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 ~

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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 ~

 

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney [eARC Review]

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

I know, I know, this book came out in March and I should have read this eARC then. But better late than never, right? I’ve heard such good things about this book and I’m so glad to finally be reading it! Here are my thoughts:

Summary (Goodreads): My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.
Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?


Review: It took me a while to get through this book, but I quite enjoyed it! However, I don’t think it necessarily lived up to all of the hype.

There are 3 different voices to the story: one is from the past, one is from the present, and the last is in the form of diary entries. The first two are from Amber’s perspective, however the diary entries are of a little girl whose identity is unknown. I thought this was an interesting way to tell the tale, and it was done quite well in that it generated a lot of intrigue.

I found the story moved a bit too slowly in the beginning for my taste, but the story started to pick up pace a little after the halfway point. It was around here that there were quite a few twists revealed. I quite liked the way they were introduced, as it brought a darker tone to the entire story and gave me that incentive to continue with the story.

The suspense continued all the way until the end, as more and more details were revealed. Even the ending has a little bit of a surprise to it.

I think the reason why this novel didn’t blow me away, considering all of the twists that were in the story, is that I had figured out quite a few of them. It’s not nearly as much fun to read a thriller when it pans out pretty much like you had imagined it would. Of course, if you hadn’t figured it out, then this novel might be more interesting to you.

I also didn’t love the writing style. I found it was a little … underwhelming in its tone; I wanted something fast-paced and full of darkness, but this was a little mellow. This novel went with a more subtle effect, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it didn’t work for me.

Overall, I liked this thriller. I thought it had a good amount of twists and turns and was quite different from other books in this genre. However, it didn’t blow me away. For those reasons, I’m giving it a solid 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Edelweiss for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

I don’t have much of a preamble for why I chose this book. It sounded creepy and I love creepy and gothic stories. Sometimes, that’s all a bookworm really needs!

36415770Summary (Goodreads): On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.

When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodging seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…


Review: I really wanted to love this book. Sadly, that was not to be. There were just too many issues in this novel for me to enjoy reading it. Also, trigger warning for rape; it wasn’t as graphic as in other books but it is uncomfortable and I wanted to mention it straight away.

First of all, the story was just … weird. It didn’t really have a plot. Things happened, for sure, but they lacked that deeper motive. It just felt like events and interactions were cobbled together so that there could be a story; there was nothing to tie everything together.

The novel also moves at a very awkward pace. On the one hand, it is slow because it takes a long time for anything to actually happen. However, the actual relationships between the different characters developed too quickly for it to be believable. In fact, I was shocked to see just how soon characters developed feelings (negative and positive) for each other; there was no build up to any of it, so it all fell very flat for me.

I also didn’t like any of the characters. They were all so flat and portrayed in a stereotypical way. It was hard to connect with any of them, including the protagonist – and the story is told from her perspective! Their motives, their behaviours, nothing was properly explained or developed and this just made the story fall apart even more for me.

The only thing I liked about this book is the writing itself. It was fairly easy to read, even though there were occasional slips into more modern ways of talking.

Overall, this book just did not work for me. It was a matter of development; neither the plot nor the characters were well-developed so the entire story just couldn’t stand up. I have to give this book a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

The Favourite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Edelweiss for this egalley in exchange for my honest review.

When I read Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, I remember grudgingly liking it. Why grudging? Well, I started reading it and didn’t like the beginning but pushed through anyways with the expectation that it would just get worse …. and then had to admit that it got better. When this book’s premise was released, I was intrigued enough to give it a try and see if my opinion about the author and her writing style had changed. Here is my review:

37832809Summary (Goodreads): Brett and Kelly Courtney are the shining jewels in a New York-based reality TV show called Goal Diggers. One of the most popular shows on American national television, its fiercely competitive cast of five self-made women are defined by their success, beauty and ruthless drive to reach the top by whatever means necessary.

The Courtney sisters’ rivalry goes skin deep despite the blossoming business they have built together that helps disadvantaged women in Morocco. Harbouring bitter jealousies and dark secrets about their manufactured screen lives they’re joined by three other hyper-competitive women who all have their own agendas. And the latest season promises sparks to fly in the quest for even higher ratings.

Vicious backstabbing, scathing social media attacks and finely-tuned scripting draw in the viewing public every week, all orchestrated by the show’s omnipotent producers. But even they don’t know that season 4 will end in murder…


Review: The first thing I’m going to say is that the same thing that happened with Luckiest Girl Alive happened here: I started this book absolutely hating it and then I pushed through and started to like it. But unlike my experience with the first book, this time there was no grudging admittance. I honestly really liked this book.

The story starts off in a bit of a confusing way. There is an interview happening in the present time … and someone is dead. Then the story gets into the past and all the events leading up to it.

The beginning of this story is very slow but there’s a good reason for it. There are 5 members of The Goal Diggers, a reality TV show, and the first part of the story, told from alternating perspectives of 2 of the cast members, highlights their various roles and personalities to cement their characters. It wasn’t the most interesting thing for me to read, especially as the characters waxed on about social issues too much; it started to just be an act of tokenism at that point. However, these were my initial thoughts.

As the story progressed and we got to the halfway point, I realized how necessary it was for the author to follow through with the novel in the way that she did. The rest of the story is all about how the interactions between the women become tense and how their relationships start to disintegrate because of the numerous lies they have accumulated. Their messages and views about female empowerment and sisterhood get twisted and we see a deeper and more realistic view of the issues that were brought up in the first half. The story starts to lose its humorous edge a little and we see the emergence of the thriller.

Now, I say emergence of a thriller with caution. This novel is not a thriller in the typical sense. It has thrills, yes, but it is not fast-paced, does not have a lot of action to it, and is more about uncovering all of the lies and learning to live with them than about figuring out the truth. This is more of a drama. A thriller-ish drama … I’m just going to stop trying to define it.

But it’s good. The author’s writing style and witty sarcasm becomes better and better with every turning page, as we see how the established ideas in the beginning are flipped and broken down. The characters become crazier and their interactions more disturbing. Everyone has ulterior purposes and no one is as good as they seem. And it’s addicting. I could feel this novel tugging at me to get to the bottom, and I gasped aloud quite a few times as the book drew to a close, where the action really ramped up.

I think that this is a novel that is worth pushing through because it reveals a lot about people and the length that someone will go to protect their image. While slow in the beginning, this novel quickly becomes addicting with its drama-filled scenes, and still manages to address some key social issues. I’m giving this book a 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~