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 ~

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The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

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

I had previously read The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz and found that I quite enjoyed it, even if it was a genre (romance) that I don’t typically read. The premise for this story seemed more pyschological, which piqued my interest right away; any connection to my undergrad work always makes me excited. I was really happy to get a review copy but I’ve been falling behind on my reading goals so I wasn’t able to get to this book until now …. but better late than never, right? Here is my review:

35083342.jpgSummary (Goodreads): They called themselves “the lucky ones.” They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.

Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night–was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?

But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.


Review: My feelings for this novel are very confusing, but I’m going to try to work through it here in this review. This was an interesting story but it left me with mixed feelings.

Right away, this novel began with Allison breaking up with her lover. As the breakup is happening, she receives a package from her foster brother, Roland, and she decides to act upon it. Thus begins a journey that defines family, and the lengths one will go to protect it.

The plot has 2 components to it: romance and suspense. I really liked the suspense angle, but the romance was not as great for me. The mystery of this entire novel revolved around Allison trying to figure out what happened that fateful night of the “accident” and who could have done it. As she works to understand this, she realizes there are a whole lot of other secrets that need to be uncovered. I quite liked this part because there were a lot of psychological terms and concepts. It’s nothing too difficult to understand but it was an interesting perspective on a controversial area of psychology. I enjoyed watching Allison piece things together, and I liked that she felt conflicted about the issues raised in the story. It gives the reader some food for thought, and that is always a great thing.

And then comes the romance angle. In the beginning of the novel, we are told that Allison used to be a mistress for a very rich man for 6 years. This fact is reiterated multiple times in the story. Now, I didn’t have a problem with her being a mistress. But I did have a problem with the nature of her relationship with her ex-lover. Throughout the novel, she keeps in touch with this character, and while he does play an important role as an information-finder, their friendliness with each other just felt odd. Even if you are a mistress, even if you knew that it was about sex, it doesn’t negate the fact that you would have feelings for this person and feel bitter about the termination of the relationship. But I saw none of that. It didn’t seem realistically portrayed and so, every time it was brought up, it took me out of the story.

I didn’t mind the new romance that developed but it was a little quick for my taste. The author’s attempts at humor through sex jokes were … well, a little lame. It kind of took away from the development of the new relationship.

I think that the one thing that half-worked and half-didn’t work for me was the ending. I liked most of it, but then there comes a crucial point where Allison has to make a decision about where she is going to go in her future. I don’t necessarily think that the choice she ultimately makes is a bad one … but I wish it had been better developed; the way it was done in the book made it seem like she was too weak to make the other choice.

Overall, this book gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, the mystery was intriguing and I liked the interesting debate it brought up. But the romance and conclusion were just okay for me. However, I did enjoy the book as a whole. For this reason, I’m giving it a 3/5 stars and would recommend this to fans of the author and to those who like romance and suspense!

Happy reading ~

 

Amber Alert by Dan Lawton

I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

I am always happy when an author gets in touch with me and asks me to read their work. It’s not easy to write and publish a novel, and I definitely want to support writers wherever possible! I was super excited to receive this novel, which sounded like a very cool thriller! Here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): Time is running out.

Nine-year-old Chloe Janis is abducted.

Abby, her mom, is now faced with revealing her dark past, hidden these last seventeen years, or losing her daughter forever. A cryptic message from a man she’d shoved into the dark recesses of her mind forces her into an impossible situation—revealing secrets best kept hidden or losing her daughter forever.

Secrets, deception, and betrayal surround the small town of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. All eyes are on the community, threatening to split open as yet unhealed wounds are probed. Fates will be rewritten and careers redefined. Everyone involved will confront their pasts if there’s any hope of Mifflinburg becoming a town at the heart of redemption and forgiveness.


Review: The plot for this story was quite strong and I really liked the direction that the story took. However, I thought that the writing style wasn’t the best fit for this story.

A child being abducted is not necessarily a unique story … but the way the author presented it here made it stand out in my mind. It was easy for me to follow along with the events that unfolded, and I got caught up in the thrill of it all. I liked that the plot had depth to it and kept you guessing as to the motives behind this kidnapping.

I also really liked the characters because every single one of them had something to contribute to the story. There were no useless characters, and I’m so happy about that because that is one of my biggest pet peeves. All of the characters had a backstory and the author definitely had them all fleshed out. I will point out that I didn’t like the main detective’s character. He had an off-putting personality, and while that may have been done on purpose, I thought that some of his actions and remarks were uncharacteristic of a police detective and that didn’t really work for me.

The one issue I had with this novel was with the writing style. Oftentimes, I felt I was being told rather than shown what was happening. When the character was giving their backstory or their inputs, I would much rather have not been told it straight to my face; I like to be led to the conclusions, not given them. When I’m told rather than shown, I find that it takes me out of the rhythm of the story and it can be hard for me to get back into it. I think that if the writing style had been edited to be cleaner in these aspects, it would have made the story even better.

Overall, this was a very interesting premise and a well-developed story. However, I don’t think the writing style was a good fit for this novel. Nevertheless, this was a solid effort, and I’m giving this a 3/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

I was serious when I mentioned I was going to make an effort to read more books on marriages. I will be honest, I literally chose it because its title made it pretty obvious that this story was going to be about marriage. I was surprised to find out that there would be some murder mystery thrown in there that wasn’t necessarily related to the marriage. Anyways, here is my review:

Lily never thought she would get married and settle down. But then she marries Ed, and vows to make a fresh start and leave the secrets of her past behind. When she takes on her first murder case at her law firm, she meets convicted murderer Joe. And he is more than meets the eye. Lily isn’t the only one harboring secrets. Her next-door neighbour Carla may only be 9 years old, but she already knows secrets are a powerful currency. And Carla knows just how to use them to get what she wants. When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep sixteen years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

Does this premise sound confusing? It did to me, when I first read it. But it is also pretty accurate and doesn’t give away too many details. This story pursued a lot of different angles. On one hand, Lily is struggling in her marriage with Ed for a variety of reasons. But she is also struggling with her case, as it dredges up things in her past that she would rather keep hidden. The author did quite a good job of intertwining these 2 aspects to show the chaos that reigns in Lily’s life. Carla is another very interesting character in that she is a child I both hated and pitied at the same time. I think that the author actually did a fantastic job in creating her; it is not easy to make a reader both hate and pity a character. In the first half of the novel, the story is easy enough to parse out, and both Carla and Lily’s behaviours are easy to understand. However, the second half, which takes place 16 years later, is more convoluted. A lot of it didn’t really need to happen and I was especially confused by Carla’s motivations. Usually, my attention wanes at this point and it becomes a chore for me to finish the novel. But this time, I couldn’t stop reading. For some reason, I found myself completely engrossed in the story, wanting to know more. I stuck with the novel until the very last page. I don’t know if it is the author’s writing style or something else about the story, but it just had this edge to it that made it hard to pull away from this novel, even when you probably should have. This wasn’t the best thriller I’ve ever read, but I still enjoyed the story for the most part. I think another pitfall for this novel (apart from the second half being a bit of a drag) was that the title and cover didn’t really reflect the story as well as it could have. But overall, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars, rounded to 4.

Happy reading ~

Poison by Gail Niederhoffer

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

True to my promise on not shying away from books that have to do with marriage, I accepted this ARC. The premise was mysterious enough that I went into it with no idea as to the direction it would take, which is always exciting! Here is my review:

Cass and Ryan Connor are the perfect family, with 3 kids between them, a cat, and a home just waiting to be renovated and lived in. Their family, including Cass’ 2 children from previous relationships, has just moved to Portland to start their lives afresh. But trouble begins soon enough. First, there are the little white lies that happen daily in the marital bedroom. What starts off as insignificant soon spirals out of control into a madness that will change the family forever.

This novel was presented as a literary psychological thriller, which is an interesting mix of genres. Literary fiction is typically slower-paced and focused on character development whereas psychological thrillers are fast-paced and plot-driven. The story reads like a literary fiction in terms of the language used and the amount of detail that the author provides. It also has this weird mix of pace that I never really got a handle on; it felt like it was moving slowly because of the writing style but the events themselves were happening quite rapidly. It took me aback … and not pleasantly. I felt the pacing was very awkward and it didn’t allow me to get a good sense of any of the characters. The story is told entirely from Cass’s perspective, which was not an issue in itself but I found her boring. There were a lot of events happening in the book in a very random way, just to allow the author to make the conclusions she wanted to make. The entire concept behind the story was that women’s accounts are dismissed quite readily by the police and by court systems. However, I don’t agree with that premise 100%, and especially not when it comes to this story; no matter your gender, you have to have evidence when making accusations. I don’t think that should be considered a sign of prejudice or discrimination by gender. I also didn’t really get the purpose behind the crime. Why do all of this? How did so many people get involved? The ending was also very random and seemed almost too easy after all of the other things that had occurred in the story. It just all felt like a mess, what with events happening quickly and randomly while the author continues to ramble on and focus on inconsequential details, and there being no real motive or resolution to anything. Since there wasn’t a single thing I liked about this story, I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

What The Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong

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

This novel has taken me a long time to read. But not because it was bad. I’ve had so many interruptions in my life that I haven’t even been able to think about the word book. But I’ve slowly been chunking my time and getting in a chapter or two …. and it’s finally done! So here is my review:

Dave, John, and Amy have taken it upon themselves to get the story straight and tell a fairly simple tale of a shape-shifting creature from another dimension that has been stealing kids and brainwashing their parents. However, it soon becomes clear that everything being revealed is not the truth. Someone is lying, and that someone is the narrators. The novel itself is a cover-up, and the “true” story reveals itself through the cracks of this funny but depraved story with contradicting and convoluted narratives.

I didn’t know that this novel was part of a series. And it really didn’t matter because I was able to follow along fine without having had read anything before this one. This was one of the most entertaining reads I have ever had the opportunity to read. It was an absolutely perfect mix of horror and comedy, that is both a mess and a genius work at the same time. I loved all of the characters and their unique narratives and perspectives. The story is honestly so wild and bizarre, which at first took me by surprise, but I began to really love that style. Random characters are introduced, random events happen, and since these events are told from multiple perspectives, you never really know if what you are reading is true or false. It makes your head spin but it also keeps you hooked! I am so glad I took my time with this book because it just allowed me to savor it so much longer! I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something unique, something dark and funny, and something that will drive you insane while also make you crave more! I am definitely going to go back and start the series from the beginning! 5/5 stars from me!

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 ~

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 ~