[REVIEW] What Unbreakable Looks Like – Kate McLaughlin

Kate McLaughlin
What Unbreakable Looks Like
Macmillan Wednesday Books (US: 23rd June 2020)
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Lex is not like other girls. Not like other girls at school, and not like other trafficked girls.

A common criticism of some stories is “wish fulfillment”. And while it’s a weird thing to say about a character who’s been trafficked and assaulted…this is still a wish-fulfillment novel.

Because Lex’s story is very much the exception. It’s only because of her strong relationships that she’s able to not go back to being Poppy. Normally in story structure there would’ve been a plot point where she returned, however briefly before escape… But that just wouldn’t have been realistic in order for Lex to achieve the happily-ever-after story ending.

I can’t remember if there was mention of Lonnie’s after-life, except that she’s in college and isn’t in a relationship. Did she go it alone, or have family and friends to support her post-rehab?

Even the court case Lex testifies in has a happy ending for her.

It’s the kind of novel that makes you think of the stories it DOESN’T centre – and it’s those stories we need to hear the most. After all, this IS a novel…and Lex’s happy ending is, unfortunately, fiction.

[REVIEW] Master Class – Christina Dalcher

Christina Dalcher
Master Class (also published as Q)
Penguin Random House Berkley (US & CA: 21st April 2020); HarperCollins HQ (UK & AU: 30th April 2020/7th January 2021)
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Probably not the wisest choice to read this while my depression and autism symptoms flared up.

But I don’t think I’m the target audience. Probably more aimed at moms of high-achieving selective-entry private school students with bright futures.

I read this, relating to nine-year-old Freddie. Flashbacks to my final year of high school exams in 2004.

I’ve read reviews that mention the heavy-handed use of the German grandmother’s warnings. And we readers well understand what’s going on before Elena does.

But comments that it’s “unrealistic” that parents would vote for a political party pushing for separating lowest-tier students away from higher-tiered people?

I wish I had the optimism that this wouldn’t happen in real life. But too easily it could happen. Too many parents want the “dropkicks” out of the classes shared with their precious intelligent children. Because of course their children are the best and brightest. Their darlings couldn’t be “mediocre”. *eyeroll*

I do agree that parts of this story are unrealistic. Namely, the free healthcare with no one blocking access to termination should a pregnant person want one. Alas, in 2020, continued pregnancy is still used to punish.

There’s so much injustice in the story, and in real life. Reproductive freedom and reproductive justice…there’s so much work to do. It’s appalling that people are sterilised without the patient’s consent. It’s wrong to shame or guilt people into having wanted pregnancies terminated. But what’s also cruel is to force people (via legal and access barriers) to continue unwanted pregnancies. To deny people sterilisation when they want it.

And the politics of death. Euthanasia for lowest-tiered people without their consent. Meanwhile, others who want to die humanely and on their own terms are denied a legal option.

It’s this whole lack of consent. Choices taken away. Topics that are so personal to me, which is why this book was so hard to read. It’s hard to rate.

It’s hard to live.

[REVIEW] The Runaway – Hollie Overton

Hollie Overton
The Runaway
Hachette Redhook (US: 6th August 2019); Penguin Arrow (UK & AU: 3rd October 2019)
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WARNINGS: Cult, abuse.

This may not be the author’s strongest book (that honour goes to second novel The Walls), but it’s a solid story from an author who’s found her feet.

Fostering children – especially older ones – can be challenging, but as a psychologist working with the LAPD, Becca’s up to the task.

It’s hard watching Ash struggle. She has a good heart, but the downside of it – sacrificing herself for others – endangers her.

I’d previously not known much about Skid Row life, so the novel is good insight into the various communities there, and how they operate within themselves and with other groups – including the police. Author Hollie Overton is compassionate in her portrayal of Skid Row’s residents, showing their complexity.

I didn’t expect the cult plot, and watching the leader prey on the most vulnerable people in society while claiming to love them and be one of them…it hurts to read. I might like the THEORY of learning about cults, but reading the psychological manipulation and devastation in a close narrative (rather than the non-fiction I’ve read by journalists, who weren’t cult members themselves) is intimate and kind of intrusive. The futility of being a reader, mentally shouting at characters…it’s not a fun read. Crime fiction may be my escapism, but sometimes you get attached and it’s too close for comfort.

I read a lot of politics in the news. I’ve seen how people love to complain about human faeces on LA streets, but they don’t mention their personal efforts to physically clean up the mess. And that’s kind of how society in general tends to behave about “unpleasantness” – love to “expose” it, but aren’t willing to put in the effort themselves to improve the situation. Instead, it’s used for political point-scoring and agendas – mostly in a negative way, rather than constructive. What exactly would your candidate (who’s not the incumbent) do to improve the situation? How would you approach people – to punish, or rehabilitate? If people are unable to pull up their bootstraps – if they don’t have straps or boots to begin with – will you harm them, abandon them, or lift them? Do you help or harm? (And neglect often fits into the harm category.)

The novel raises big questions, and answers may not be found. But it challenges society at large to face issues they’d rather ignore.

July 2020 Releases

Madeline Ashby: ReV: Kindle Edition; Paperback

Chris Beckett: Two Tribes: Kindle Edition

Oyinkan Braithwaite: Treasure: Kindle Edition

Nicci French: Until It’s Over: Kindle Edition; Paperback

Carrie Jones & Steven E. Wedel: In the Woods: Paperback

Lydia Kang: Opium and Absinthe: Kindle Edition; Paperback

Tom Perrotta: Me and Carlos: Kindle Edition

Tiffany Reisz: A Midwinter Night’s Dream: Kindle Edition

Madeleine Roux: Tomb of Ancients: Paperback

Lisa Scottoline: Exposed: Paperback

Karin Slaughter: The Last Widow: Paperback

Amy Tintera: All These Monsters: Kindle Edition; Hardcover

Paul Tremblay: Survivor Song: Kindle Edition; Hardcover

Danielle Vega: The Unleashed: Kindle Edition; Hardcover

Robin Wasserman: Mother Daughter Widow Wife: Kindle Edition; Hardcover

Now Available for US Pre-Order

These are all the books I added to my wishlist from July 1st onwards. Because I’m so behind, some of these books have already been published. So click what takes your fancy, and maybe you’ll be in luck to buy and read straight away.

Tara Altebrando: TAKE ME WITH YOU: 1st June 2021: US Paperback

V. C. Andrews: THE UMBRELLA LADY: 2nd February 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Hardcover

Kelley Armstrong: CURSED LUCK: 4th May 2021: US Kindle Edition

Keri Arthur: MAGIC MISLED: 23rd February 2021: US Kindle Edition

Claire Askew: NOVELISTA: 15th October 2020: US Kindle Edition

Chris Beckett: TWO TRIBES: US Kindle Edition

Oyinkan Braithwaite: TREASURE: US Kindle Edition

Kylie Chan: SCALES OF EMPIRE: 1st September 2020: US Paperback

Naomi Clark: THE WITCH’S GUIDE TO WEREWOLVES: US Kindle Edition

Katelyn Detweiler: THE PEOPLE WE CHOOSE: 4th May 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Hardcover

Janet Edwards: EARTH PRIME: US Kindle Edition

Nicci French: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR: 27th April 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Paperback

Tess Gerritsen & Gary Braver: CHOOSE ME: 22nd June 2021: US Kindle Edition

R. Z. Held: UNJUST THEFT: US Kindle Edition

Kristi Helvig: STRANGE SKIES: US Kindle Edition

Karen Ann Hopkins: BLOODY TIES: 22nd September 2020: US Kindle Edition

Emiko Jean: TOKYO EVER AFTER: 25th May 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Hardcover

Seanan McGuire: CALCULATED RISKS: 23rd February 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Paperback

Seanan McGuire: ANGEL OF THE OVERPASS: 11th May 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Paperback

Saundra Mitchell: ALL THE THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK: 16th February 2021: US Paperback

Francine Pascal: LITTLE CREW OF BUTCHERS: 25th May 2021: US Paperback

Parker Peevyhouse: STRANGE EXIT: 27th April 2021: US Paperback

Tiffany Reisz: A MIDWINTER NIGHT’S DREAM: 1st December 2020: US Kindle Edition & US Paperback

Tiffany Reisz: A WINTER SYMPHONY: 1st December 2020: US Kindle Edition & US Paperback

Tiffany Reisz: THE PEARL: 1st December 2020: US Paperback

Laura Ruby: THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL: 27th April 2021: US Paperback

Lisa Scottoline: EXPOSED: 29th December 2020: US Paperback

Lisa Scottoline: ETERNAL: 23rd March 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Hardcover

Andrew Shaffer: LOOK MOM I’M A POET (AND SO IS MY CAT): 11th May 2021: US Paperback

Lilja Sigurðardóttir: BETRAYAL: 1st May 2021: US Paperback

Karin Slaughter: THE SILENT WIFE: 20th April 2021: US Paperback

Maria V. Snyder: DEFENDING THE GALAXY: 2nd December 2020: Australian Kindle Edition

Victoria Helen Stone: THE LAST ONE HOME: 23rd March 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Paperback

Amy Tintera: ALL THESE MONSTERS: 15th June 2021: US Paperback

Paul Tremblay: NO SLEEP TILL WONDERLAND: 20th April 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Paperback

Andy Weir: PROJECT HAIL MARY: 4th May 2021: US Kindle Edition & US Hardcover

Francesca Zappia: NOW ENTERING ADDAMSVILLE: 13th April 2021: US Paperback

Book Releases: 1st June 2020 – Onward

Think I stopped sharing pre-order links at some stage, but don’t know when. So I’ll just go through the alphabet, and post books released on or after 1st June 2020.

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May 2020 Releases

The following is a list of books released in May 2020, which was last month.

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[REVIEW] The Walls – Hollie Overton

Hollie Overton
The Walls
Hachette Redhook (US: 10th April 2018); Penguin Arrow (UK: 26th July 2018; AU: 15th August 2018)
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WARNING: Domestic violence.

Interesting to read about what it’s like to be a prison public liaison officer. Why aren’t more of them in crime fiction?

It’s sad watching Kristy Tucker’s journey from a strong single mother to a defeated spouse. But as she finds her feet again, we cheer her on. Her friendship with an inmate may seem strange, but he ultimately is her biggest supporter. She can handle abuse happening to her, but when her father and her son are threatened she knows life needs to change for the better. Her action plan may not be ideal, but realistically it’s the only way to prevent Lance from harming Kristy’s loved ones.

Hollie Overton’s debut novel, Baby Doll, had a great concept with uneven execution. But this sophomore novel gets things right, and it’s so rewarding to watch an author improve.

April 2020 Releases

The following is a thread of books released in April 2020, which was last month.

Darcey Bell: SOMETHING SHE’S NOT TELLING US: US Kindle Edition; US Hardcover; US Paperback; UK Hardcover; UK Paperback; CA Kindle Edition; AU Hardcover; AU Paperback; Worldwide Hardcover; Worldwide Paperback

Christina Dalcher: MASTER CLASS/Q: US Kindle Edition; US Hardcover; UK Kindle Edition; UK Hardcover; CA Kindle Edition; AU eBook; AU Hardcover; Worldwide Hardcover; Worldwide Paperback

Megan Hart: ALL THE HARDEST CHOICES: US Kindle Edition; UK Kindle Edition; CA Kindle Edition

Megan Hart: REASON ENOUGH: US Kindle Edition; UK Kindle Edition; CA Kindle Edition

Kristi Helvig: THE MISSING: US Kindle Edition; UK Kindle Edition; CA Kindle Edition

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: AURORA RISING: US Paperback; UK Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: AURORA BURNING: AU eBook; AU Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Alex Kava: LOST CREED: US Paperback; UK Paperback; CA Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Alex Kava: DESPERATE CREED: US Paperback; UK Paperback; CA Paperback

Laura Lam: GOLDILOCKS: UK Kindle Edition; UK Hardcover; AU eBook; AU Paperback; Worldwide Hardcover; Worldwide Paperback

L. A. Larkin: PREY: US Kindle Edition; US Paperback; UK Kindle Edition; UK Paperback; CA Kindle Edition; AU eBook; AU Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Tiffany Reisz: THE PRIEST: US Paperback; UK Paperback; AU Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Veronica Roth’s CHOSEN ONES: US Kindle Edition; US Hardcover; UK Kindle Edition; UK Hardcover; UK Paperback; CA Kindle Edition; AU eBook; AU Hardcover; AU Paperback; Worldwide Hardcover; Worldwide Paperback

Lisa Scottoline: EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES: US Paperback; UK Paperback; AU Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Andrew Shaffer: LET’S SEE THEM POEMS: US Kindle Edition; CA Kindle Edition

Lilja Sigurðardóttir: CAGE: US Paperback; AU Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Erica Spindler: THE FINAL SEVEN: US Kindle Edition; CA Kindle Edition

Wendy Walker: THE NIGHT BEFORE: US Paperback; UK Paperback; AU Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

March 2020 Releases

The following is a list of books released in March 2020, which was last month.

Amy Ewing: The Alcazar: US Kindle Edition; AU eBook; Worldwide Hardcover; Worldwide Paperback

Mindy McGinnis: Be Not Far from Me: US Kindle Edition; US Hardcover; AU Hardcover; Worldwide Hardcover

Tara Moss: The Cobra Queen: US Kindle Edition; AU eBook; Worldwide Paperback

Natasha Preston: The Twin: US Kindle Edition; US Paperback; AU eBook; Worldwide Paperback

Kelley Armstrong/Katey Wolfe: Undone: US Kindle Edition

Kate Elizabeth Russell: My Dark Vanessa: US Kindle Edition; US Hardcover; AU eBook; Worldwide Hardcover; Worldwide Paperback

Kelley Armstrong: Wolf’s Curse: US Kindle Edition; US Paperback; AU eBook; Worldwide Paperback

Tiffany Reisz: The Priest: US Kindle Edition; US Paperback; AU eBook; Worldwide Paperback

Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell: Between Burning Worlds: US Kindle Edition; US Hardcover; AU Hardcover; Worldwide Hardcover

Victoria Helen Stone: Problem Child: US Kindle Edition; US Paperback; AU Paperback; Worldwide Paperback

Erica Spindler: Random Acts: US Kindle Edition