Wednesday, June 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Title: The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Acquired: E-arc acquired via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?


I want to start off with trigger warnings. Because I've never started off that way, and I feel like you all deserve a fair warning before venturing into this book. If you read The Enchanted by this transformative author, you will know that her narratives are steeped in allusions of a disturbing nature. Disturbing to your very core, without ever really knowing if the feeling warrants it. Meaning, I read sentences in this novel that simultaneously soothed me, and made me DRY HEAVE with its implications. The Child Finder will take you by the hand and drag you to some pretty unpleasant places. So, now that you've been warned...

Madison is missing.

And Naomi knows a few things about being missing, especially if the fractured memories of her own tragic story can be trusted. 

Prompted by her unrivalled reputation in the criminal field as "The Child Finder", she is hired by Madison's parents to use her unique set of skills to find their daughter. The story then branches off into two perspectives, that of Naomi's herself, and the incredibly heart-wrenching view through Madison's eyes. And then even deeper it delves, as Naomi takes on an additional missing child case; as she chases the demons from her past. 

I want to say it was like coming back to an old friend, reading Denfeld's writing again. But at some point during this narrative, I began to wonder when I was going to start feeling more connected to it all. I've donned the hat of "innocent bystander" quite a few times in my years of reading, and many of those times getting myself deeply involved, without even realising it. But I couldn't do that with The Child Finder. I was interested, but I wasn't committed. I wanted to know the ending, but I wasn't in a rush to get there. I couldn't get a grasp on Naomi, nor could I accept the personality traits that Denfeld tried to convince me that Naomi had. "Friendly" was the one I had the biggest issue with, because truthfully if it were up to me I would have been hard-pressed to help that woman if it didn't involve a child--she was off-putting, and a few degrees colder than I could comfortably handle. I just couldn't associate her obviously damaged psyche with her childhood trauma. I just needed MORE convincing, perhaps in the form of more character development. 

The added romance in this novel also rubbed me the wrong way, it seemed forced, contrived, a "love" story just to say that this narrative contains love. And filled with love it was, but not in the ways that you would ever want to encounter. Read The Child Finder for the sole reason of getting to know Madison, and the imagined reality she weaves once she gets captured. It is here that you will remember why Denfeld blew your entire mind with her previous work. 

Read if you liked:  All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Key themes: controversial issues, mental illness, disassociation, sexual abuse




Click HERE to find out more about Rene on the "Biography" page of her website.



A huge thank-you to Penguin Random House for providing a print copy of this book for review.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

REVIEW: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Title: Modern Romance
Author: Aziz AnsariEric Klinenberg
Genre: Sociology, Comedic Non-fiction 
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: June 16/2015
Acquired: Print copy sent by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Now a New York Times Bestseller

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices.

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.


I THOUGHT THIS WAS AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Without first reading the synopsis, of course. And then I read the synopsis, and decided that I still wanted to read it. And then I read it, and I realized that I never WANT to read an autobiography by Aziz Ansari, because this heavily researched sociology book I got instead WAS FREAKING AMAZING. And *breath*. Lets be honest though, I obviously WANT to read an autobiography, so uh, Aziz, when you get some time? Thanks.

I want to first thank the book Gods, for putting into the head of Mr. Ansari that an entire book involving the modern age of romance NEEDED to be written. Because it did, and what Modern Romance provided was everything I never knew I needed to know about love. It was a harmonious blend of facts and humour, wit and knowledge, and beautiful, beautiful pie charts. The book was divided into multiple chapters, each covering it's respective topics, which were at times random, and which were at times following the linear flow of the book. I wish I listened to the audio book, for the exact reason that while I was reading, I read passages in my head using Aziz's voice, and DAMMIT how cool would it have been to hear Aziz's voice read to me FOR REALS. I love this man's humour. I love this man's brazen attitude toward the disease that can be love.

Who knew that there are whole countries that AREN'T having sex ! So much so, that their government has stepped in to sauce things up. The GOVERNMENT! There were whole chapters in here dedicated to things I didn't even know were a thing. I won't tell you what they are, because I really do need you to be as shocked as I was. 

I hope Mr. Aziz has a few more book-topic ideas up his clever sleeves, because I for one cannot STAND knowing that I might be sitting here waiting for something that might not happen.

Recommended for Fans of: Love (first and foremost), Master of None, comedy, comedic writing, and super interesting world facts (love based, of course).



Aziz Ishmael Ansari is an American actor and comedian. He starred as Tom Haverford on the NBC show Parks and Recreation.

Ansari began his career performing standup comedy in New York City during the summer of 2000 while attending New York University. In 2007, he created and starred in the critically acclaimed MTV sketch comedy show Human Giant, which ran for two seasons. This led to acting roles in feature films, including Funny People, I Love You, Man, Observe and Report, and 30 Minutes or Less.

In addition to his acting work, Ansari has continued to work as a standup comedian. He released his debut CD/DVD, entitled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, in January 2010 on Comedy Central Records, and still tours nationally between acting commitments. In 2010 and 2011, he performed his Dangerously Delicious tour. This tour was self-released for download on his website in March 2012 and debuted on Comedy Central in May 2012. He completed his third major tour of new material, Buried Alive, in the summer of 2013. His fourth major comedy special, Live at Madison Square Garden, was released on Netflix in 2015.

His first book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, was released in June 2015.



A huge thank-you to Penguin Random House for providing a print copy of this book for review.

Friday, February 10, 2017

REVIEW: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: January 24/2017
Acquired: Obtained via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.


The obvious theme in my 2017 reading picks so far has been negligent guardians, and I feel like the universe is berating me for not appreciating the extravagant love and nurturing that my own parents have given me. Allegedly was a powerfully heart-wrenching depiction of the foster care/group home system. It was also simultaneously a story about a once-small girl accused of murdering a 3-month-old baby. But for me, the conviction aspect played such a small supporting role in regards to the narrative-I couldn't bring myself to care about if it was true or not, nor the tangled web it weaved.

Mary B. Addison is a child killer. At least that's what we're told she's in for. "In" being a group home with at least 4-5 other girls, which follows a stint in "baby jail" (as Mary lovingly referred to it as). And I say "4-5 girls" because I was never really sure. The author had a lot to offer when it came to heart-tugging scenes, but side character development suffered in this novel. I was never able to differentiate the multiple voices-their tones, grammar, and expletives all blending into one. It wasn't until a couple of them were singled out for a specific disagreement or interaction with Mary that I took an interest.

Scattered throughout the novel were excerpts of past and present interviews with child psychologists, police inspectors, cell mates, and the deceased baby's mother. It was meant to build an element of doubt, or belief, or both if you will. All it resulted in for me was a frustrating, and sometimes repetitive, interruption to a story that I was otherwise enjoying.

The conclusion of Allegedly was without fanfare and for me, was another unnecessary addition. It veered slightly to the right of the ongoing plot, but just SLIGHTLY. I felt like the author was going for a more gut-punch "twist", but it was more like pulling aside the curtain and finding a little old man instead of an awe-inspiring green-headed giant (just a little Wizard of Oz reference for ya). I think I morphed the intended genre for this book into another one entirely, and that suited me just fine. I look forward to seeing what this author tries their hand at next.

For readers who enjoy: Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal, The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, mental health issues in fiction, contemporary, mystery.




Tiffany D. Jackson is a TV professional by day, novelist by night, awkward black girl 24/7. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Film from Howard University and her Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School University.

A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves with her adorable chihuahua Oscar, most likely multitasking. Her debut novel, ALLEGEDLY is due January 24th, 2017 through Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of Harper Collins.


Monday, January 9, 2017

REVIEW: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Title: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Author: Bryn Greenwood
Genre: Controversial/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Release Date: August 9/2016
Acquired: Purchased ebook
Goodreads: ADD

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

Friday, October 7, 2016

REVIEW: The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Title: The Best Kind of People
Author: Zoe Whittall
Genre: Contemporary/Controversial
Publisher: Anansi Press
Release Date: August 27/2016
Acquired: Print copy requested
Goodreads: ADD

Recently Shortlisted for the Giller Prize!

What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable?

George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?

With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.