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books and reading

No Exit

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I’m always on the hunt for a good thriller. This one came highly recommended by my online book club. We have a book of the month that we all read, but we also read all kinds of stuff and recommend to each other. Several of them said this one was worth reading. I’m always skeptical because so many thrillers end up ridiculous, but I’m happy to report this one holds up. It’s excellent, kept me guessing, and didn’t fall into terrible tropes.

Basic premise is that college student Darby is on her way home to see her mom before she has surgery for cancer, but Darby gets snowed in at a rest stop in Colorado. There are three other people who seem nice enough, but one guy is pretty creepy. While trying to get a cell signal outside, Darby sees a small child’s hand in the back of a van. Alarm bells go off, and our story begins.

The story takes place over the course of one night, and although there are twists and turns, none of them are implausible, and Darby is a great heroine. She’s not irritating, she tries to be the hero because it’s right rather than for any kind of glory, and she is level-headed. Who Darby can trust in the rest stop becomes part of the mystery, and I was kept guessing and on the edge of my seat most of the book. The writing is tight, and the plot moves rapidly. Highly recommend this one!

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I Choose You

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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.

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books and reading

Verity

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What in the fucking fuck did I just read? My gosh. I’ve read a lot of crazy stuff, but this one might be at the top of the list. Infidelity- check. Murder- check. Narcissism- check. Secrets- check. Botched abortions- check. Child abuse- check. Descriptive sex scenes- check. Psychopaths- check. Stupid character names- check. This book has it all!

Lowen (ugh) is a mediocre writer who has been asked to finish a popular book series written by Verity (ugh) Crawford. Lowen will go live in Verity’s house with Verity’s husband, Jeremy (the only reasonable name in this entire book) and their son, Crew (ugh). Verity was recently in a car accident following the tragic deaths of her daughters, Chastin (seriously, I can’t make this stuff up) and Harper. Verity is unable to complete the series, so Lowen is getting paid to take over.

Weird things start happening in the house. Verity is awake, but unaware and non-responsive. However, Crew mentions talking to his mother, and Lowen claims to see Verity walking around. Lowen also finds a manuscript that Verity wrote about her life. Lowen quickly discovered that Verity is probably a psychopath and no longer feels badly for her.

Of course, this book must have ridiculous sex scenes between Lowen and Jeremy, because he can’t stand to have her in the house for two weeks without falling in love with her, even though he’s fully committed to Verity’s recovery. Give me a break….Ugh.

I kept reading this book, mostly to see if Verity was faking or not, or if Lowen was going crazy. I’ve only read one other CoHo book, and apparently, this one is out of the norm. I just don’t think she’s a writer for me.

 

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The Perfect Nanny

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I love a good thriller. Only a few stand out, though. The Silent Patient, Gone Girl, All the Missing Girls, and Girl in Snow, and Baby Teeth all come to mind as being better than the rest. I’m always searching for another good one. Unfortunately, most are just ridiculous. An Anonymous Girl, The Woman in the Window, The Woman in Cabin 10, all just irritated me. Sadly, The Perfect Nanny joins this list, but for reasons different from the aforementioned titles. Most fall into terrible tropes, namely the “I drink too much and can’t remember anything” one. I am just so over that type of story.

The Perfect Nanny starts with the ending. And I HATE that concept. It completely takes me out of the plot. Instead of wondering what will happen, I am left wondering why. I *should* be wondering both, especially in a thriller where a terrible event happens. Even though it’s not the first chapter, I’m not going to say what it is, other than awful. Skip ahead a bit, Louise is a dream come true in the nanny world. The kids adore her, she cooks, cleans, can stay late or come early, and the parents end up relying on her more and more. All seems well.

What’s frustrating about this book is that it’s an omniscient narrator, so you never really get into Louise’s head. She’s clearly not a good person, and you learn a bit about her back story, but nothing really explains her anger. She has a “mood disorder,” barely mentioned, but that’s really all we learn about her mindset, other than a few flashbacks. This book would have been so much better from her perspective to really get into the unreliable narrator’s thoughts. I fit this book into the “book with a three-word title” for the PopSugar Reading Challenge but was ultimately disappointed.

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The Woman in the Window

Friend after friend after friend told me to read this book. I was really excited to start it, but quickly discovered the entire plot is based around my least favorite trope- I’m an alcoholic and can’t remember things. I absolutely despise it. Other than alien abduction, it’s my least favorite plotline in a book. It’s not creative and is way overdone.

And not only is this main character, Anna, an alcoholic, she is also medicated due to severe anxiety and agoraphobia (she can’t leave her house). A while ago, she and her family were in a car accident, leaving Anna house-bound. Her biggest forms of entertainment include watching old movies, playing online chess, and spying on her neighbors. Side note: There’s an old movie called Copycat about this very thing. Sigourney Weaver is a house-bound woman in this movie and is so after a brutal attack. It’s not a great movie, but worth watching if you can catch it. Harry Connick, Jr. plays a delightfully awful murderer. Anyway, Anna is a psychotherapist (or psychiatrist, I forget, but you get the idea) so she’s fully aware of what is happening to her.

One night, she sees something terrifying. But she can’t convince anyone that she wasn’t hallucinating. Plot twists (some obvious, some not), more alcohol, plenty of crazy revelations, and finally an explanation as to what, if anything, happened. I can’t believe this book is so popular. I gave it three stars for the couple of plot points that did fool me, but overall, I was so disappointed in this book. A movie of it is coming out later this year, and I have zero desire to see it. Blah.

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Girl in Snow

I really love Netgalley, but I’m just really bad at making the books I get from them a priority. When I got Girl in Snow from them a couple of years ago, I had every intention of reading it quickly, but it just got buried under all my other books. But when I saw I needed a book with a weather element in the title, Girl in Snow jumped right into that slot. And if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m very particular about mystery/thriller books because so many of them are poorly written. I’m always nervous when I start a book by an unfamiliar author, but wow this was a great one. I’m so happy to report that this was a very well-written, interesting book.

The story is told from three perspectives, all third-person narrator, but from that particular character’s point-of-view. We meet Cameron, an outcast with a rough family story who draws amazing portraits, but who also has a secret. Next is Jade, also an outcast with a rough family, but much angrier about it. Finally is Russ, the police detective tied to the case in an unusual way. At the center of the story is beautiful Lucinda, who is found murdered one morning on the playground of a sleepy Colorado town. It’s likely Russ didn’t do it, considering he didn’t even know her, but Cameron and Jade are on the fringes of suspects because they lived near Lucinda and both knew her. Equally a suspect is Lucinda’s ex-boyfriend, Zap.

I’m really not sure if this book fits into the adult or young adult category, but no matter, because it’s great. I really didn’t know which character murdered Lucinda until the reveal, but the murderer wasn’t just thrown in as a random person never mentioned in the book (like a drifter), so the rationale was explained and legitimate. This book was a quick little read with great, clever language, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

 

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The Collector Trilogy

I’ve been hearing about this series for quite some time. Several friends have recommended them as “can’t put down” thrillers. And as much as I did want to keep reading to see what happened, I didn’t love the writing style of this author. I felt like a lot had been left unsaid, causing me to reread more than I usually do, especially for a thriller, which is usually a fairly easy-to-follow genre, even with the given plot twists.

The first book, The Butterfly Garden, starts with a girl named Maya discussing the past few years of her life. She was kidnapped and forced to live in a hidden garden with several other beautiful girls. They all are tattooed with giant butterflies on their backs and given new names.  However, when they hit 21, they are killed and preserved in resin. Maya realizes, given the number of butterflies already preserved, that the Gardener has been doing this for a long time. Because the book starts with her speaking to the FBI, you know Maya and others have escaped, but *how* that happens is told over the course of the book. The book isn’t graphic, but it is disturbing, so be warned.

The second book follows the FBI team again with a series of killings. Every spring, a girl is murdered, placed in a church, surrounded by flowers. Priya’s sister was one of the murdered girls. And now, several years later, Priya is receiving flowers on her porch. Maya and another butterfly (who will remain nameless to avoid spoilers) are mentioned in this book several times, as well. The FBI team has taken Priya on as a little sister of sorts, and take her situation very seriously, trying to determine if the flower-sender is the killer or just another crazy person who is obsessed with the case.

The last book, The Summer Children, again features the FBI team, namely the female member, in a string of murders. The parents of abused children are being murdered and the children left on the FBI team member’s doorstep. This book was the best well-written, in my opinion, and I was really sucked into figuring out who was behind the murders. Unlike the second book, I had no idea who it was until quite some time through the story.

As for the writing style, I’m sure it’s just my personal preference, but I felt like the author’s editor was a little too enthusiastic with the red-lining because there were scenes that were just not explained well, as if the reader had prior knowledge of the situation when, in reality, that wasn’t the case. I kept rereading to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Overall, the books are interesting enough for me to have kept reading, and when the fourth comes out this spring, I will for sure check it out. That FBI has grown on me, and I want to visit them again.

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In the Woods

I’ve heard of the Dublin Murder Squad books for awhile now and have been meaning to read them for awhile. I finally sat down and made a point to read the first one, In the Woods. I like a good thriller/murder mystery, and was really pleased with how well done this one is. It seems like most thrillers are cheap, predictable, and churned out so quickly that much thought isn’t put into craft. However, there were some really great passages in this book that made the reading experience much more enjoyable than the average thriller.

Det. Rob Ryan is a member of the Dublin Murder Squad, meaning his job is to investigate murders. His partner, Cassie, is like a sister and together, they make a great team. However, Rob’s secret has the ability to hinder his perspective. When he was a kid, three kids went into the woods to play, and only one, Rob, came out. The other two have never been found and Rob doesn’t remember much. He now goes by his middle name, went to boarding school and acquired a different accent, so he flies under the radar and no one, save Cassie, knows his story.

Their newest case is the death of a 12 year old girl whose body is found near the woods were Rob was found. His memories are triggered, and he wonders if the two situations are connected. The book is full of several twists and turns, some of them I saw coming, but most I didn’t, and by the end, I was reading as quickly as I could to see who killed the young girl and whether or not Rob was able to put all the pieces of his own childhood together. There are several other books in the series, all are spin offs of the previous one, and I can’t wait to delve back into this series.

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The Life We Bury

Finding a book I haven’t read shouldn’t be that hard, but when the librarian tried to give me recommendations, she went with the most popular books as of late, all of which I have read. For the 2017 book challenge, I have to read a book recommended by a librarian, so I approached the desk with my query. She recommended The Nightingale, Gillian Flynn books, The Girl on the Train, etc. Check. Check. Check. So, she went to Amazon to look for books that are similar to these and came up with The Life We Bury. So, not officially librarian recommended, but I’m sticking with it.

Joe Talbert is a college kid with the assigned task of writing an older person’s biography. He has no one in his life that fits this bill, so he heads to a local assisted living facility and finds Carl Iverson. Carl has been let out of prison because he’s dying of cancer. And, even though he was convicted of rape and murder, letting him out to die seemed to be the right thing to do. Unlike the other residents, Carl is fully lucid each day and is willing to tell his story. Joe isn’t really sure he even wants to hear this story, but the assignment is pressing. Joe lives two hours away from home, leaving behind an alcoholic mother and an autistic brother. As his mother pulls him back home for various reasons, we see Joe as a caring, protective brother. One night Joe has to bring his brother back home with him, to his tiny apartment, and runs into a neighbor, Lila, who is great with his brother and ends up getting sucked into Carl’s story as well.

Of course, being a thriller, there are twists and turns. Did Carl really commit this horrible crime? If not, who did? Carl has a very mysterious past, going all the way to Vietnam, and he has never been the same since. But has whatever happened in the past affected him so greatly that he would rape and murder a teenage girl? I felt like Joe’s brother was more of a catalyst to get Joe and Lila together rather than an actual important part of the story. But that might just me being overly critical. I really did enjoy the author, Allen Eskens’, writing style. I wouldn’t say the plot was predictable, but writing an original thriller is hard to do these days. However, his writing was really great. Sadly, I returned the book to the library already, or I would type up a few phrases that stood out. My apologies. But I have looked up his other works on Amazon and hope to read some of them soon.

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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!