophy thing for him, or did he just perceive them as being easier victims? The motivation was never entirely clear.

There were also some moments I felt asked me to suspend my disbelief a little too much. The main character never works, yet has a nice house. How? It’s never addressed where his money comes from. A police office gets involved in a physical altercation with the main character, but that’s also never addressed. I also felt Normal was going for a type of dark humor, which it sometimes achieved, but just as often missed the mark.

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Normal is not a thriller for the weak-stomached. I flew through his novel with it’s repulsive yet intriguing main character, but there were times I thought it was on the weaker side. 3/5 cupcakes.

3cupcakes

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The Sunday Wrap-Up{80}

The Sunday Wrap-Up{80}

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My Week

 This week was an improvement over the horrible week I had last week, I will give you that, but I was still rather kinda down for most of it. Just personal life stuff, really–I’m not even sure if I could articulate what’s been bothering me, because it’s not even one thing in particular. Just a general blah meh blah meh feeling.

However, I did participate in the Dewey’s 24-hour readathon this weekend, which was really fun! I love readathon weekends. They’re like mini-retreats from life. I made it to hour 20, which I was quite pleased with since I didn’t make it that far last time. I read 4 books, 1 novella, about 200 pages in other books, and DNF-ed two books as well. All in all, quite a bit of reading.

 

On Book Blog Bake

 Monday I reviewed None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Wednesday I reviewed Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby
Thursday I was part of the All the Rage blog tour and shared a Q&A with Courtney Summers.
Friday I reviewed Black Iris by Leah Raeder

 

booksread

Pretty much all of these other than The Start of Me and You and The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly I read during the readathon.

 The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway
Inland by Kat Rosenfield
The Awakening by Kat Chopin
Atonement by Ian McEwan

booksboughtreceived

None!

 

 Question of the Week:

Since my brain is still kind of fried from staying up late for the readathon, I’ll go with an easy, bookish related question this week: What’s the last book you gave 5 stars to?

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Book Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Book Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Black Iris

by Leah Raeder

Black Iris

Expected Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Length: 368 pages
Obtained Via: I was given an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: Atria

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It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

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“Maybe the only person who could understand a villain was another villain.”

I didn’t read Raeder’s previous book, Unteachable, because I didn’t think I would like it due to the premise, but I heard promising things about her writing in general. So when I saw the synopsis for Black Iris I HAD to read it. I mean, is that not something that makes you have grabby hands right away? So as soon as I had access to the title, I jumped right in. While my reading experience and thoughts on this book were incredibly mixed, I’m glad I picked it up and read it.

The prose in Black Iris is incredibly beautiful. I was constantly abusing the highlighting feature on my kindle. I knew the writing could be good when Laney describes herself as “the bad girl with a handgun for a heart” early on in the story.  There was one scene where the main characters were at a club, and Raeder described the energy with such style and passion that I instantly wanted to be there, to go and find a place just like it, until I remembered that oh yeah, I actually hate dancing. I had gotten so pulled in to the description and pulled out of myself, and that’s not an easy feat. It takes talent(and make no mistake, Raeder has a ton of that).

However. . . I thought sometimes the pacing suffered at the expense of the prose. I’m the kind of reader who loves metaphors and figurative language. Give me sentences that fill a page with description, and I’ll be happy, but that doesn’t mean I want five drawn-out metaphors in a row. And some of the symbolism was so overt that it lost all its effectiveness on me. I’m pretty sure Laney is compared to a wolf(or compares herself to a wolf) no less than TEN times within the book. After a while my eyes started glazing over when those symbols came up and in my head I was thinking “yes, yes, I get it, you’re the big bad wolf in this story, will you please tell me the actual story now?”

On that note, the fourth wall gets absolutely shattered in this book. Not only is the fourth wall broken, but the fourth wall breakage is explicitly named as such. On its own that wouldn’t bother me, but I thought it was unnecessary because when the fourth wall was broken, it was always to tell the reader things that should be shown instead. Laney says that she’s an unlikable character, not the heroine, an unreliable narrator, etc. Um, I’m reading the book, I KNOW all that. I can figure that out for myself without the explicit help of the main character. There’s even a scene where the main character is in a lecture class and the topic just so happens to be relevant to the plot, of course. Those sort of scenes should stay in the realm of B-rated horror flicks, not a story worthy of the caliber of Raeder’s writing. The scene was totally unnecessary, and it’s the only time the reader actually sees any of these college kids going to class. Mostly, I felt I was being told things I wanted to be shown.

I should mention that despite my complaints, I was completely into the revenge plot. Laney isn’t messing around, y’all, and as a reader neither was I. When the plot was moving forward at a good pace(around the 40% mark onward), I could not get enough of wondering what exactly Laney was scheming and who she was really taking revenge on. Laney has had some pretty messed up things happen to her in the past, and it was fascinating to see the layers peeled back to reveal who Laney was. Parts of it–such as the borderline sociopath grooming the girl to live dangerously and recklessly, to feel freedom by disobeying social norms–reminded me of Dangerous Boys, and though I thought that plot line was done slightly better there, Black Iris took it further, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I also really enjoyed the then/now style of the story. I read some reviews that weren’t a huge fan of the timeline-jumping, but I’ve read a lot of books that follow that format, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Black Iris, it worked. It really gave more depth to Laney’s motivation and left me hungering for more. Though I’m not really sure why this is being marketed as NA. Half of the book takes place when Laney’s in high school, and I think it read more as an adult thriller than anything else. Which I suppose there could be NA thrillers, it just didn’t read like NA to me–though it should be noted that I’m not an expert in the least, but the timeline did make me question the designation(I should note that my NA question has nothing to do with my rating, but it was something I wanted to point out).

Also I want to make sure I talk about the relationships in this book, because they were intense. Despite the revenge plot, Black Iris is very much character-focus. The vengeance storyline wouldn’t work the same way without these particular characters. They were all damaged & flawed, but boy did they ever leap off the page. Everything tied together in such a twisted way, and it was thoroughly satisfying in a very screwed-up way. If it hadn’t been for the characters and prose, I might have set the book down early on, but I kept going & while I’m still not entirely sold on this book, I’m really glad I read it.

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Oh, Black Iris. There were times I loved this book & times I didn’t. Raeder succeeded at one thing–she definitely made me feel things(including in the author’s note at the end of the book, which I think affected me more than the book itself and made me tear up). I can quite honestly see myself re-reading this book in the future and having a very different opinion–it’s the kind of story that never feels like it’s quite finished being told. That being said, there were some things that annoyed me greatly. I don’t normally give out half-ratings, but I think this one would be a 3.5/5 cupcakes, though closer to 3 cupcakes than 4.

3cupcakes

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ALL THE RAGE Blog Tour: Q&A with Courtney Summers

ALL THE RAGE Blog Tour: Q&A with Courtney Summers

ATR imageI’m super excited to be hosting part of the All the Rage blog tour today! As you may know, I absolutely loved All the Rage(as seen in my review), and so I have a Q&A with Courtney Summers as part of the St Martins Press blog tour.

Q&A with Courtney Summers

1.What was your favorite part and the hardest part of writing All the Rage?

All the Rage was an incredibly challenging book for me to write because any time you write about a topic as heavy and important as rape culture and sexual violence, you have to be acutely aware of the larger conversation surrounding it and what your work is adding to it. There’s a lot of pressure in that—but it’s a necessary pressure. My favourite part of All the Rage was finishing it. I’m so proud of this book and because it was so hard to write, reaching the end was a big moment for me.

2. What’s something interesting(but non-spoilery!) about Romy, the main character in All the Rage, that a reader wouldn’t gather just from looking at the back of the book?

Wow, that’s a great question! The back jacket really does a great job of capturing Romy, so I think it gives readers a good idea what they can expect and . . .  the one thing I want to say is a bit spoilery, so I’ll have to leave my non-answer at that! I hope though, that I’ve intrigued potential readers with its mystery. :)

3. If you could pick three other books you’d recommend to readers to pair with All the Rage(for any reason) which books would they be & why?

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is one of the most important YA novels about sexual violence on shelves. It was released in 1999 and has only become more and more relevant as time goes on.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert. Brandy’s main character, Theo, is a complicated, nuanced and very real girl struggling in the aftermath of a painful event. It’s brutally honest and beautifully written.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. After being date-raped, Alex has to turn to a secret, student-run vigilante society for help. Daisy expertly explores how difficult it can be for survivors of sexual violence to receive justice.

Thanks for having me on your blog!

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything-friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time-and they certainly won’t now-but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

BOOK LINKS

Amazon | B&N | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Indigo | iTunes | Google Play | Kobo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Summers lives and writes in Canada, where she divides most of her time between a camera, a piano and a word processing program. She is also the author of What Goes Around, This is Not a Test, Fall for Anything, Some Girls Are, Cracked Up to Be, and Please Remain Calm. 

AUTHOR LINKS

Website | Tumblr | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

Book Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Book Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Things We Know by Heart

by Jessi Kirby

Things We Know by Heart

Expected Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Length: 304 pages
Obtained Via: I was given an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: HarperTeen

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When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

 

mythoughts

Things We Know by Heart is a beautiful book, but it didn’t pull on my heartstrings like I expected it to do. I firmly predict that I’ll be in the minority on this book, since it’s well-written and has a lot of passion behind it, but there was something in it that left me feeling disconnected from the story in the pages.

I understood where Quinn was coming from at the beginning of the book, and I’m glad that Things We Know by Heart addresses some of the ethical issues with Quinn’s desire to hunt down the person who received Trent’s heart. Quinn realizes that her wishes do not take precedent over Colton’s, and she never plans on speaking to him. It’s sheer accident that lead to them actually meeting face-to-face, and soon Quinn is in too deep to come clean. While this bothered me on one level, I really liked that Quinn grapples with the ethics of what she’s doing with Colton and how she KNOWS that she needs to tell him the truth.

While the story is predictable, Quinn and Colton’s connection is very sweet. These passages were the highlight of the book for me, especially since Kirby utilizes the setting so well. Their scenes together are often romantic without feeling forced. It’s not a steamy romance, but it feels genuine. I totally bought into their connection right away, which is often a hard thing to write well.

That aside, Things We Know by Heart didn’t make much of an impression on me, as evident by my struggle to write more than a few paragraphs in this review. I think the main thing is that it’s just all predictable, except for the premise. And while predictable isn’t always a bad thing, it just means that I don’t have much to say about this book in the end.

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Things We Know by Heart is a sweet book that explores life and love, but it’s predictability kept me from really connecting with it. I liked Quinn and Colton, but ultimately that wasn’t enough to bump this one into the “love” category. That being said, Things We Know by Heart is a heartfelt book. 3/5 cupcakes.

3cupcakes

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