The French Girl by Lexie Elliot

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

Every time I see a book with “Girl” in the title, it makes me cringe. There have been so many of them and I know there will be more still. And it’s not like they’re all amazing. But I always decide to give them a chance. Because it’s all about that “what if” scenario. What if this book is unlike the rest? What if this book is actually super awesome and I’m missing out by not reading it? It is this hypothetical train of thought that made me decide to take the plunge and try this book. So here is my review:

6 friends studying at Oxford were spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer – until they met Severine. For Kate Channing, Severine was an intruder, someone whose beauty undermined the close-knit group’s loyalties to each other. And after a huge fight on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. It was also the night that Severine disappeared.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. As Kate is questioned alongside her friends, she stands to lose everything she has worked so hard to achieve. Desperate to clear her name, she tries to remember exactly what happened all those years ago. But as she digs into the past, she finds her present days to be filled with paranoia and madness. No one can be trusted.

When this novel began, I found it a bit boring because nothing really happened. However, I was very excited about the premise and was waiting for when things would speed up a bit. It didn’t take too long for the author to bring about the murder aspect of the story, which was good. I also liked all of the characters that the author introduced; while they were all flawed, they were well developed and easy to understand (for the most part). One thing I was really intrigued by was how Kate was constantly seeing Severine’s ghost. I definitely thought the author could have done more with it than she did, and when I got to the ending and nothing happened with those hallucinations, it made me quite disappointed. The author kept building up the tension, which I really enjoyed, delving into the different connections between all of the characters. It was very interesting how the author decided to portray the story and it captured my attention. But I felt like nothing was ever resolved. Nothing was ever revealed about what exactly happened that night. On top of that, the actual solving of the crime was very abrupt and rushed and didn’t give me any satisfaction at all. Everything ended up being so anti-climactic and that is really such a shame because it had all the works to be a good novel. Based on all of this, I would give it a 2/5 stars – and the 2 stars is because I liked the characters.

Happy reading ~

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The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker

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

I don’t know why I keep having this habit of reading books that are part of a series. But sometimes, I just see a synopsis that I can’t resist and I feel this NEED to request it. And then when I get my request approved, I HAVE to read it, and I don’t have the time to read the previous books in the series. But sometimes, I find that when I really like one of the books, I end up wanting to start the series properly. So with that kind of optimism, I began reading this novel… here is my review:

Robin Hessop and David Mallory barely escaped with their lives when dealing with a deadly cult. Now, they continue to try to unlock the truth behind a 700 year old conspiracy – the power behind the Templars. Infiltrating the group’s vast archives, Jessop and Mallory discover something unusual: a sacred mission that is hinted at in an ancient Templar passport. The mission hints at the transportation of a treasure, something that is invaluable. As the pair sifts through centuries of clues, they come face-to-face with a secret that could shake Christendom as we know it – and put their lives in danger.

So the author does a good job of explaining things such that it isn’t 100% necessary to have read the other books in order to understand what is going on. However, I would still say that this novel is best enjoyed as part of the series so that you can really get into the plot and feel a good connection with the characters. It was something that I had difficulty with because I didn’t really understand the interaction between Robin and David. There were also some other characters that were part of this story that kind of confused me; their actions and feelings didn’t make sense to me given their role in this story. However, I chalked it up to the fact that I don’t have the necessary background. It is clear when reading this novel that the author has done a great deal of research and really knows his Templar material! While this information is intriguing, at times it was overwhelming and unnecessary. It’s also not the most action-packed story I have ever read; the first 50+ pages were them simply trying to decode a document and it took a loooong time. While this may be accurate in its portrayal of the process, it makes for slow reading. The story does pick up after a while, and it was pretty interesting, but again, there were so many details thrown at you that it can be hard to keep it all straight. Overall, this was an interesting story but it is best enjoyed if you have read the previous books in the series. It had a bit too much detail and not enough character work for my liking, so for that reason, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

The Shadow List by Todd Moss – Judd Ryker #4

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

Once again, I unknowingly requested a book that was part of a series I had not read. And once again, I decided to just hope that I would understand what was going on anyways. What drew me to this novel was that its premise reminded me of a really awesome series that I began (but have yet to finish) – the Sigma Force series. I wanted to see how this novel compares to that series… so here is my review:

We have all gotten those scam emails before, the ones from people telling us they care about us and promising a windfall. And we always wonder how can anyone be so naive as to fall for this kind of swindling. But it’s no laughing matter. It is one of the biggest organized crime rackets in the world – and State Department crisis manager Judd Ryker is right in the middle of it. When a young American disappears in London, Ryker is assigned to this case. However, his investigation soon leads him to the heart of a corruption scandal in Nigeria. At the same time, Judd’s CIA agent wife, Jessica, finds herself chasing a Russian master criminal known as the Bear. Neither of them is aware that they are both tugging on different ends of the same string. Jessica has always warned Judd that the world is messy and dangerous. Now, Judd is going to experience it for himself.

So this novel is really fast-paced. There are a lot of characters and there’s a lot going on, so you really need to stay focused. It was quite easy to follow in spite of my complete lack of background on the series. However, I would recommend that interested readers start from the beginning so that they can have a better understanding of the story and characters. While the story was interesting, I found that it was a little too convoluted. There were too many angles and too many things going on that didn’t tie up as well as I wish they would have. Even though the author chose a really interesting topic to base the story on, I felt my interest wane as too many things were thrown in and not enough was explored at times; it just felt like it was missing some depth. I had no problem with pacing or character development. But if I had to compare this to the Sigma Force series, then I would definitely prefer the Sigma Force series. For me, this novel was just okay and I would give it a 2.5/5 rounded to 3 stars.

Happy reading ~

Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

I’ve got a whole slew of mysteries and thrillers to catch up on, so I thought this novel would be a good place to start. It’s gotten quite a lot of positive reviews, and it has a female protagonist so I thought it would be right up my alley. Here is my review:

Detective Gemma Monroe knows that secrets and lies don’t stay buried forever. One of her first cases involved finding the bones of two teenage boys who had gone missing years ago. To this day, she doesn’t know what happened to them, and this is something that has always haunted her. In a place like Cedar Valley, most cases are easy to close. Like the case 3 years ago where the mayor’s son died in a tragic accident, slipping off of a cliff while hiking with friends. But when a recent murder victim is identified as the mayor’s son, Gemma must question everything she knew. Her investigation takes her from the seedy grounds of a traveling circus to the powerful homes of the Cedar Valley elite. Pregnant, and with no one she can trust, Gemma must track a killer who will stop at nothing to keep those secrets hidden forever. 

This was quite an interesting story that attempted to connect 2 different crimes. I really liked the main character, who had a lot of spunk and had a really good backstory. There were a bunch of other characters that were also introduced, but I wish the author had spent more time in developing relationships between them and Gemma; most of them were pretty well explained but some (like the one with her boyfriend) were really not developed at all, which was a shame. The story itself had a good pacing and I found myself intrigued as to how everything would come together. I also love everything to do with circuses, so having that be a part of the story was a little treat for me! The story itself was going really well but the ending was a bit rushed, and clichéd. As usual, the perp spills the beans on everything, but the explanation wasn’t as well formed as I liked. Overall, this was an interesting story that had good pacing and a strong main character so I give this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Hide and Seek by M. J. Arlidge – Helen Grace #6

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

At first, I wasn’t aware that this book was part of a series. And when I saw that it was the 6th novel, I gave up on the idea of trying to read the previous novels before this one. I just hoped I could follow along! Here is my review:

Helen Grace was one of the best police investigators. Now, she finds herself behind bars with the very killers she caught. Framed for murder, she knows that her only chance to make things right is to survive until her trial and prove her innocence. But when a mutilated body is found in the cell next door, Helen realizes that someone is targeting prisoners … and she might be next.

At first, it was a little hard to catch up with the story. This is a book best enjoyed after reading all of the previous novels, as it will just make things easier to understand. However, I was still able to get the gist of things and it was still a really enjoyable read. I liked Helen’s character a lot; even though she was a prison, she showed intelligence and grit at all times. I make note of this because a lot of times I find that authors don’t maintain the personality of the protagonist as the story progresses, which is a pet peeve for me. But that didn’t happen here so YAY! There were a lot of other characters that were integral to the story; at first that worried me because I am terrible at remembering people, but the author made each one unique and made sure to make many connections and reminders so I didn’t have that problem. This novel basically has 2 stories going on: Helen trying to figure out who the killer is in the prison, and Charlie, Helen’s friend, trying to prove that Helen is innocent by arresting the right person. I found myself more drawn to Helen’s story than Charlie’s; it was more organized while Charlie just seemed to run around a lot, grasping at straws. The fact that Charlie managed to sort things out was a little hard for me to believe, but perhaps the detective work for that was set up in a previous novel so I don’t want to pass judgement on that. I also liked that the story was told from different perspectives as it gave the story more depth. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I think I may actually read the rest of the series!

Happy reading ~

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When you’ve read as many psychological thrillers as I have, you always get apprehensive when someone promotes a book. I’ve been let down a lot of times… but I’ve also found some gems. This one? It’s a gem.

Paul Strom has the perfect life: he has an amazing career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two lovely boys, and a big house in a wealthy neighbourhood. And he prides himself on being perfect: the perfect husband, the perfect father, a provider and protector. So when he plans a romantic weekend getaway with his wife at their lake house, he is confident that it will be the best day ever. But as Paul and his wife, Mia, drive toward the countryside, Paul notices that there is a spike of tension that has surfaced. As the doubts start to arise, they question the trust they have in each other how perfect their marriage really is.

This novel started slowly and I almost decided to quit. But I’m glad now that I stuck through with it because it is such an amazing thriller. This novel is creepy and spine-tingling and everything you want from a psychological thriller. Paul gave me bad vibes from the start, what with his attitude on women. However, as the story goes on, we see how incredibly insane he actually is. While everything is written from his defensive perspective, we as the reader retain our own belief that he is utterly mad. The story takes place within a span of 24 hours and there are all of these little hints and clues that indicate that something is not right. I love how the author went about developing the story, and I love how the author created and maintained Paul’s character. He is delusional about himself and that becomes apparent as we keep reading the story, and it just adds to that creepy-horror feeling. I don’t think the story really had that much of a twist but I don’t think that every psychological thriller needs one; it just needs to have the thrills, and this one definitely had that! The only negative point I can come up with is that the ending switched into Mia’s perspective, which I really didn’t care that much about. It’s good to know how things worked out but I would have preferred to have heard more from Paul instead, as he was the main character for such a large part of the story. In any case, this was a really good thriller that had me at the edge of my seat and I look forward to reading more by this author!

Happy reading ~

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek by Anthony O’Neill

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really like when authors take a classic story and put their own spin on it, or try to add onto it. The problem is this is not always successful. Sometimes, it can be amazing but other times, the attempt fails miserably. It’s a hit-or-miss situation… but I’m always game to try it out! I was super happy to have received this ARC, and here is my review:

It has been 7 years since Edward Hyde died, when one day a stylish gentleman arrives claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful laywer and confidant knows that this man is an imposter – because only Utterson knows that Jekyll was Hyde. But as the imposter goes around charming all of Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming his estate, Utterson finds himself the only challenger. And as the bodies of others who really knew Jekyll start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life … and questioning his own sanity.

So I liked the concept here. But this one leans more towards a miss than a hit for me. The author jumps right into the story, and I really liked that because it immediately sets up the stage. For those who have never read the original class, fear not! The author gives enough hints that the reader can piece the whole thing together. The reason that this novel didn’t work for me was because it felt very rushed. Utterson’s panic and conviction are realistically portrayed but the madness of his behaviour and the flurry of events that occurred were sometimes hard to follow. It didn’t allow the story to develop deeply enough. I wish that the author had slowed down, had made Utterson talk to the imposter a few more times, so that we could have also believed that the imposter might not be Jekyll. I didn’t really have any impression whatsoever of the fake Jekyll because there were so few scenes that involved him! There was also other characters that were introduced but then they faded away, and it just made it a very confusing read. I also didn’t really like the ending, as it made the novel a moot point. At the end of the day, this novel showed that the original never really needed a sequel. While I appreciate the author’s efforts, it just didn’t work for me.

Happy reading ~

 

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you follow my blog, then you know I love dark, messed up stories. It’s not just about it being a murder mystery or a psychological thriller; I am in love with stories that freak you out and make you cringe in horror because they are just that insane and diabolical. That was what I hoped to get from this book. And I did. Here is my review:

Marion Zetland is a timid spinster in her fifties who lives with her domineering older brother, John, in an old and decaying townhouse. Her only friends are her teddy bears and the imaginary relationships she makes up at night. These are the only things that help her shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar. As long as she never has to go down to the cellar, Marion can live with the slight twinge of unease that comes from knowing about John’s secret. But when John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down there, she has no choice but to face the gruesome truth. And as questions are asked and secrets begin to reveal themselves, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side …

This novel was advertised as a cross between Room and Grey Gardens. While I’ve never read Grey Gardens, I can definitely say that this is not at all like Room and making that comparison is a misnomer. In fact, it led me astray in terms of my expectations. However, that does not in any way mean that I didn’t like this novel. In fact, I loved it! This was a slow burning, tension-building story that seriously creeped me out by the end. If anything, I would describe this novel as more of a character study of Marion and John, told from Marion’s perspective. She talks about her life and how people view her as timid and plain. She talks about how much she depends on her brother, John, and how she never feels like she is good enough. She wishes for a great deal and in the beginning, she seems to have a simplistic mindset … but it becomes clear near the middle/end that she is much smarter than one might have thought. While there is never any doubt in the reader’s mind that John is the main villain, this story makes the reader question the responsibility and culpability of a “bystander” like Marion. The premise of the story reveals most of what this book about, but for once, that doesn’t bother me because the plot isn’t the real interesting aspect about this book; it is watching how Marion evolves and changes that is of real interest to the reader. To be quite honest, I think this is a really fantastic and dark read that looks at a horrendous situation in a very different light. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a slow but creepy book, and who is not wary of gruesome content.

Happy reading ~

The House by Simon Lelic

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was very excited to read this thriller because its premise seemed to hint at a haunted house type of story. And I’m a sucker for anything to do with houses with a past. I was super happy to receive an ARC but because of my vacation, I wasn’t able to get to it until now. Anyways, here is my review:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime? When Jack and Syd find the perfect house, they can’t wait to put in an offer. They never thought they would get it – but they did. They moved in, excited to make it their forever home. When they made a gruesome discovery in the attic, they decide to ignore it. They’re willing to put anything in the past so that they can continue to live in their dream home. But that was a mistake. Because someone was murdered right outside their back door. And now the police are watching them…

So the story is written for the most part as journal entries between Syd and Jack. They are recalling the events that led them to a certain point in the novel. At first, I found this a cool concept. They keep hinting at some bad thing that happened to them, and every time they hinted at it, I became more eager to find out what it was. It was also weird/interesting how they responded to each others’ entries. However, that was probably the only thing I really enjoyed about the story. The themes that this story revolved around were sad but common ones in this genre so I wasn’t really blown away by anything. I also found the plot to be a tad bit predictable. I never felt connected to the characters, and I pretty much lost interest around the 30% mark. I kept reading because I didn’t find the writing style terrible and I just wanted to make sure that my predictions were correct (and they were). There was a lot of hype around this book, and quite a few people liked it. However, I wasn’t one of them. This really wasn’t much of a thriller for me. And the house didn’t play as much of a central role as I had hoped. This novel gets 2/5 stars from me, and only because I liked the writing style.

Happy reading ~

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw this novel on NetGalley, I knew I had to have it as an ARC. The story of Lizzie Borden is such an intriguing mystery, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. I really wanted to know how the author would go about presenting it and so, I was really happy to have received the ARC! Here is my review:

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. No one knows what to make of this: who would ever want to harm the respected Bordens? But there is a much darker story lurking beneath the surface and it becomes increasingly clear that the Bordens were not your typical family. Andrew Borden had an explosive temper, the stepmother was spiteful and moody in nature, and the two spinster sisters were stuck in the middle of it all. As the police continue to investigate, Emma tries to comfort Lizzie, whose memories of that morning are fragmented. Lizzie is an unreliable witness at best, as her story keeps changing every time she tells it. As the perspectives switch from Lizzie, to Emma, to the housemaid Bridget, and to the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are revealed.

I had really high hopes for this novel but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to all of my expectations. While I don’t think this was a bad book, it had quite a few flaws that made it an unremarkable read for me. For one thing, I found it very difficult to characterize Lizzie. She is clearly an adult but the way she speaks and acts is very childlike. If the author’s attempt was to make Lizzie creepy, well, it worked. But it also made it very confusing because I just couldn’t understand what went on in her mind. Perhaps the author was hinting that Lizzie might not be a fully-developed adult in terms of her mental acuity, in which case this characterization works. But it just didn’t work for me. Now, the author did a really great job of portraying how different the family dynamics were in the Borden residence compared to most other Victorian families. I mean, the fact that there are 2 spinster daughters was in itself unusual as families back then were very eager to wed eligible daughters. The controlling demeanour of the father and the stepmother’s attitude were also interesting details that the author put into the story. I think my favorite character in the entire story was Bridget – because she was the only sane person! At many points in the story, I found it an uphill battle to continue pushing through. There were certain details that I really found boring or unnecessary and some perspectives just weren’t that interesting to me. However, as the second half of the book progressed, I will admit that the author dialed up the tension and my intrigue came back. I quite liked the way the author ended the story, as it went along with my own thoughts about this case. Overall, this novel was an interesting retelling of the Borden murders but the characters felt off and some parts of the novel dragged on. I would give this a 2.5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~