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Too Good to Be True

Title: Too Good to Be True

Author: Carola Lovering

Genre: psychological thriller

This book was offered as a Book of the Month offer, and although I selected another book, this one sounded good, so I looked for it at my library. Holy. Smokes. This book is one of the best I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it. It’s definitely crazy, but in such a fun way. It took turns I wasn’t expecting.

From Goodreads: Skye Starling is overjoyed when her boyfriend, Burke Michaels, proposes after a whirlwind courtship. Though Skye seems to have the world at her fingertips―she’s smart, beautiful, and from a well-off family―she’s also battled crippling OCD ever since her mother’s death when she was eleven, and her romantic relationships have suffered as a result.

But now Burke―handsome, older, and more emotionally mature than any man she’s met before―says he wants her. Forever. Except, Burke isn’t who he claims to be. And interspersed letters to his therapist reveal the truth: he’s happily married, and using Skye for his own, deceptive ends.

In a third perspective, set thirty years earlier, a scrappy seventeen-year-old named Heather is determined to end things with Burke, a local bad boy, and make a better life for herself in New York City. But can her adolescent love stay firmly in her past―or will he find his way into her future?

On a collision course she doesn’t see coming, Skye throws herself into wedding planning, as Burke’s scheme grows ever more twisted. But of course, even the best laid plans can go astray. And just when you think you know where this story is going, you’ll discover that there’s more than one way to spin the truth.

Nuts. This book is nuts. But in the best way possible. I actually shouted “HOLY CRAP” a couple of times when certain plot points were revealed. The story is expertly crafted and the characters jumped right off the page. Whether they were good people or not, they were definitely dynamic. I couldn’t put this book down. I’ve only read a handful of truly great thrillers this year (out of the dozens I’ve read), but I’m happy to say this one will be high on my recommendations.

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Pretty Little Wife

Title: Pretty Little Wife

Author: Darby Kane

Genre: thriller

PopSugar Reading Challenge Prompt: A book from your TBR list that you meant to read last year but didn’t

In my quest to get through all my BOTM books before they stack up too much, I’m prioritizing the ones that don’t fit into a specific PopSugar prompt, like this one. The prompt I used for it is really vague, so I shoehorned it in. I’m trying to read more of what I want vs. books that I don’t really want to read but happen to fit a prompt. But if I can find one on my giant TBR list AND fits a prompt, fantastic. And since I’m a thriller junkie, most books from BOTM fit in this genre. Some have been great, some mediocre. Sadly, this book fits into the latter category.

From Goodreads: Lila Ridgefield lives in an idyllic college town, but not everything is what it seems. Lila isn’t what she seems. A student vanished months ago. Now, Lila’s husband, Aaron, is also missing. At first these cases are treated as horrible coincidences until it’s discovered the student is really the third of three unexplained disappearances over the last few years. The police are desperate to find the connection, if there even is one. Little do they know they might be stumbling over only part of the truth….

With the small town in an uproar, everyone is worried about the whereabouts of their beloved high school teacher. Everyone except Lila, his wife. She’s definitely confused about her missing husband but only because she was the last person to see his body, and now it’s gone.

Lila is such an unlikeable character. I didn’t feel any sort of connection to her at all. The plot reveal was obvious, the minor characters fell flat, and I didn’t care about the ending at all. But since I didn’t hate the book like I did others, I went ahead and gave it three stars.

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The Shining Girls

Title: The Shining Girls

Author: Lauren Beukes

Genre: murder mystery, thriller, time travel

I am a pretty snarky person. I’d like to think that it’s funny rather than mean. That’s certainly how I intend it to be, at least. And snark is hard in print, however, this book’s main character manages it perfectly, so well done Lauren Beukes! Kirby is funny, smart, and a badass survivor.

From Goodreads: In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. Curtis stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

Working with a former homicide reporter who is falling for her, Kirby races against time and reason to unravel an impossible mystery. 

The time-travel aspect is a bit confusing at first, even though the chapters are labeled with a date and the character it focuses on. The events are told out of order, so you see the result of something before you see the actual event happen. But if you keep reading, it all comes together. The book is definitely worth sticking with. I really enjoyed this creative thriller. Through the non-traditional narrative, I was left guessing and thinking about what was going on. I would love to read more from Beukes and definitely recommend this one!

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Before She Disappeared

Thank you Netgalley for this advance copy.

I’ve been hearing about Lisa Gardner for ages. She’s been on my TBR for a while. I even own some of her books, but I’ve never gotten around to reading them. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher letting me have this book, she’s moved to the top of my “must-read” list. Holy smokes, this book was excellent. If you haven’t read any of her books, this one will be a great place to start.

From Goodreads: Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want to be answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.

First of all, Frankie is awesome. She’s funny and can stand her ground and is passionate about helping people. She makes no apologies for being an alcoholic and doesn’t use it as an excuse but as motivation. Her charm makes her friends, even when she’s an outsider in every way. The plot itself was tightly-written with no annoying tropes. It’s easy to root for Frankie, even if she’s not perfect. She’s a realistic character, which is endearing. The storyline was clever and left me guessing until the end. When this one comes out in January, make a point to grab it.

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The Shadows

Hooray for Book of the Month. I’ve only gotten 8 boxes, but I’m hooked. So far, each month I’ve had no trouble picked a book that I am excited to read. The new hardback is only $15 and if you want to add another book, either another monthly pick or an older selection, that’s only $10. Mostly, I pick whatever horror/thriller book is offered, but there are a few other genres that I’ll test out from time to time. This thriller was one that I enjoyed quite a bit.

From Goodreads: You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

There were some definite plot holes and tropes that I could have done without, bur overall the book really comes together in the end. The urban legend presented in this book was really interesting, as was its origin story. I’ve heard of Alex North because of his first book, The Whisper Man, which I will be reading because I enjoyed this one so much.

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Every Last Fear

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

I’ve been on a NetGalley spree. There are just so many books that sound great, so I request a bunch and see what happens. Usually they will trickle in here and there, but right now I have 5 books to read and review. All sound intriguing, and I’m really excited to discover some new authors. The first book I started was missing some chapters. Either that or the plot was so bad that entire chunks of info were left out. My guess is the former, but in any case, I couldn’t finish it because I was so confused as to what was going on. Thankfully, this one was cohesive.

From Goodreads:

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear. 

I was really impressed by this unknown author’s ability to reveal hints and clues throughout the plot. Alex Finlay is the pseudonym, and this is his/her first book (as far as we know…maybe he/she published under a real name), which impressed me. Oftentimes, new authors end up being not so great. But this book was a fun read, had a great twist, and really kept me guessing.

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The Future is Yours

Big thanks to Netgalley for this advance copy! I love books that are told in a non-traditional way. I’m not a fan of reading a sentence then flipping to a footnote or endnote, but books like S. and Night Film and Attachments (and Rainbow Rowell in general) are really interesting reads because they are epistolary in nature, but also tell the story through multiple media forms. The Future is Yours is exactly same.

From Goodreads: Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry are outsiders struggling to find their place in Silicon Valley. But when Ben reads Adhi’s graduate dissertation about an obscure application for quantum computing, he has a vision of a revolutionary new technology: a computer that can see forward through time by communicating with its future self.

The two friends quit their jobs and team up to form a business, building a company that will deliver their groundbreaking device to consumers around the world. Rival tech giants try to steal their innovation, while government agencies attempt to bury it–but Ben and Adhi are helped by their own cutting-edge technology, staying a step ahead of the competition and responding to challenges before they arise.

As the tension mounts, Ben and Adhi’s friendship begins to fracture under the weight of ambition, jealousy, and greed. Most frightening of all, they discover the dark side of the machine they’ve created–the ways in which viewing the future sets them on a path toward unavoidable disaster of epic, apocalyptic proportions. Unless they can disrupt the technological system they’ve created, there won’t be any future at all.

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the social costs of innovation and asks how far you’d be willing to go to protect the ones you love–even from themselves. 

This book was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me a Blake Crouch’s work, which is a huge compliment, because I’ve read almost all his books. The way the story is presented through the various documents is really creative and adds to the entire point of the book. This comes out in Feb 2021, and I will be recommending it to a lot of people at that point.

NOTE TO AUTHOR: The goodreads summary has Adhi’s name as Teddy….I fixed it here. And my favorite person on Twitter is mentioned, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but you have his handle as @LinManuel, but it’s really @Lin_Manuel. And there’s really a @BenBoyce on Twitter. Haha.

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The Trespasser

And here we are. The end. The last. The final Dublin Murder Squad book. Even though this book and the one before it weren’t as good as the first four, I did enjoy the series and still recommend them to anyone. In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, and The Secret Place all lead to this final book. Tana French cleverly weaves the books together by putting one character from the previous book as the main character in the next book, except the last two. They both feature Detective Moran and Detective Conway, but The Secret Place is told from his perspective and this one from hers.

From Goodreads:

Being on the Murder Squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed-to-a-shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.

And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinetteʼs road. Aislinnʼs friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

Det. Conway is an unreliable narrator to the extreme. As good of a detective she is, she has terrible insight into her own co-workers. She can’t see the forest for the trees. She thinks each and every one of them are out to get her, including her own partner at times. This perspective gets old really quickly, and I was constantly frustrated by inability to look at things objectively. The book takes some good turns that I wasn’t expecting, which is always appreciated, but overall it was just okay.

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In the Dark

I’ve never read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Now I don’t have to because this book entirely spoils the plot. That said, the book is 80 years old, so spoilers for it have long passed. My own fault, not the author’s. I had no idea going into this book that it was a retelling of anything, let alone one of the most famous murder mystery books of all time.

This book was offered as a Kindle first selection at some point, which I didn’t select, but it sounded interesting enough that I add it to my “to read” list and discovered it was available to me via Prime reading, which is a great resource. I’m glad that I found this book because it was excellent.

From Goodreads: The promise of a luxury vacation at a secluded wilderness spa has brought together eight lucky guests. But nothing is what they were led to believe. As a fierce storm barrels down and all contact with the outside is cut off, the guests fear that it’s not a getaway. It’s a trap.

Each one has a secret. Each one has something to hide. And now, as darkness closes in, they all have something to fear—including one another.

Alerted to the vanished party of strangers, homicide cop Mason Deniaud and search and rescue expert Callie Sutton must brave the brutal elements of the mountains to find them. But even Mason and Callie have no idea how precious time is. Because the clock is ticking, and one by one, the guests of Forest Shadow Lodge are being hunted. For them, surviving becomes part of a diabolical game.

I loved this book because I truly had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what the secrets were, who was behind the entire trap, how this was going to resolve. You know that at least one person survives because you meet her in the first chapter. But who that person is and how she was involved isn’t revealed. The layers of the plot are revealed cleverly and nicely with a big twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. I highly recommend this one!

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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.