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 ~

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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

This is the third novel I have read by this author, and so far, I’ve had mixed reviews on her work. There are certain aspects that I like but for the most part, I always end up feeling that I got a lackluster experience. However, I always like to give people multiple chances, especially when I see that the majority of people like that story. So here is my review:

When Isa receives the text I need you from her childhood friend, she drops everything, takes her baby daughter, and heads straight for Salten. Salten is the place where Isa and her friends went to boarding school … and where one of her friends still lives. As the friends gather, they find out that something terrible has been found on the beach… something that will lead to the past being uncovered. This isn’t a cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, especially considering their history. When the girls were at school, they used to play the Lying Game where they competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. But with all the lies, the boundaries between fact and fantasy start to blur. And soon, Isa begins to ask herself: how much can you really trust your friends?

Compared to Ruth Ware’s previous novels, I quite enjoyed this one. The story was interesting and the suspense kept me going. I liked that the story switched from past to present; it’s a style that I’ve always enjoyed because it makes the reader actively think and engage with the story. I will be honest in that I found the story quite slow and not the most interesting thing I’ve read … but it was still interesting enough that I kept reading the book. The ending was a surprise and I enjoyed the twist that was there. I didn’t really like Isa’s character, as she whined quite a bit and just … wasn’t that interesting. Overall, I enjoyed this story more than any of Ware’s previous ones. However, this wasn’t my most favorite thriller of all times. This novel would probably satisfy fans of Ruth Ware’s previous work.

Happy reading ~

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

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

I’ve read a ton of books by May Kubica. Ever since I read The Good Girl, I have always taken the time to seek out her newest book and give it a go. While I have yet to find one I like as much as her debut, I think that she has really created a name for herself in the thriller genre. With that being said, Every Last Lie is her latest foray in the genre and it is being released in just a couple of weeks. So here is my review of the ARC:

When Clara Solberg finds out that her husband and their 4-year-old daughter were in a car crash, time stops. She is devastated to discover that while her daughter is unharmed, her husband has died in the accident. Clara is shrouded in mystery and everyone agrees that this is just a terrible tragic accident … until Maisie starts having nightmares that make Clara question what really happened in that car. Struggling with her grief and life as a single mother, and obsessed with discovering the truth behind Nick’s death, Clara is plunged into a world of lies. Who would have wanted Nick dead and why? Clare won’t stop until she finds out – but the truth may be more than she can handle.

From the very first page, the author had me in the palm of her hands. With vivid descriptions of Clare’s first moments dealing with the news of her husband’s passing, I was reeling from the emotions that were portrayed. The effect just grew stronger as Clare’s grief became more pronounced. Even though Clare was not as strong as I would have liked, I really liked her character; she was one of the most realistic characters I have ever met (in terms of her response to tragedy). The story is told from dual perspectives, with chapters alternating from Nick’s voice to Clare’s voice. It made for a very interesting story, and I kept trying to piece all of it together. This book really does make you think about all of the lies that can crop up between two people who love each other and the way in which they can alter the relationship! Every minute of the story was fantastic … until I reached the end. The ending just took me aback. After all of the buildup, after all of the paranoia and suspicions… it ended on such a bland note. I had been eagerly waiting for that satisfaction of the final reveal but it just … flopped on me. I had become so engrossed in the story and I had had such high expectations reaching the end, but the finale was just so lackluster that it made the whole story not worth reading. If you are a big fan of Mary Kubica, I would still recommend you read this novel because maybe you might enjoy it more than I did. I will be giving this book a 3.5/5 stars; in spite of its shabby conclusion, this novel was well-written and had skillfully portrayed characters that made it an enjoyable read (for the most part).

Happy reading ~

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

It has been a while since I have found myself unable to put a book down because it kept me on the edge of my seat. This is one of those books. After the number of thrillers I’ve read, I’m a lot more skeptical to positive reviews,  especially since I usually don’t agree with those positive reviews. This … was not one of them. That is all the introduction this novel needs so let me just jump into my review:

Everyone admires a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, and she has charm and elegance. They seem to have the perfect marriage, and are inseparable. Many would consider this to be true love. But what appears on the surface may not be as it seems. For one thing, Grace never leaves home. She doesn’t even have a phone. She defers in everything to her husband, who seems to have complete control over her. While this can be chalked up to personal choice, there are other things that can’t be ignored. For instance, why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows? As the story shows you what happens behind the closed doors of marriage, you will begin to wonder … is this the perfect marriage or the perfect lie?

Holy smokes, this novel scared me! I knew that there was something twisted about the marriage based on the premise, but the extent of it was something I could never fathom. This story is not a psychological thriller, and I want to emphasize this because this is what this novel is being described as by most bookstores and by the publishers. The truth is revealed from the onset, so there is no guessing as to what is going on. However, the sheer brutality and twisted nature of the story is what gets to you. The sadism and depravity shocked me and kept me compulsively reading this story. I loved how messed up this story was, and I loved how pure evil the antagonist is; I don’t think I have ever hated a character more (except for Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter). This novel moves at a break-neck pace and is emotionally charged throughout. I loved every minute of it. This novel isn’t perfect, but it is damn near close and if you are looking for a fast-paced thriller, then don’t miss out on this one!

Happy reading ~

Subject 375 by Nikki Owen – Project Trilogy #1

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

I have a neighbour who loves conspiracy theories. Whenever he gets the chance, he talks to me about the latest conspiracy theory he has heard about. What’s more, he strongly believes in each one. At one point in time, I would have laughed it off. However, ever since it became known that the NSA spies on people using technology, I’ve had to change my mind. When I read the premise of this book, it reminded me of my neighbour and I knew I had to read it. I’m surprised by how quickly I finished the novel, which is a testament to its addictive nature.

Dr. Maria Martinez is a brilliant plastic surgeon who has Asperger’s Syndrome. She has a very high IQ, an eidetic memory, and an incredible ability to decipher codes and patterns. She is also convicted of killing a priest. In an English prison, she is far away from her home and family in Salamanca, Spain. Although DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, she maintains that she is innocent. Amidst accusations that she is lying, Maria begins to remember things…. a strange room, strange people, being tested upon….but she still does not recollect ever committing murder. As Maria begins to put the pieces together, she starts to suspect that she may be at the heart of a conspiracy involving MI5, and a project known as Callidus. Who can she trust? Who are her friends and who are “handlers” that are watching her every move? Maria must find out what her role is in Project Callidus – before it is too late!

 

At first, I found myself a bit confused when reading this novel. It was hard for me to keep track of what exactly was happening. But very quickly, I got accustomed to the style of the author and the way that the story jumps back and forth in time. Maria’s character is extremely unique and the author has done a very good job in portraying the various behavioural and analytical aspects that come with a diagnosis of Asperger’s. The more I read, the more I liked Maria, and the more confused I got with what was the actual truth (which is the whole point of the story)! By the end of the novel, I was on tenterhooks and I just HAD to know what was going to happen next. I don’t think I have ever been this sad to have a novel finish! I hope the author is going to release the sequel to this novel soon because I just HAVE to know what happens to Dr. Maria Martinez! For those of you that like action-packed conspiracy novels with lots of murder and mystery, this is the story for you! It was just released on September 6th, so don’t waste any time in getting your hands on it!

Happy reading ~

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

This novel was one that I had attempted to read previously but had been unable to finish because I was just too depressed to focus on anything. Now that I am working on getting through my depression, it felt only right to return to this novel and give it the fair shot it deserves. So here is my review:

Abby Bernacki is adjusting to motherhood as smoothly as is possible. But soon, she begins to experience odd sensations around the house and in the presence of her baby daughter. When she starts to dig a bit further into the history of her home to try to answer some of her questions, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years ago and was institutionalized at Northampton Lunatic Hospital. The diary itself seems simple enough but soon reveals a more disturbing story at play. And the more Abby learns about Frances Barnett, the more she wonders about the potential presence of a negative supernatural influence in her home. Who was Frances Barnett and what drove her to madness? And more importantly, is Abby the next person who will lose her mind? 

I will admit that when I began this novel for the second time, I had high hopes for it. The buildup was slow yet enticing and I was eager to see how the story would unfold. Unfortunately, this novel let me down big time. The more I read, the more I felt like Abby was simply delusional. Most of the time, nothing was even happening to her and she created the “eerie” situation through her own actions. Just as the novel begins to pick up the pace, it starts to go in a weird direction that just seems rushed and abruptly ends. While everything makes sense, it wasn’t written out very well and just left me feeling startled. The ending had absolutely nothing to do with the premise and it seemed quite pointless by the end of it. All in all, not a good attempt and I will definitely not be recommending this book to anyone!

Happy reading ~

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

This novel sounded like your usual thriller about two sisters falling apart because of some tragedy and then something brings them back and they solve everything. So my expectations for this novel were not too high. I mean, there have been so many thrillers that have a similar story line that I really wasn’t expecting anything more. Well, let me just say that this novel delivered a WHOLE lot more than it promised and it was AMAZING!

It has been twenty years since Lydia and Claire have seen or spoken to each other. Claire is a glamorous trophy wife of a millionaire. Lydia is a single mother dating an ex-con (like herself) and struggles to make ends meet. But both sisters are scarred by the disappearance of their eldest sister, Julia, two decades ago. When Claire’s husband is murdered in an alley, she is distraught and lost to the world. But it is during this time that she finds something that changes her perception of the world her husband lived in – and the only person she can share this with is Lydia. Once again, the sisters are reunited albeit under strained circumstances. As they work together to unearth secrets that have been buried, they find a plot so twisted that their own lives may be in jeopardy.

Most of the time, thrillers focus on the discovery of the crime and the criminal and culminates in a rushed conclusion where the killer is apprehended. That is not the case in this novel. In this story, there is no neat ending; the novel continues on with what happens after the discovery of the killer is made. I absolutely loved this novel because it really is original; the author has taken the usual boundaries and pushed past them while still maintaining that epic thrill and the pleasure of redemption. I could not stop reading this book, even though I was in the middle of an important presentation. I just had to know what was going to happen next. This novel focuses on the tragedy of kidnapping and murder, of sexual violence, of the aftermath that a family faces in light of this pain. It explores the different ways people cope with these situations but it also shows the deeper evils that can be found in people we consider our “friends”; it even shows psychopaths as beings capable of empathy and love and pain (something that can be hard to believe). All in all, this was a great novel; to be honest, this is second only to Gillian Flynn’s work – and those who have read my previous posts on thrillers know that this is A BIG COMPLIMENT coming from me! So if you are looking for a thriller, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give this novel a shot! It will definitely be worth your while!

Happy reading ~

Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell

I get biweekly newsletters from the library that informs me of the latest novels coming in. I make sure to go through the newsletters thoroughly because a lot of times, I find some amazing novels like The Library at Mount Char. This book is also something that I found through the online newsletter and I had to wait quite a while for my library to order it and make it available.

When Carl sells some old dieting pills to his friend Stacy, he did not expect it to cause her death. Not only does he feel guilt for her accidental death but Carl’s tenant knows the truth. Dermot doesn’t like paying rent and now he has the perfect plan to save his money. He begins to blackmail Carl, all the while driving Carl to the edge of madness. How far can Dermot push Carl? And what happens when Carl reaches his breaking point?

I blazed through this novel in a couple of hours. There were a whole host of characters introduced and at first, it wasn’t clear how everything was connected. The story gradually came together but it wasn’t always as nicely done as it could have been. In the beginning of the novel, there is an interview of the author’s where she says she wants the reader to pity the psychopath. Unfortunately, I never did. Characters that I didn’t like in the beginning, I still didn’t like them in the end. No matter how much the author may try to show me a more humane side to them, I just didn’t see it. The other thing that caught me off guard about this novel was the ending. It was quite abrupt and I had to recheck to see that the book really had ended; that was a bit of a let – down for me, especially after all of the chaos that was happening throughout the story. In the end, this wasn’t really a great read for me and I am definitely on the disappointed side. However, if you like dark thrillers, then you should really consider giving this novel a go – and if you do, please let me know what you think!

Happy reading ~

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

I’ve been feeling pretty antsy while reading and it may be because I am looking for a change in genre. So I decided to borrow this “horror”/supernatural style novel on a whim and give it a go. It wasn’t a totally random choice as I was recommended it based on my interests from some reading site that I can’t remember but it wasn’t a book that I urgently wanted to read, either. Anyways, here is my review:

West Hall is a town known for the mysterious disappearances of its inhabitants, the most prominent being that of Sara Harrison Shea in 1908. Rumor has it that she was murdered by her husband soon after the grisly death of her young daughter, Gertie; her husband then committed suicide, leaving no clues as to what led to this tragedy. People still believe that Sara roams West Hall, searching for someone – or something.

In present day, Sara’s farmhouse is being occupied by Alice, who has two daughters: Ruthie, the eldest, and Fawn, who is just 6 years old. Alice has kept the family on the fringe of society, completely disconnected from the outside world. When Alice suddenly goes missing one morning, Ruthie decides to search the house for clues that could help her discover the whereabouts of her mother. Instead, she finds a gun, a wallet with someone else’s identity, and a diary belonging to Sara Harrison Shea. Through the diary, Ruthie will journey through the life of Sara, a mother who will do anything to get her daughter back – even if it means unleashing a monster.

At first, it took me a while to get into the story. There were so many characters that were female to keep track of and the voices were somewhat similar, making it difficult to distinguish between them all. But I was soon hooked. I needed to know how everyone was connected. At one point, I thought there was going to be a psychological twist that would render it null as a supernatural novel – but that didn’t happen. In fact, the author stuck to the theme of horror and “creation of monsters” at the end. This novel was okay for me; it didn’t have me running to a bookstore to buy it but it wasn’t terrible enough to give a bad review. The ending wasn’t nearly as good as the rest of the novel and the author could have played more on the idea of the supernatural. Still, not a bad read and worth giving a shot if you’re looking for a light novel.

Happy reading ~

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

I don’t know if you’ve read my post Good Girl but that was Mary Kubica’s first novel! I quite liked that and I was pleasantly surprised to see she had written another one already, so of course I had to read it!

Heidi Wood is an extremely charitable woman: she works in a nonprofit organization, brings in stray cats, and is an advocate for every cause known to man. Although her husband and daughter are used to her random acts of kindness, they are shocked when Heidi brings home a teenage girl with a child. Disheveled, dirty, and homeless, Chris (Heidi’s husband) is sure that the girl is a runaway – maybe even a criminal. But Heidi is insistent that the girl, Willow, and her baby, Ruby, stay in the house. Although the atmosphere is tense, Heidi goes out of her way to help Willow, even though she starts to suspect that Willow may not be the innocent and desperate teenager that she seems. But as time goes on, Heidi begins to realize that her act of kindness may have some serious consequences for her and her family.

This was a really good thriller. I really liked that the story had different viewpoints from all of the different characters. I also liked how my perspectives and views on all of the characters changed throughout the book; characters that I thought were extremely good were despised by the end and characters that annoyed me before were shown sympathy by me in the end. This story actually makes me remember my first attempt at writing a short story back when I was 12 years old, which made it even more of a delight to read. I am definitely going to be keeping an eye out for this author because all of her work so far has been really good. I’m sure she’s only going to get better and better.