Categories
books and reading

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.

Categories
books and reading

Jar City

I have a bit of an addiction to Nordic thriller tv shows on Netflix. Their police procedurals are excellent. Frequently, the women are in charge, the red herrings aren’t too ridiculous, and the storytelling is top-notch. I’ve read a handful of books from the area but have more on my list. Somehow, I stumbled on this one from Iceland, which isn’t an area I’ve ever read about.

From Goodreads: When a lonely old man is found murdered in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime. Did the old man’s past come back to haunt him?

As the team of detectives reopen this very cold case, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man–secrets that have been carefully guarded by many people for many years. As he follows a fascinating trail of unusual forensic evidence, Erlendur also confronts stubborn personal conflicts that reveal his own depth and complexity of character. 

This thriller was great. Although it uses the “grumpy old white guy” detective trope, he had some good reasons to be grumpy, so at least it was legitimate. The murder itself and the discovery of who was behind it was really creative and plausible, so no crazy far-fetched, nonsensical storytelling, thank goodness. This book was just a tightly written, interesting mystery.

Categories
books and reading

Miracle Creek

I do not want to read a medical thriller. When I saw that prompt on the PopSugar Reading Challenge, I was sunk. I knew I was going to have to fudge this one. I have anxiety and can’t watch medical shows on tv. I have no desire to read anything medical related. A lot of people read The Silent Patient for this prompt, but I read that last year, so I was struggling to find something. Finally, some people in the reading challenge FB group mentioned this one, and I was sold. It’s mostly a legal thriller, light on the thrills, but it involves a medical situation. I had also been hearing what a good book it was, so off to my library I went.

Not only does this book have a legal focus, it also it an own voices book. The family involved is Korean, as the author, so she’s able to provide an authentic story of the family. The story follows the trial of a woman who is accused of murdering her autistic son. She has been trying an experimental treatment for him which puts him in an oxygen chamber twice a day to help his neurological processing. He’s in the chamber with several people who are also undergoing the treatment for various reasons. An explosion occurs, and the woman is accused of setting the fire.

The story unfolds with one secret revealed after another. As the trial progresses and new information is brought to light. you begin to see how twisted together all the participants are. The Korean family who owns the chamber as well as their clients are wrapped together in more ways than you expect. By the end, you really don’t know who set the fire because it could have been anyone, since they all seemed to have some hand in the crime, whether directly or indirectly.

This book was great. It was tightly written, kept me guessing, and was captivating from the first chapter. Whether you enjoy legal stories, own voices books, or a good mystery, this book will be perfect for you.

Categories
books and reading

The Last Time I Lied

Screen Shot 2020-05-22 at 10.59.42 AM

I decided to give Riley Sager’s books a chance, given all the buzz around them. I started with Final Girls not even realizing it was his first. I didn’t intend to read them in order but ended up doing so. I thought Final Girls was good, but not spectacular, but I  decided to keep going because you just never know. Funny enough, the main character of this book is also a final girl. Different storyline, though.

Emma is at summer camp when she’s 13 and her bunkmates disappear and are never found. Now, present-day Emma is invited back, 15 years later, to be a counselor and get “closure” on the event. She goes, but she is still nervous. She’s been painting her bunkmates in her artwork. They are always in white dresses, but she paints over them with trees and darkness, burying them. Emma vows to find out what happened to them, why they disappeared, who took them (if anyone), and where they are now.

Even though I gave both books four stars, I did enjoy this one more. It kept me guessing and the main character was nowhere near as annoying as the one in Final Girls. I just didn’t like her or believe her. Emma seems more realistic and the events surrounding the disappearance were more believable, up front. I’m going to give his most recent book a chance when it comes to my library. Maybe third time’s a charm, and this one will be spectacular.

Categories
books and reading

I Choose You

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 8.07.16 AM

Kindle firsts is a pretty great program. I’ve discovered some pretty great books and authors this way. You get one book free, and if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read all the rest the next month. This is one that I didn’t select but made a point to read at some point.

I’m always on a quest for a good thriller, and I wish I could say this was one. It was too…messy? I’m not sure how to explain it. I feel like it tried to do too much. There was a plot about babies possibly switched at birth, a person who dares people to commit suicide, two families who are intertwined in way too many ways, babies given up for adoption, and chapters that switch between then, now, and interstitial first person account from the mind of an alleged killer. It was a bit much to keep it all straight, honestly.

In the “then” chapters, you see Elise and Nathaniel dealing with the murder of their daughter, Ida. But they aren’t sure if she was dared to commit suicide by the mysterious person called the “Suicide Watcher” who they believe forced both their mothers to commit suicide. Elise and Nathaniel met in a group for Suicide Watcher victims. Then there’s Elise’s father, Ray, who is a psychiatrist, but an unusual one. There’s also Sonny, Elise’s long-lost brother who was given away at birth but has found his birth family. This isn’t even beginning to list the characters and plot devices. Like I said, too much.

Maybe this complexity works for some people. I  just felt like nothing was developed or explained all that well. Maybe if the author had picked one plot and stuck with it, I would be more likely to recommend this book. It just was too all over the place for me.

Categories
books and reading

The Fourth Monkey

At some point, JD Barker followed me on Twitter, and I reciprocated. Through this exchange, I heard him discussing his book. So, I added it to my Amazon list and when the price dropped (sorry, man…I buy A LOT of books and can’t afford full price) I bought it, because why not? It sounded interesting, a police detective tries to solve a serial killer case, which is right up my alley.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, Porter (the cop), Emory (a teenage girl), Clair (only a couple chapters from her…another cop) and a diary. Porter is chasing a serial killer when he finally gets a break. The killer ends up dead, splattered by a bus. Sounds easy, right? The book follows a very twisty path of red herrings, various characters, plenty of bait and switch, and a few plot twists thrown into the mix. Normally, these types of narrative back and forths drive me nuts. And I admit that I knew something was up (it’s pretty easy to assume the mystery isn’t easily solved when you’ve only read 25% of the book), but I enjoyed my ride through the story.

The diary was the, um, best? part. It was a horrifying glimpse into the childhood of a killer, but it was shocking and kept me guessing. It was a bit disturbing at times, but I’ve read much worse. Right now, The Fourth Monkey and its sequel, The Fifth to Die, are $2.99 each on Amazon. I have pretty high expectations when it comes to creativity within a police procedural story, and this one hit the mark. Really enjoyed it.

Categories
books and reading

An Anonymous Girl

Through the Popsugar book challenge, I’ve discovered it’s really hard to find books that fit into a certain category. Some just are really narrow and not many books fit into the category. Do you know how hard it is to find a book written by two female authors? I have already read the Beautiful Creatures series (very good!) written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Apparently, there are two women who write under a pseudonym, but I had trouble finding any of their books. While flipping through my People magazine, I noticed a favorable review of An Anonymous Girl written by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Whew. Problem solved.

The eponymous girl is Jessica, who signs up for a psychological trial to earn a few extra bucks to send home to her parents. She lives in NYC and has a special needs sister, so she tries to send money home when she can. Jess works as a traveling make-up artist, doing the make-up for socialites headed for parties, so she has a hard time turning down the extra money. When Dr. Shields selects Jess for further trials, Jess realizes she is into something deeper than a simple study. Twists and turns abound, but this book never hooked me.

I liked Jess well enough and the writing style was interested with some chapters told in the second person from Dr. Shields to Jessica, but the story just never captured me and kept me engaged. I didn’t care how mean Dr. Shields was, and I didn’t care about all the plot twists that I saw coming a mile away. Nothing shocked me. And I’m not saying this because I’m so clever, no one can fool me, ha ha ha. I just wasn’t as captivated as I hoped I would be.

Categories
books and reading

The Woman in Cabin 10

I like a good thriller. And after reading Gone Girl and In the Woods, I got a bit spoiled with well written stories that kept me guessing. But finding a good writer has proven difficult. I think I just have high expectations, but I really want an author to be creative and not use cheap plot devices. And, granted, it has been a couple weeks since I finished this book and I have forgotten a bit, but I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

Here’s what I remember not liking about it. There was a lot of telling rather than showing. You spend so much time in this character’s head that nothing really happens. She is trying to figure out who the woman in cabin 10 is, why this person has vanished, and who might be behind it all. But there’s a really ridiculous plot device of the main character, Lo, being drunk and tired so she second guesses herself a lot. This is just not creative storytelling at all. And I was really disappointed that this book got such great reviews.

If anyone has great mysteries that are creative and unique, send them my way. Because I keep getting let down.

Categories
books and reading

The Hail Mary

I discovered Todd Travis a few years ago through the free book service, Bookbub. It’s an email service that alerts you do book deals, either free or deeply discounted. His first book in this series, Creatures of Appetite, was free, and once I read it I was hooked and considered myself a fan. I found his fan page on Facebook and joined, hoping to be in the know for his book releases. And it worked! As soon as his books came out, he would post to let us know, and I immediately bought them. My reviews of his previous works are here Creatures of Appetite and Trophies . The fourth book in the series is available for preorder, and I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy in exchange for a review. So here I am!

To summarize without spoilers, the Thorne/Kane series follows FBI agents Jacob Thorne and Emma Kane, unlikely partners who are trying to solve a variety of crimes. Each book focuses on a new event. The newest book leaves Kane on her own, of sorts, to solve a three-year-old cold case with only days to get the job done.

What I like most about these books is that I never see the ending coming, but they are all plausible. None of that out of the blue and doesn’t make a lick of sense business that I find so often in mystery books. Travis writes a tight book, snappy language, and clever twists that don’t make me roll my eyes and groan in frustration at the end. I highly recommend his works. If you can catch one for free on Amazon, great, but each book is definitely worth the asking price.