WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: Hunting Annabelle

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Hi everyone! Thanks for bearing with me – it’s been a busy last few weeks, but I’m back on the blog. This week, I’ve got the January edition of WHAT I READ THIS MONTH! My January book was adult psych thriller HUNTING ANNABELLE by debut author Wendy Heard. I’m so excited to dive into this with you, because I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Also, if you haven’t seen – I’m now on YouTube! Catch me here in a video review of the book and subscribe for future book/writing/life content.

All right, here’s an overview of HUNTING ANNABELLE from Heard’s website:

Sean Suh is done with killing. After serving three years in a psychiatric prison, he’s determined to stay away from temptation. But he can’t resist Annabelle—beautiful, confident, incandescent Annabelle—who alone can see past the monster to the man inside. The man he’s desperately trying to be.

Then Annabelle disappears.

Sean is sure she’s been kidnapped—he witnessed her being taken firsthand—but the police are convinced that Sean himself is at the center of this crime. And he must admit, his illness has caused him to “lose time” before. What if there’s more to what happened than he’s able to remember?

Though haunted by the fear that it might be better for Annabelle if he never finds her, Sean can’t bring himself to let go of her without a fight. To save her, he’ll have to do more than confront his own demons… He’ll have to let them loose.

First off – wow. Personally, thrillers are my favorite genre of literature, particularly psych thrillers. This premise struck me as so original, while at the same time masterfully tying in inspiration from real-life serial killers. Not only that, but the twist at the end had me yelping. Sean, our narrator, is unreliable to say in the least and certainly serves as a red herring in himself. I thought, like the police and basically every other character in the book, that Sean would end up being responsible for Annabelle’s disappearance. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say this – don’t be so sure of whatever you’re thinking. Heard has a big trick up her sleeve with this one.

If you’re like me, you enjoy a more plot-driven story that has you gripped from the first page. Not only does Heard accomplish this, but she also develops rich characters with whom a reader can make a connection. At times, I felt sympathetic toward Sean, even though he’s a troubled man with a murderous past. Heard wonderfully shows his complicated relationship with an overbearing mother, and that dynamic in and of itself made the book fascinating to consume. At times you feel bad for Sean – he’s in love and desperately trying to find this woman with whom he found a real connection. But his honest confessions of feeling violent toward women pull you back into reality. And that truth is that Sean can’t be trusted.

And even he knows that. Several times, he questions if in fact he is responsible. And isn’t that the scariest part of all? Feeling like your reality may not be real at all? Whoa.

On top of this, Heard’s beautiful use of language makes her debut novel a triple threat. Not only is her plot strong and her characters developed and complex, but her voice is compelling. She writes in tight, succinct sentences that pack a punch. She doesn’t bore you with useless detail – everything she writes and describes has a reason. As someone with a journalism background, I always appreciate encountering that in literature.

All in all, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of HUNTING ANNABELLE. It’ll take you on a roller coaster you’ll never want to get off.

Buy HUNTING ANNABELLE:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple Books

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS

6A03B323-E63B-49F0-9E3A-3BEA2B6B15B1Hi guys! Welcome to the first installment of my new book review series, WHAT I READ THIS MONTH. I plan to publish these monthly, and I’m so thrilled that the first book I’m reviewing is THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS by Laura E. Weymouth. This young adult fantasy just recently hit shelves in October and is sure to sweep you away and make you feel all the feelings this winter. I suggest cozying up with some tea by the fire (I live in Florida, so I pretended) and diving into this story. Let’s get into it.

From Weymouth’s website, here’s an overview:

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

When Ev and Phil finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

Now, Evelyn spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

This story has all the elements I absolutely love and appreciate. It centers on family and the very real, agonizing feeling of being caught between two places. Something I particularly loved about this book was that it didn’t dwell too much on world-building or keeping the reader preoccupied with the details of the otherworldly creatures of the Woodlands or magic or anything you typically think of when you think portal fantasy.  The exterior, fantastical setting is great and grand – but this book focused on the people.

And that’s what sets it apart.

Weymouth expertly seesaws between the present in the known world and the past in the Woodlands. This very premise struck me as something so original –  we often read stories of people who are magically transported to another world and must complete some sort of high-stakes quest (guilty – that’s what my first book is, basically). We rarely hear about how these adventurers are when they come home, and if they’re okay. And if you’re going by the Hapwells, they’ve very much not okay.

What struck to the core was Evelyn Hapwell, the true light between worlds. She knew beyond doubt where she truly belonged, and that was her curse. So many people, be it in careers or relationships, can feel in their bones what they should do, but may not be willing to take the risk. There’s the safe way that might, maybe make you happy, and there’s the hard way that will require tough choices but just might pay off. Evelyn knew what her decision had to be.

Evelyn is not always likable. She’s stubborn, she wanders, and she refuses to hear sensible sentiments. But, she has hope. For someone who feels so caged, so entrapped by the dark, menacing real world, she makes her own light and clings to the belief that she’ll someday return to the Woodlands.

Besides having a hauntingly beautiful story and complex characters, Weymouth’s writing is breathtaking and gorgeous. She doesn’t overwhelm you with flowery language or exhausting, long chapters. Instead, she brilliantly balances vivid description with sharp, concise prose. Be warned: you’ll leave a piece of your heart within the pages.

All in all, I highly recommend you give this book a read. Content warnings can be found here.

And stay tuned for January’s book review! Hint: Psych. Thriller.

Buy THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS here:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
IndieBound