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The Other Side of the Door

Thanks Netgalley for this copy!

I’ve never read anything by Nicci French, who I’ve learned is really a husband and wife writing team. Cool! But something about this book make me request it on Netgalley. I wish I could say it was worth the read, but I was really disappointed.

From Goodreads:

Who is more dangerous? An enemy? A friend? Or a lover?

Bonnie Graham stands in the open door of her friend’s apartment. She is alone, except for the dead body lying in a pool of blood on the floor. What happened? What will Bonnie do now? Whom can she turn to? And what role has she played in the murderous events?

Bonnie is a music teacher who has spent a long, hot summer in London rehearsing with a band to play at a friend’s wedding. It was supposed to be fun, but the band members find the complicated knots of their friendships–some old, some new–unraveling as the days themselves unwind. What was meant to be a summer of happiness, love, and music turns deadly as lovers betray one another, passions turn murderous, and friendship itself becomes a crime. Everyone tells lies. But is anyone prepared to tell the truth to uncover a murderer?

Nicci French, the author of eleven internationally bestselling novels including Killing Me SoftlyCatch Me When I Fall, and Losing You, delivers a sexy, intricate thriller about the temptation of secrets, the weight of lies, and the price of betrayal and suspicion.

The story is told in alternating Before and After chapters, before the murder and after. In the before chapters, you get to know Bonnie, the band she has haphazardly put together, and her friends and relationships. In the After chapters, you learn about the murder, namely who and why, and the aftermath and impact it has on Bonnie.

The characters were obnoxious. Every single one of them was awful, aside from Bonnie’s former student Joakim, who was a bright spot. Every other character lacked any kind of conscience, self-awareness, or moral compass. Because of this, I didn’t care about them. I kept reading to see all the secrets revealed, but the reasoning behind the murder and aftermath was just ridiculous. I was hoping for an interesting thriller, but this one didn’t deliver.

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Find Me

Again, thank you to NetGalley for access to this book. It was a Kindle first option, but I didn’t select it. This decision was really hard, but I added it to my “to read” list because it sounded great. Then it was for immediate request on NetGalley, so problem solved!

Reni is the daughter of a serial killer who is in prison. When she was young, she was the bait for her father. Her life has never been the same, of course. When her dad tells the police that he’ll reveal the locations of all the bodies, as long as Reni accompanies him, she knows she has to do this to give the victims’ families closure. She hasn’t been in contact with her father, but she knows it’s the right thing to do.

This book went on paths I wasn’t expecting, which was great, but a lot was left unfinished. There were too many plot holes and was in desperate need of an editor. Side note: if you’re writing, don’t say a character wore sneakers on her feet. Where else would she be wearing them? That said, there were some great twists that I wasn’t expecting, so I still recommend the book.

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Wonderland

First of all, thank you NetGalley for letting me access this book! Second of all, this cover is gorgeous and fits the book perfectly. I requested this one simply because I loved Baby Teeth because it elicited an intense reaction from me. Every time I picked up the book, my stomach would twist in knots. I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen while also being terrified of finding out. As soon as I saw that Zoje Stage had another book coming out, I knew I wanted to read it.

I can say that this book is nowhere near as tense as Baby Teeth. But that’s okay. It’s more of a mystery than anything. A family of four has just moved to upstate NY, to escape the hustle of NYC, to have more time together, and to let the father, Shaw, explore his artistic endeavors. Pretty quickly, the family realizes the weather isn’t quite what they expected. Granted, it’s snowy, but curious things happen during their isolation. This story isn’t just one about being trapped by the elements. As the days go by, the events surrounding the family become progressively more odd.

This book was good, but I didn’t love it. I felt like it dragged in the middle, but one event shook things up, and the book got back on track. I don’t mind a slow burn book with a good ending, but this one was a bit too slow in parts. The parents were a bit obnoxious as well, but there was some great character development by the end. Overall, it was well-written, and I enjoyed it.

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Clean Getaway

Thanks to Netgalley for letting me read and review this book! I read Dear Martin when it came out and really loved it. I was just heartbroken over the story, though. I tried to read Odd One Out, but there was so much teenage slang in it that my brain was working too hard to decipher. I’m not a teenager, nor am I around teenagers in any capacity, so their slang just is a struggle for me. That’s not a knock against the book in any way. I’m not the target audience and that’s fine. From what I’ve heard, Odd One Out is a great book and very supportive of LGBTQ teens, which I will always get behind. But when I saw Clean Getaway on Netgalley, I read the summary and knew I wanted to read this one. I love middle-grade YA for its excellent blend of serious themes with a little levity. And this one didn’t disappoint.

William “Scoob” Lamar is struggling in school. He’s super smart, but he is a bit too clever for his own good and gets into some trouble. While suspended, his grandma, who he calls G’ma, decides they need to take a road trip. She has sold her house and bought an RV, so the two of them head out. G’ma is white, and Scoob is black, so traveling through the south is difficult, even today.

As they travel, Scoob learns more and more about his grandmother, long-dead grandfather, his absent mother, and his strict father (his G’ma’s son). G’ma gives him the Green Book she and G’pa used as they traveled through the south back in the 60s. She introduces Scoob to various important landmarks in the Civil Rights Movement, as well.

But things take a turn when G’ma starts calling Scoob Jimmy,  his grandfather’s name. Scoob realizes that maybe things aren’t quite what they seem between him and G’ma. She seems okay most of the time, but she forgets things, refuses to let him talk to his dad, going so far as to throw away her phone, and as they continue to travel through the south, Scoob becomes more suspicious and nervous, but he is torn because G’ma is his favorite person.

This book is great for middle school-aged kids. It presents some critical history of the Civil Rights Movement in an understated way that is a bit easier to swallow than Dear Martin, which tackles some equally important race issues in our society, but in a more heartwrenching way. Clean Getaway is more approachable and opens the door to the subjects such as Medgar Evers, Dr. King, and the church bombing that killed four little girls. Scoob is a great young man, who is struggling in his world as a black boy living with expectations of a white society and a dad who is fully aware of said white society. I highly recommend this for middle school kids and their parents to help kick start a conversation about the past and how it shapes our world today.

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Ink and Bone

Thank you Netgalley for another great title! I have been a bit discouraged with the thrillers I’ve read lately. They seem to be lacking some unique quality, jump the shark at some point in a very unsuccessful way, or are just plain boring. Thankfully, Ink and Bone was one worth reading!

When doing a little background research, I discovered that the setting of this story, The Hollows, NY is a fictional town, but there is a town called the Hollow (formerly named Allentown) that was founded by two families that has only recently become slightly modernized, think indoor plumbing a few years ago, but no telephones, and the residents live in near isolation. Here’s a link the Hollow to a NY Times article about the town. In the book, however, the town is a tourist trap with abandoned mines nearby, and the mountain folk aren’t as isolated as you would think. Interesting tie to real life, however.

The main character, Finley, can see and communicate with the dead. A little girl goes missing and, as a last resort, Finley is asked to help find her. The police have no leads, the parents are desperate, and Finley has been hearing a mysterious noise that leads her to the grieving family. I’m not one who believe in this kind of stuff, however, that didn’t really matter in this novel. I took it as a work of fiction from beginning to end and the author did a great job of creating a character to relate to. Finley struggles with her ability. She wants to help families, but she wants to be a normal person, too. She is a college student, with a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, a mother who doesn’t understand her, and a grandmother who shares her abilities.

The story is told in multiple perspectives, which is interesting, but a bit hard to follow at times because it takes a few sentences of a new chapter to realize who the narrator is. However, because this is from Netgalley and isn’t an official published copy, maybe some clarification was added to the final version. It’s certainly not a reason to avoid this book, though.

Overall, really great thriller. Goodreads has it listed as horror, but it’s really not. It’s more of a mystery/thriller, and a great one at that!

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No One Knows

I managed to get a lot of thrillers from Netgalley, including this one. I like a good mystery, especially one that is unique, has a great plot twist, or leaves me thinking. And up until the last few pages, I was ready to give this book four stars. However, the forced plot twist at the end dropped it to two stars. I was really disappointed by the time the book was over.

Without giving too much away, the main character, Aubrey, is mourning the death of her husband. He went missing five years ago and, since so much time has passed, he has been declared dead. Aubrey has spent much of this time either incarcerated, drunk, or barely hanging on. She was suspected of her husband’s murder, given the amount of blood found in their home, but was found not guilty due to the lack of evidence. She drank a lot just to numb the pain. But after hitting rock bottom, she cleaned herself up, got a teaching job, and is putting her life back together. Until a man, looking much like her husband, enters her life.

I really was okay with the majority of this book. Is he dead? Did she do it? Did his mother, due to inherit a lot of money? Did his jailbird father? What about his mystery man who seems to know a lot about Aubrey? All of this, thankfully, is resolved by the end of the book, and there are a few plot twists along the way, but the final one just did me in. It was so unbelievable completely out of the realm of possibility given the rest of the book, that it just infuriated me. I have pretty high standards when it comes to plot twists. Even if I see them coming, that’s fine, but it has to be plausible. That’s my one requirement, and this book failed it, miserably.

 

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All the Missing Girls

Yet another Netgalley book! So, I’ve read one great one and one bummer one. However, this one I selected completely on the premise alone. It’s a murder mystery, but it has a unique feature. It’s told in reverse. Which really seems odd, given the whole mystery aspect, but this novel really does work.

The fact that it’s told in reverse is laid out for you up front, so there’s no confusion as to what is happening. And, as a speed reader, I found myself having to go a lot slower with this book to really grasp all the details.  Reading a book in reverse chronological order is like looking at a picture and then being told the story behind it. Normally you make the memory and look at the picture later, then the memory comes flooding back. And I was skeptical about whether or not this novel (and unknown, to me, author) could pull it off. And while the book had some confusing moments and not everything is perfectly resolved (but rather implied), as a whole, it was really great.

The murder mystery genre is really hit or miss for me. Some novels are so predictable and formulaic that you see the murderer coming a mile away. And not to give anything away, but the resolution wasn’t wholly surprising to me, but the storytelling was really what made the book readable and interesting. Reading it in chronological order would have been nowhere near as intriguing.

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Movie Game

I’m new to Netgalley and this was my first book that I was approved for. I was quickly intrigued by premise of a teenager obsessed with movies, a mystery surrounding his father, a tragedy from his younger days, but this book just didn’t work for me.

Our main character, Joe, is just a terrible person. He cares about his sister, but only to keep her from interfering in his life. We are never given any indication they have a relationship, and they simply co-exist alone. Their mother is living with her boyfriend and has abandoned her children. Their father is MIA. No idea where he, a marine biologist, has gone. Do marine biologists often disappear for their job? Seems like a job that doesn’t have much intrigue behind it.

Joe and his friends play the “Movie Game” which involves someone saying an actor, next person says a movie the actor was in, next has to name another actor in that movie (I think, I’m not good with these kinds of games) and Joe frequently wins. But to have this be the title of the book is baffling to me. It was the most minor of subplots. I suppose Joe’s obsession with movies was to illustrate his escape from his tragedy where his girlfriend died. They were 14 and it was young love. Of course, anyone who loses a loved one when they are freshmen, has two awful parents will be a giant mess of a person, but I just wasn’t sold on Joe. He was too thin, too much of a stereotype.

There was an absolutely ridiculous plot involving the girl next door that didn’t fit at all. I felt like the author needed certain things to happen (Joe needed to learn about movies from the ’70s, he needed to have a place to escape, he needed someone to help him craft absurd lies, etc) and the author thought, “How can I get all these things to happen?” and he created this neighbor plot. There’s another plot involving a couple limo drivers and a scheme that didn’t work either. Again, it felt forced and wedged into the plot to make a couple events happen.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book. The author made attempts at using figurative language and I rolled my eyes at how bad it was. The mystery surrounding Joe’s father was ludicrous, and I didn’t care at all about Joe. His sister was so much more intriguing, but we didn’t spend much time with her at all.