Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

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

I really like stories about writers, regardless of genre. While I am an avid reader, I have very little skill when it comes to writing anything. And believe me, I’ve tried. So I have a lot of respect for authors and people who make writing their profession. When a story has an author as a main character, it really opens the reader’s eyes to the writing process and how different it can be from one person to another. To me, that understanding is just as enjoyable as the story itself. It was one of the things that drew me to this novel, but the thriller’s premise was also intriguing enough that I couldn’t let it pass me by. So here is my long-overdue review:

Liza Cole, a novelist, has only 1 month to write the thriller that will put her back on the bestseller list. If that wasn’t enough pressure, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is too distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As stresses weigh her down in her professional and personal lives, Liza escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth, a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she aims to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Liza is happy with the way Beth’s story is turning out … until the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the East River, and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

This story is told in alternating chapters, one being Liza’s story, the other being Beth’s story. While I really liked the author’s use of parallel storylines, it got confusing very quickly. There were a bit too many things similar and it became hard to keep things straight. While it was obviously the author’s intent for the reader to be able to pick up the similarities between the fiction and the reality, it would have been helpful if certain details (like names) hadn’t been so similar; I had to reread certain chapters and sections to make sure I didn’t confuse the different story lines and I really hate having to go back and forth in a novel to address confusion issues. Whenever there are 2 story lines, I inadvertently find myself drawn to one more than the other. In this case, I was more intrigued by Beth (who was part of the fictional aspect of the novel) who was a stronger protagonist. Both story lines were written well and it was easy to connect with both protagonists emotionally. As the story continued, I could really feel the fiction and reality aspects blurring together, and the tension was insanely high! I couldn’t wait to see how things would end … and then it did. And I wasn’t so pleased. I think that I liked the ending for Liza’s story line but the one that was fashioned for Beth took me completely off-guard and not in a good way. After so much suspense and tension, the ending fell quite flat for me. However, I did enjoy everything else about this novel. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 3/5 stars and would recommend this to anyone who likes thrillers and dual storylines.

Happy reading ~

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The Child Finder by Rene Denfield

I’ve seen this book literally everywhere and it has been getting rave reviews. A lot of people who know my taste in mysteries and thrillers have been recommending it to me so I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Madison Culver disappeared when she was 5 years old, as her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their daughter, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator who specializes in locating lost and missing children. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too. As Naomi continues her pursuit, her discovery of the truth behind Madison’s disappearance uncovers her own nightmares, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. By finding Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

This novel messed me up in a good way. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have started it at midnight and finished it in one go, but it was too good to stop! The novel is told mainly from 2 perspectives: Naomi and Madison. Both have their own unique voice, and both made me cry. Naomi has a quiet personality but it is clear both from the author’s depictions and from the way the character acts that she is haunted by her past. Madison is an unbelievably strong and resilient character whose journey is incredibly painful to witness. My heart went out to both of these characters. I think that the author did a fantastic job in showing the cyclic nature of abuse and the trauma that can continue to haunt a person for the rest of their life. This was such a complex novel and it forces the reader to feel every emotion being described. Powerful does not begin to describe this story. My one criticism (and this actually did not ruin the story for me) was that this was more psychological than it was investigative. Naomi’s tracking of Madison was secondary and there really wasn’t much searching going on; everything was just conveniently laid there. But the characters, writing style, and message of the story more than make up for this. This is definitely one of my favorite books out there and I’m so glad I read it. 5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

The Twilight Wife by A.J Banner

This novel really reminded me of Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson so I thought it would be interesting to see how another author would put their spin on it. Here is my review:

Ever since her diving accident, 34-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop can’t remember anything. Apart from brief flashes of the last few years of her life, Kyra’s world is limited to her close friends on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob. But as Kyra begins to have visions of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and relationships with people she doesn’t know, Kyra starts to question her new life … and her husband.

This novel was ridiculously similar to Before I Go To Sleep to the point where it felt like I was reading the same story. Despite this, I quite enjoyed this story. It had a lot of intrigue and the author spent a lot of time developing Kyra’s character and her memories. There were certain things that I felt the author could have explained better, and there were certain characters that could have used a stronger backstory. However, the overall story was interesting and engaging and I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of S.J. Watson.

Happy reading ~

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

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

I’m not a big fan of historical fiction and if you go through my blog, you will see that I haven’t read very many books from this genre. I always feel a bit guilty about not widening my horizons so this time I chose a book that is not only part of the historical fiction genre but also the romance genre (which I also don’t delve into very much).

Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. However, when Kristallnacht occurs, Kristoff’s teacher disappears and it is up to Kristoff to deal with the Germans, who want him to engrave stamps for the Fuhrer and his army. With the help of his teacher’s fiery daughter, Elena, the stamps get made …. but for each stamp created for the Fuhrer comes another stamp for the Austrian resistance, along with forged papers to help Jewish Austrians escape. As Kristoff and Elena’s love for each other grows, they must find a way to keep each other safe before they get caught.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is struggling with her life, as she goes through a divorce and deals with her father’s memory loss. As she cleans up her house, she comes across her father’s beloved stamp collection. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter, Katie finds herself intrigued. As she and Benjamin try to get to the bottom of this mystery, they are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

This was a very well-written story and looked at a very different angle of the war than one I’ve previously read about. I’ve heard of Kristallnacht, of course, but this novel took an interesting perspective of it. Even though half of the story takes place during WWII, the emphasis was evenly divided between the relationship of Kristoff and Elena and the resistance effort. I also really liked the other narrative that was happening with Katie and her father’s stamp collection. I learned a lot about stamps and their significance that I was unaware of before this story, and that was a nice surprise. The romance aspect of this novel was really well done; it was believable and simple and touching. I quite enjoyed the read and got a bit emotional at the end, which is always a good sign. This is definitely a strong historical fiction novel with a well written romance angle!

Happy reading ~

The Breakdown by B.A Paris

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

B.A Paris has quite a reputation for writing great thrillers. I read Behind Closed Doors and it was a thriller I really enjoyed so I was hoping that the author would continue to wow me with this next novel. Here is my review:

When Cass is leaving a party late night, she decides to go down a winding rural road to get home quicker. As she is driving, in the middle of a downpour, she sees a woman sitting inside a car on the side of the road. Cass stops to see if she needs help, but when the woman is unresponsive, Cass hurries along home. Later, Cass learns that that very woman was killed – and she can’t help but blame herself. But since then, Cass has started having lapses in her memory. At first, it’s little things like where she left the car, and what the code is for the alarm. But as her memory gets worse and worse, Cass starts getting more and more anxious. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the one she could have saved. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Compared to Behind Closed Doors, this novel wasn’t nearly as engrossing or intriguing. It was definitely more of your traditional thriller and it was quite easy to predict. In fact, I had pretty much pieced it all together before the halfway point of the novel, just based on the few clues that the author gave. There were still a few surprises that I wasn’t expecting but there really wasn’t much of a twist anywhere in the story.

I didn’t really like Cass’s character all that much. She was a bit annoying to say the least and while I felt bad for her and her memory issues, it seemed like she never thought things through properly before saying or doing something. And that got quite tiresome. At one point, Cass took charge of her life and was in control: this was the highlight of the book for me. I loved that Cass didn’t just take things lying down, but actually went about getting justice. It was a shame that her strength was short-lived; the scene literally came up near the end of the book and the author didn’t really make it a big part of the story.

The ending itself was unexpected as I never expected so many things (and people) to become connected. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like it worked. I understand why the author wanted to make everything connect, but I just wasn’t convinced and it really didn’t fit in very well. If the novel had been extended a bit more and had had more details dropped at various points that would have made the ending more believable, I think that would have helped make sense of it all.

Overall, this novel was just okay. There wasn’t anything very special to it: the main character is your typical paranoid wife, the story is easy to figure out, and the ending is just really abrupt and forced to be believable.

Happy reading ~

 

The Girl from the Sea by Shalini Boland

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

As usual, this book was advertised as being along the same vein as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train; the former I loved and the latter I thought was just meh. Whenever I get these kinds of comparisons, I like to read the book and make my own judgement. So thank you to the publisher, author, and to NetGalley… and here is my review:

She finds herself on the beach, completely soaked and unaware of the circumstances that brought her here. She can’t remember her name, or who she is. A stranger rescues her and gets her to the hospital. Upon waking up, she is told that she has retrograde amnesia and that her memories will come back with time. Fortunately, her boyfriend has identified her and will be coming to get her soon. It turns out that she has a perfect life – she is rich, and has a wonderful boyfriend and family that are eager to help refresh her memory. But soon, she begins to see through them and discover the lies. What is it that they don’t want her to remember? Who can she really trust?

I was quite surprised by this novel. At first, I enjoyed reading it and moving along the predictable path that had been set out. I was perfectly ready to give this novel a solid 3/5 for being well-written but not exceptional. AND THEN THE ENDING HAPPENED. It took a completely different turn than what I was expecting. In a way, it was a tad bit too abrupt. But as I continued, I was just so shocked and so intrigued that I started to enjoy it. When I read the last sentence, I put the book down and was just in awe. I usually am not easy to surprise, especially when it comes to the thriller genre; after reading so many books in this genre, I am pretty familiar with the various plot twists that are used. But this one took me by surprise. That automatically raises it up for me and makes it a worthwhile thriller to endorse. It was a quick, well-written, intriguing read with a crazy ending that I never expected. I definitely liked it better than Girl on the Train and I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good thriller fix!

Happy reading ~

Never Never Part Two by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher – Never Never #2

After the first book ending in such a cliffhanger manner, I knew I had to read on and find out what would happen to Silas and Charlie. As soon as I got a copy of this book,  I stopped doing everything else and just sat down and read until it was all done. Good thing the novel was short!

Silas wakes up, not remembering anything. He is in a car, all by himself, in the middle of nowhere. But he spies a letter, a letter that is written by him and someone named Charlie which is supposed to explain his circumstances. The only instruction in the letter is to find Charlie. With no knowledge about himself or his life, Silas sets out to find Charlie – and find out what is going on with his memory.

To be honest, this novel was a let-down for me. I understand that they always lose their memory within 48 hours at an appointed time (no, that is not a spoiler!) but half of this novel was just a rehashing of the previous novel with a bit more detail. The only time when it started to move beyond that was after the half-way point, and by then, the novel was close to being done. I know that the author is trying to make it more realistic and stick to the idea of complete memory loss but sometimes being this thorough can leave a reader wanting! Since this is a trilogy and I’m almost done, I’m going to read the last book. I hope that the conclusion of this mystery is satisfying enough to justify having to keep returning to the same starting point!

Happy reading ~

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The first book I ever read by this author was when I was 12 years old and I remember it being a really good romantic teen fiction (it’s been a while since I read it so I may be wrong). When I was recommended this novel, for some reason, I found myself hesitant. Maybe the premise didn’t interest me or maybe I didn’t want to read anything teen-y. I’ve put this novel off for a while but I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Cadence comes from a distinguished family. Every summer she and her mother go to their summer vacation island to meet her grandparents and cousins.  It is the one time where they all come together, everyone in their separate yet connected estates, bonding and joking and laughing. But everything is different the summer that Cadence turns 17. After a traumatic swimming injury that has led to memory loss, everyone is tiptoe-ing around her and hiding things from her. And Cadence is determined to find out.

This summary really doesn’t do this novel justice but the whole mystery and thrill of this novel comes from figuring it out on your own so I don’t want to reveal anything more. It’s only told from the perspective of Cadence but she is such an interesting character that I was fine with that. In the beginning, I felt quite fed up hearing about the privileged lifestyles of the family but the more I kept reading, the more I saw that this was the author’s intent. This novel is not humorous; it is dark and dysfunctional in the best way possible. I enjoyed it because it takes teen fiction to a whole other level; it deals with complex issues and almost becomes an adult novel. I’m definitely recommending this to older teens because it is really a thought-provoking read!

Happy reading ~

Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher

I don’t usually come across books with two authors but, well, this is one of those times! It was a surprisingly short read – until I discovered that there is a sequel! I thought the premise of this novel was interesting and decided to give it a shot, not expecting it to be a time investment. Boy, was I proven wrong! The blurb for the book is quite short so I have taken the liberty of extending it (by a lot) and I hope that I don’t give away anything by doing so…

Charlie and Silas can’t remember anything. They don’t know their names, or where they are, or who they are supposed to be. But they know that they are dating. They know they have history. And so, they decide to work together to find out what it is they have forgotten – and why they have forgotten everything.

I can’t say any more than this without revealing too much. As I mentioned earlier, this is a really short book because the story is continued in another novel (which I will definitely be reading). This novel was very interestingly written, and had both characters’ perspectives. It transcended the teenage love story theme and was quite thrilling to read. I was literally sucked into this crazy world of Charlie and Silas and I could not put the book down. After reading it, I am hungry for more. I NEED to know what happened to the two of them. Suffice to say, this novel was a teaser to the sequel because just as it begins to pique your interest, it ends. I would recommend this to teenagers everywhere – it’s got great potential and is a break from the dystopian genre that has been so prevalent!

Happy reading ~

The Treatment by Suzanne Young – The Program #2

This is the sequel to The Program and the conclusion of this story. I was surprised by the speed at which I was able to acquire this book; I had had to wait for quite a while to get my hands on a copy of the first novel! Either way, here are my thoughts on the final novel in this series! NOTE: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!

Although Sloane and James have managed to escape from The Program, their troubles are never too far away. They still don’t have their memories and are being pursued by enforcers from The Program. When they join a rebel group, Sloane and James have to put all of their faith into people that they don’t know and pool all of their efforts to find a way to topple The Program – before they are captured and taken care of for good.

This book continues with the pang of teen love that was so prevalent in the first novel. Sloane is a bit stronger now that she doesn’t have her memories. I quite prefer the romantic dynamic between Sloane and James now that they are “new people” with a clean slate. I did not enjoy the love triangle aspect at all, mostly because it reminded me a lot of the love triangle in Twilight (which is a series I really REALLY do not like). The rebels were a nice addition and the conclusion was optimistic. Overall, this series was more of a 5/10 for me. It had too much of a focus on romance and not enough on the idea of family. The concept of depression and teen suicide as an epidemic is a novel idea but the dismissive behaviour of the doctors and adults in this novel was a bit unrealistic. I wish this novel had had more of a fight; the conclusion was quite abrupt and didn’t really have a great buildup. The solution was too simple and too easily done. At the end of the day, this novel (and the series in general) were a bit lacklustre and didn’t reach my high expectations.

Happy reading ~