Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Ever since the release of The Party, Robyn Harding has been a buzzing name in the thriller-writer world. So many people loved that book – but I was not one of them. Nevertheless, I wanted to give her another shot and see if maybe I would see the spark that everyone else was seeing. Here is my review:

36373379Summary (Goodreads): Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.
A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she thought that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into Forrester’s world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart…because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunick. And she’s a murderer.

 


Review: 

The best way to summarize this book is that it is about friendships and past secrets. And I know this sounds intriguing. I mean, it’s what drew me to the story in the first place. And in the beginning, it really was quite good. There was that typical start that I’m noticing in a lot of thrillers, where a woman who feels like she doesn’t belong with other “moms” meets a glamorous “mom” who becomes her best friend. The author also created a good amount of tension that pulled the reader into the story.

But ultimately …. nothing really … happened.

I mean, it was just so predictable. You’ve got these two women who both have “dark secrets” but it is quite obvious from the start who is the more “dangerous” one, just from the way the author relies on overused tropes. Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. It’s a tried-and-tested trope that works so if it ain’t broke, why fix it? But there was nothing unique about the story. There was lack of depth in plot and character interactions, and I didn’t even really like the main characters.

But when I mean nothing happened, I literally mean that NOTHING HAPPENED IN THIS STORY. One character discovers the truth, and when the information gets out …. well, that’s pretty much how the story ends. It just felt like there was all this buildup and it led to pretty much a pointless story. The other character also had a “resolution” of her ghosts but it was quite disappointing; it basically happened in the last 15-20 pages of the book and there was no introspection or depth to it. And I know that the whole point of hyping this character’s past was to make readers suspect her intentions, but it was such a disappointing truth that I felt cheated out of an experience.

I know it seems like I hated this book. But my main problem was just with how things ended. I still think the idea behind the story is very interesting, and it reminded me a lot of the story of Karla Homolka (and that is all I’m going to say because NO SPOILERS). The actual writing of the story was quite good and it was a quick read. However, the ending left me unsatisfied and because the author had so hyped it up with all the tension, I just couldn’t get over the disappointment. For that reason, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

2 star

Happy reading ~

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The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Well, I was super excited by this premise and I was very happy to have received an eARC. But after reading it, I must say that it did not live up to my expectations. Here is my review:

32187685Summary (Goodreads): Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

When the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, however, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all.

But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?


 

Review:

Like I said, this story has a very interesting premise. I’ve heard numerous stories about people falling in love with prisoners on death row who have committed some horrendous crimes, and how they believe that the prisoner is innocent. I thought it would be interesting to see the author’s take on this situation, especially since in this story, the prisoner is said to be wrongly convicted.

But the story left me disappointed.

Everything just felt rushed. The initial contact between Samantha and Dennis that led to them “falling in love” was extremely unbelievable. It was definitely a case of insta-love – even if it didn’t happen instantaneously. There was no proper buildup; over the course of a few letters, they declared their feelings for each other and that was that.

The story showed some promise when Dennis was released and Samantha started having her doubts. It made me think that the story would finally redeem itself and be full of the tension I expect in a thriller.

And then it let me down again. The ending was rushed, and quite anticlimactic. It didn’t really make much sense, and I felt like I had been taken on a long ride that didn’t have any fun parts to it.

Overall, I thought the premise was interesting but the story’s execution left a lot to be desired. I know a lot of people really liked this book and it has won some awards as well but I just couldn’t love it. For those reasons, this book gets 2/5 stars from me.

2 star

Happy reading ~

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Well everyone, here I am, back again with my reviews! I’ve actually been reading all of these books during my hiatus but I just didn’t have the time to put everything into a blog post. But it’s here now, so I hope you all enjoy!

35410511Summary (Goodreads):  Sweetness can be deceptive.
Meet Hanna.
She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

 


Review:

To say that this book was creepy would be an understatement. It was INCREDIBLY creepy. I really thought that the premise of this story was intriguing (and messed up – in a good way) and I’m really glad that I got a chance to read it.

The strongest aspects of this story were the development of the characters and the way the plot developed. I thought writing the story from the perspective of both Hanna and Suzette was a clever one, as it gave us a lot of insight into what was happening in their heads. I wish the author hadn’t spent so much time describing all of the details of Suzette’s medical condition – even for me, it was a bit dull and I found that it didn’t necessarily add all that much to the story. A brief mention of the condition would have sufficed. I definitely preferred reading from Hanna’s perspective and the author captured her voice perfectly.

In terms of the plot, it was really well executed with a gradual building of tension that eventually led to the main climactic event. There was just the right amount of tautness to keep the reader on edge, wondering how the story would unfold. I think that there were moments that had the reader questioning whether everything was really as simple and clearcut as initially presented – was the mother really the victim, and was the child really evil? – but this idea wasn’t developed further. I wish it had been because it would have added more depth and nuance to take the story to that next level.

With all that being said, I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was a very interesting concept and the author definitely delivered on the tension and creepy factor. For me, this story gets a 4/5 star rating!

4 star

Happy reading ~

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

I have been meaning to read more books about marriages, as a special challenge to myself. There are so many novels that are about this topic or that have the word “marriage”, “husband”, or “wife” in their title, so I thought it would be interesting to make reading these books a priority on my list, just to compare and contrast all of the different ideas that are out there. This story caught my eye, not only because of its title, but also because of its premise.

31748890Summary (Goodreads): Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.


My Rating: 2 star

Review: This is another case of a novel that started off in a very interesting way but eventually just kinda let me down. I really really loved the premise of this book. The idea of there being a society that is all about preserving marriages and making them last is really intriguing, and seeing a diabolic side to this club was something I was really looking forward to. However, I didn’t really get everything that I wanted from this book.

First of all, this story is told entirely from Jake’s perspective, which I thought was really interesting since most books I’ve read about marriages are told from the wife’s perspective. I think the author did a really good job of writing in a male voice and I really feel like I got a good understanding of Jake’s character and the way his marriage worked with Alice. Alice and the other characters in the book were a bit lackluster compared to Jake, but I was prepared to forgive that for the sake of this intriguing story.

But the story turned out to be quite boring. It revolves around Jake and Alice being a part of this elite and secret club and they find out soon enough that the club is very serious about its members following their mandates. There’s a lot of punishments involved, but for a large part of the story, we are just told about them and not really given a chance to experience it from the POV of our MC. The story plods along at a slow pace with nothing much happening, except for Jake’s constant worries about how things are going for Alice with The Pact. I was really hoping for there to be a lot more of a sinister air to the story with a lot more action. I was mostly just bored and could not wait to get to the good stuff.

The ending was an interesting twist, I suppose, but it felt just as lackluster as the rest of the story. There was nothing to really enjoy … except for the fact that this book was finally coming to a close.

So, while the writing was good, the pacing of the story was awfully slow and the lack of tension and intrigue made this a very boring novel. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

This novel sounded super interesting to me and I wanted to see if it would be different from other novels dealing with marriage in the thriller category. Here are my thoughts:

Goodreads (Summary): Before she disappeared, Alexandra Southwood lived an average, happy life: devoted to her wonderful husband, Marc, and caring for her two beautiful daughters. But now, held in a room against her will, Alexandra is forced to think about all she’s lost, and imagine how Marc and her daughters are coping in the wake of her disappearance. She’s shown news clips of Marc, desperately appealing to the public for information on her whereabouts. She tortures herself with visions of her family’s devastated new reality. And as she envisions Marc’s distress, she can’t help but remember their courtship, their marriage–all that he saved her from and all that they’ve built together.

Marc’s pain is visceral. He thinks of nothing but her. Even when the police discover Alexandra’s bloody belongings by the river, turning their missing-persons case into a murder investigation, he cannot accept that she is lost to him. He shifts from total despair to frantic action, embarking on his own journey through the dark maze of secrets she kept and passions he never understood. Following a trail that leads him to find answers to questions he never meant to ask, he’s forced to confront how frighteningly little he’s grasped about the woman he loves.


My Rating: 3 star

Review: It’s been a few days now since I’ve read this book and I still have no idea how I feel about it. Was this a terrible book or a genius work of literature? I will hopefully be able to answer that question by the time I’m done this review.

This story is told entirely from Alexandra’s perspective, and it’s done in a very different way. One chapter, told from Alexandra’s voice, is recalling the past and how Alexandra and Marc got to this point in their life. The other chapter is about how Marc is dealing with the current situation…. but it is told through Alexandra as she imagines what he must be going through. This chapter also ends with Alexandra talking about herself in the present moment with her unknown captor, and occasionally, there are letters written from Alexandra’s friend from her college days. It’s a very weird way to tell this story but it somehow… works…. ish. Even though Alexandra is telling the reader what Marc must be going through, I still felt as if I really was able to understand Marc’s character. He was someone who I could really get behind as a main character and I liked that this novel had a male protagonist instead of the usual female one.

This book does have a focus on the art world but the author doesn’t make it overbearing. The art information in the story is detailed enough to make its point but it wasn’t overly detailed or boring. The story itself was able to come through, which was really nice.

Now, I can’t really talk much about the plot itself. But what I will say is that this novel focuses on a few things, one being the role of a woman in marriage and in family life, and the lengths one will go to create art. In terms of both of these aspects, I thought the author brought up some food for thought and I really found myself pondering some of the questions this book raises. I will admit that the story took a long time to make itself clear and the ending was one that definitely left me stunned and confused … but it was a situation where I really couldn’t pinpoint whether I loved it or hated it. It was rushed, it had some ludicrous elements to it … and yet, it brought an interesting perspective that I had never really considered before.

This book is definitely not like any other thriller I have ever read. It is a bit slower in pacing, but there are so many unique elements to this story from the writing style to the actual themes in the book itself. It is one of those books that you will either love or hate … and I think I am leaning towards the former!

Happy reading ~

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

This novel had me excited for a number of reasons. For one thing, it had such an interesting and (slightly) disturbing premise! And this novel takes place in Toronto, where I’m from! I have been seeing it everywhere in my local bookstores so I really wanted to go out and get a copy. Here are my thoughts:

Summary (Goodreads): Jean Mason has a doppelganger. At least, that’s what people tell her. Apparently it hangs out in Kensington Market, where it sometimes buys churros and shops for hats. Jean doesn’t rattle easy, not like she used to. She’s a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving business, and Toronto is a fresh start for the whole family. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved in anything dubious, but still . . . why would two different strangers swear up and down they’d just seen her–with shorter hair furthermore?

Jean’s curiosity quickly gets the better of her, and she visits the market, but sees no one who looks like her. The next day, she goes back to look again. And the day after that. Before she knows it, she’s spending an hour here, an afternoon there, watching, taking notes, obsessing and getting scared. With the aid of a small army of locals who hang around in the market’s only park, she expands her surveillance, making it known she’ll pay for information or sightings. A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants–the regulars of Bellevue Square–are eager to contribute to Jean’s investigation. But when some of them start disappearing, it becomes apparent that her alleged double has a sinister agenda. Unless Jean stops her, she and everyone she cares about will face a fate stranger than death.


My Rating: DNF

Review: I rarely DNF a book. But this one … I just couldn’t do it.

I think my major problem with this novel was the way it was written. At first, I found the rambling voice of Jean to be intriguing, as it let the reader understand the way her mind worked.

But then it got old. Worse, it got boring. And this is with there being scenes with action to them.

I found myself very confused as to what was happening, and who was talking, and just … I couldn’t figure out the point of it all. Does Jean have schizophrenia? She certainly seemed like she had the symptoms.

Even though this novel had an unusual premise and I saw quite a few people give it 5 stars, I just couldn’t push through. I need my novels to make sense and not go off in multiple directions that don’t necessarily make any sense. I may come back to this novel at some later point in time, when I actually want to push through and give this book another chance. But for now, it is staying in the DNF pile.

Happy reading ~

The Girl I Used To Be by Mary Torjussen

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

I am definitely on a roll right now with the thrillers! Most of the books that I have been reading for this month are thrillers and it has been quite interesting to see the trend in this genre, and how different authors go about trying to tell a tale that is unique and twisty enough for readers! Here is my review of this thriller:

Summary (Goodreads): The morning after real estate agent Gemma Brogan has dinner with a prospective client, she’s furious at herself for drinking so much. But there will be more to regret than a nasty hangover.

She starts receiving mementos from that night: A photo of a hallway kiss. A video of her complaining about her husband. And worse…much worse. The problem is she doesn’t remember any of it.

As the blackmailing and menace ramp up, Gemma fears for her already shaky marriage. The paranoia, the feeling that her life is spiraling out of control, will take her back to another night–years ago–that changed everything. And Gemma will realize just how far the shadows from her past can reach…


My Rating:  2 star

Review: Unfortunately, this book just missed the mark for me. I think the premise was really interesting. However, I didn’t think the story was told in an interesting way.

The story is split into Part 1 and Part 2, and Part 1 is entirely from Gemma’s perspective. Right away, I pegged the person behind her paranoia (even though I didn’t know the motive). Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; I was excited to see how the author would tie things together. However, it took way too long to get to it. The story moves along very slowly and I found myself quite bored with the story. I wanted that feeling of heightened tension and the dread creeping over Gemma … but I really didn’t get much of that at all.

Part 2 was a lot faster in pacing, which was a relief since it also contained the revelations. Now, I don’t think the actual thought process behind the revelations was bad, but the way it was delivered didn’t really work for me. It was a little too easy for Gemma to figure out who was behind it all, and I really felt as if the author told me rather than showed me.

The other negative part of this novel was that I didn’t really feel any connection to the character. Gemma was okay, but lacked a lot of personality. Most of the novel was about her husband not stepping up and helping her, and while I sympathized with this, it made her come off as one-dimensional. There is a revelation in Part 2 about something that happened to her, and it took me aback because I don’t think the author created any hint of this traumatic event so it seemed like it came out of nowhere and didn’t really fit with her character.

Overall, I think that this novel had an interesting story idea but missed the mark in terms of execution. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Girlfriend by Sarah J. Naughton [eARC Review]

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

34929067Summary (Goodreads): After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her rebellious brother, Abe, is in a coma, and the police suspect he tried to take his own life. But Mags isn’t so sure, and she begins to crack away at the life of the brother she once knew: the dark apartment building, the whispering tenants, and her brother’s mysterious girlfriend, the only witness to the incident, who raises more questions than answers. As Mags picks up where the police left off, she begins to unearth the secrets her brother left behind—and awakens her own talent for revenge.


Review: TW: There are mentions of abuse in this story, so please be aware. It isn’t described in too much detail but there is enough to make some readers uncomfortable.

This was an interesting novel, for sure. It just wasn’t my favourite.

I think that the story was unique in that it was told primarily from the perspective of 3 female characters. I liked that each one was different and had their own personality. I don’t think I necessarily loved any of the characters but they added for an interesting element to the story.

I thought the story itself was interesting … but it didn’t hold my interest constantly. The author definitely tried to incorporate quite a few twists into the story – and they did. But it was a bit underwhelming in its delivery. Perhaps this was because once the twist was delivered, the author also spent some time explaining it, which lost the effect of showing the reader something new and it just felt like I was being told what was happening.

I also was surprised by the legal turn the story took. I wasn’t expecting it, and I don’t think it really worked for me. It ended up slowing down the pacing of the story, when I would have preferred for it to be fast.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad thriller. It just wasn’t the type of thriller I was looking for. While there were moments that were interesting, I started to lose my focus closer to the end. I would give this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Looking Glass by Andrew Mayne – The Naturalist #2

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I remember reading The Naturalist, and not enjoying it too much. However, I wanted to see where the story would continue in this second book. Let’s just say I’m glad I gave this series another shot! Here is my review:

35157278Summary (Goodreads): Professor Theo Cray caught one of the most prolific serial killers in history using revolutionary scientific methods. Cut off from university research because of the shroud of suspicion around him after the death of his former student and the aftermath of catching his quarry, Cray tries to rebuild his life but finds himself drawn into another unsolved case.

The desperate father of a missing child, ignored by the authorities and abandoned by his community, turns to Theo for help. The only clues are children’s drawings and an inner-city urban legend about someone called the Toy Man.

To unravel the mystery behind the Toy Man, Theo must set aside his scientific preconceptions and embrace a world where dreams and nightmares carry just as much weight as reality. As he becomes immersed in the case, he discovers a far-reaching conspiracy—one that hasn’t yet claimed its last victim.


Review: To say that this book was better than its predecessor would be an understatement. Where The Naturalist was just okay for me, this novel was a lot more intriguing!

This novel makes enough references to The Naturalist that it isn’t completely necessary for the reader to have read the first book. However, I would strongly urge readers to do so because it gives you a better idea of what kind of story you are getting into.

That being said, I liked Theo’s character a lot more this time than previously. Maybe it was because he had already gone through one harrowing experience and was making smarter decisions this time around when it came to the authorities. Maybe it was his smartass comments. Either way, it was great. I only wish the other characters in this story had held up as well as he did. Granted, they play minor roles compared to Theo, but it would have been nice to get more of a feel for them and have them less cookie-cutter.

I also really liked the story itself. There was a ton of action but everything flowed and made sense. There were a couple of times where I was caught off guard and needed to reread something, but it was quite interesting. I did find the ending a teeny bit disappointing, but I enjoyed the journey to get there.

One of the things I really like about this book is the writing style. There is a fair amount of scientific jargon but it’s presented in a way that makes it easy for everyone to understand, and it is only given when necessary. I admire how well researched the ideas for this book are and I liked how it naturally flowed with the plot of the story.

Overall, I found this novel to be engaging and fast-paced, with a good story line and a very interesting main character. It wasn’t perfect, but I definitely enjoyed reading it. Solid 3/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

Find You in the Dark by Nathan Ripley [eARC Review]

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley and the publishers in exchange for my honest review.

This book had a synopsis that guaranteed I had to read it. Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with me for liking really creepy and messed-up books … but then again, I love reading these books too much to care! Anyways, here is my review:

36580669.jpgSummary (Goodreads): Martin Reese has a hobby: he digs up murder victims. He buys stolen police files on serial killers, and uses them to find and dig up missing bodies. Calls in the results anonymously, taunting the police for their failure to do their job.

Detective Sandra Whittal takes that a little personally. She’s suspicious of the mysterious caller, who she names the Finder. Maybe he’s the one leaving the bodies behind. If not, who’s to say he won’t start soon?

As Whittal begins to zero in on the Finder, Martin makes a shocking discovery. It seems someone—someone lethal—is very unhappy about the bodies he’s been digging up.

Hunted by a cop, hunted by a killer. To escape and keep his family safe, Martin may have to go deeper into the world of murder than he ever imagined.


Review: I really really wanted to love this book, and I had high expectations for it because the premise just sounded so amazing. However, it just didn’t work for me.

I think one of my big problems with this book is that it has a very slow pace. It took a long time for the story to get going and even when it did, it wasn’t necessarily presented in the most interesting way. I wanted things to be fast-paced to keep in line with the intensity of the premise. But this was definitely a slow burner of a story, and I don’t know if it really worked well for this type of novel.

I also didn’t really like any of the characters and found the style of conversation between different characters to be very stilted and awkward. It really wasn’t realistic at all, which is one of my pet peeves. I wish the interactions had been developed better as that really hindered my ability to enjoy reading this book. I also felt that the characters lacked the depth I was looking for. Martin is just very, very dull for the longest time and I found him annoying. I didn’t like the two police detectives as they were very cookie-cutter and one-dimensional; I wanted something more unique from them.

Overall, this novel had an interesting premise but it didn’t meet my expectations. I wanted deeper characters and a faster pace, so for these reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~