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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Scythe by Neal Shusterman – Arc of a Scythe #1

As soon as I read the premise for this novel, I knew I had to give this book a shot. It was a short blurb but it contained everything it needed to pique my interest. It’s about 400 pages…. and I devoured it in one sitting. Here is my review:

Thou shalt kill.

In a world where hunger, disease, and war had been eradicated, life was relatively comfortable. Humanity has conquered everything – including death. Only scythes are the ones who can take life, and they only do so in order to keep the population size under control. Scythes are feared and respected by all, and they are above all laws except for the Scythe commandments. It is a grim job, but a necessary one for society to thrive. Citra and Rowan are two teenagers who are chosen to become apprentices to a scythe – a role that both have the aptitude for but neither of them want. However, they must master the “art” of taking life – unless they want to lose their own.

While I devoured this novel, my impression of it was mixed. I really liked the concept behind this novel: there is a society of Scythes (who are basically Grim Reapers) and we are following the adventures of 2 characters who will, presumably, end up in this profession. I really liked the little details that the author included and the world-building; I just wish there had been more of it. A lot of it was vague and more details would have cemented the story better. I liked Citra and Rowan a lot, as they were both unique and neither one overshadowed the other. I just wish the author hadn’t tried to put in a romance angle there, because it didn’t really work. Even though the story is mostly about their apprenticeships, I really enjoyed their different journeys. I will admit: I liked Rowan’s journey more because he seemed to have grown and developed more as a character than Citra, who pretty much remained the same from beginning to end. This may also have been because of the lack of details/the focus on certain story lines over world-building. I didn’t actually like the whole idea of there being a duel between Citra and Rowan; it seemed like it was just thrown in there when it really didn’t have any merit. I know it seems like I have a huge list of complaints about this novel but I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed reading it. I was caught in by the story and I really wanted to get through it and see what would happen to everyone involved. I was excited and intrigued and couldn’t pull away from this novel. I don’t think this is a book that everyone will like because it does lack a bit in maturity (plus all of the other issues I mentioned above); this is definitely more suited for teenagers. However, I liked it and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series! I’m giving it a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

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

Whenever I read a premise where the main character has no recollection of an incident and is just “told” that something happened in a certain way, it makes me roll my eyes. This scenario has been overused so many times that I struggle to see how it can be made unique. However, I thought that this one might just work. Here is my review:

3 years ago, Susan Webster was convicted of murdering her 12-week-old son Dylan. She was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute to serve her sentence, as she was deemed to have suffered from postpartum depression, which caused her to commit this heinous crime. Now, she has been released on parole and given a new identity and name: Emma Cartwright. Just as she is beginning to rebuild her life, she receives an anonymous letter with her former name on it. Inside is a photograph of a toddler named Dylan. Suddenly, Emma starts to question everything she has ever been told. If she has no memory of the murder of her son, then did it really happen? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

I wouldn’t say I had high hopes for this novel which is the way I am with all thrillers, but this one was a whole new low. There were so many things about this story that I didn’t like. I really did not like Susan/Emma. While I understand she was stuck in her grief over her child and was confused with the turn of events, she was extremely naive and didn’t show an ounce of intelligence at any point. She behaved in a way that just didn’t make any sense to me – and this includes her ability to fall for every guy that she meets. It made me so annoyed to see her develop an attraction/feelings for someone who she literally met only twice and knows nothing about. Also, considering the circumstance, it really didn’t make sense that she was indulging in romantic fantasies. The story is told from 2 different perspectives: Susan/Emma, and an unknown character named Jack. I have to say that I actually liked Jack’s story more than Susan/Emma’s … even though the former ended up having the smallest part in this novel. The story started to segue into another plot about halfway through, which is a common trend. However, this other direction really made no sense to me. Suddenly, Susan/Emma is pursuing this instead, hoping that it will somehow lead to clues about her son (but how this would even happen when they are two unrelated things, I have no idea). Then at the end of the novel, there is that big reveal…. and it was so disappointing. It was such a failed attempt at trying to tie in 2 plot lines that really didn’t go together. And suddenly, all of these random names were dropping and identities were changing and it just really got too much. I just found myself very disappointed with the entire novel in terms of its story line. I’m giving this a 1/5 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 ~

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

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

I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time because its premise is just the kind of thing I love. Here is my review:

Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In Western Pennsylvania, 1997, she is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL’s family and to locate his teenage daughter, who has disappeared. Moss soon discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut on the spaceship U.S.S. Libra – a ship presumed lost to the darkest currents of Deep Time. Moss knows the kind of trauma that can occur when you time-travel and believes that the SEAL’s experience with the future is what triggered this violence. Determined to find the missing girl and driven by a troubling connection from her own past, Moss travels ahead in time to explore possible versions of the future, seeking evidence or insight that will crack the present-day case. To her horror, the future reveals that it’s not only the fate of a family that hinges on her work…

I wanted so badly to love this novel. It had such a fantastic story line and I’m a sucker for strong female characters. However, this novel and I just didn’t work well. I found it a bit slow at times, which stopped me from really getting into the story. I also found that the way it was written was very confusing; there were too many details and names thrown out there and it became hard for me to keep track of everyone. And that was just in the first few chapters! I really liked the concept behind this story, and the tie-in with the mystery and science fiction elements. However, the writing style made this confusing and hard to get into. A lot of other people have read this book and have very positive reviews on it, so I would encourage anyone who is a fan of this author or who likes mysteries/sci-fi to give this novel a shot!

Happy reading ~

The Anthill Murders by Hans Olav Lahlum

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

It’s 1972. Across Oslo, there is a serial killer is hunting down young women. Each victim is found strangled with a cut-out picture of an ant placed on their bodies. The first victim is a timid theology student, the next a jazz singer, and the next is the heir to one of the largest fortunes in Oslo. Inspector K2 is doing everything he can to try and find a pattern but so far, the only thing connecting them is their murder.  With his assistant Patricia’s intellect , and increasing pressure as the clock ticks down to the next possible killing, K2 is in danger of losing his position as Oslo’s leading homicide detective.

This novel and I didn’t click. The story itself was quite interesting and I really liked the whole premise of it. However, I just didn’t like the writing style. It was written in first perspective but for some reason, it just sounded so strange to me. Perhaps this was because this novel has been translated from the original; I rarely ever find a good translated version of a story. But I just couldn’t enjoy this novel due to the awkward writing style.

Happy reading ~

The Empress by S. J. Kincaid – Diabolic #2

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

I remember when I read The Diabolic that I didn’t enjoy it and wasn’t planning on reading the next installment in the series. Well guess who received an ARC for the sequel??? That’s right, it was me. In order to ensure I was giving this book a fair review, I put aside my past assumptions and read it with an open-mind. So here is my review:

The Empire is finally changing. Tyrus has ascended the throne as Emperor, with Nemesis by his side. Tyrus has declared his love for Nemesis and his intentions in making her his Empress. Their visions for the new world is a positive one – it will be a place where science and information is shared with everyone, and creatures like Nemesis will be treated like humans. But having power isn’t the same as keeping it. Many of the ruling class are not happy with Tyrus and Nemsis, and will stop at nothing to ruin their plans. Nemesis plans on protecting Tyrus at any cost; he is the love of her life. But she can no longer act like the killing machine she once was; she needs to prove her humanity to the entire Empire. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must commit inhuman crimes, is it even worth the fight?

Since I had read The Diabolic, I knew to expect the novel to be more centered around romance than science fiction. I think that’s why I enjoyed this novel more than its predecessor; I no longer felt tricked because I knew what I was getting into. That being said, this novel had a lot of political intrigue and romance angles to it. I still preferred the political conflicts over the romantic ones. I also thought that the author brought in some interesting points on what it means to be human and to have empathy; it was quite philosophical and I enjoyed seeing the author bring these issues up in a teen novel. There wasn’t as much action or gore and I wish Nemesis had been a bit more of a badass killing machine. My overall verdict is that this novel is better than its predecessor but only because I knew what to expect and it had good political intrigue and philosophical questions. My rating is 2.5/5 stars, rounded to 3.

Happy reading ~

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I resisted for a long time before reading this novel. Why? Because it was getting super popular and it was getting televised, and I thought it was just all hype. It’s happened so many times where people get really excited about a book and then I read it with high expectations and get let down. Also, the story seemed to be a little on the fluff side, if you know what I mean, and I generally stay away from that. But I decided to get out of that mindset and give this novel a shot. I’m so glad I did.

When Madeline gets involved in something, she is a force to be reckoned with. She’s passionate and funny, and holds onto grudges. However, Madeline’s ex-husband and his hippie new wife have moved into Madeline’s beloved community – and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest. And to make matters worse, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. How will she cope with all of this?!

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. She’s always flustered and in a dreamlike state … but who wouldn’t be with such active twin boys? Now that the boys are in school, Celeste and her husband seem to be the perfect fit as king and queen of the school parent body. However, royalty comes with a price, and Celeste doesn’t know if she can pay up.

Jane is a single mom who has just moved to this town. Sad beyond her years, she is harboring secret doubts about her son… but why? As Madeline and Celeste take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

After reading this novel, I cursed myself for waiting so long. It is such an amazing novel and I honestly don’t know where to start with this review.

First of all, I love the moms. They are so unique and amazing. They are funny, and have deep emotions and I was able to connect and understand each of them as they go through their individual struggles. I never felt like I liked one main character over the other; all 3 were equally important to me. I also loved the way they interacted with the other mothers and with their own children; it was such a realistic portrayal of how misunderstandings can bloom into full-out hatred. And both the creation and breakdown of relationships was described beautifully.

This novel was also beautifully written. I loved how there were moments in each chapter that read like a transcript from an interview. It kept me guessing as to what they were hinting at, and it also served to spice up the traditional writing style. I loved that the author spoke from multiple perspectives and managed to keep each one separate. There were perfect bursts of comedic relief thrown in during intense moments; this has got to be one of the only books that can intersperse humor in between serious scenes. And yet, the author still managed to highlight the importance of these issues; in no way did the humor take away from the seriousness of the situation at hand. I loved it.

Overall, this was just a fantastic novel. The characters were great, the plot was great, the relationships and interactions between characters was beautifully written, the pacing was on point, and the writing style itself was golden. I cannot recommend this book enough because I guarantee it will take your preconceived notions and make you chuck them out the window! If you have been a fool like me and not read this novel, go read it now! If you haven’t already guessed, I’m giving this a 5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

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

I’ll be honest: when I started reading this book, I didn’t know what to expect. The premise of the novel doesn’t give much information and it really keeps the reader’s imagination open. What I will say is that I finished this book in 2 hours, literally tearing through it because I could not put it down. Here is my review:

Helena Ross is a famous romance author, has made a name for herself in the genre. But faced with the diagnosis of cancer and given only 3 months to live, she decides to scrap all her current writing projects and embark on a completely different journey. For years, Helena has been hiding a terrible secret. Now, she plans on writing a book that will reveal everything. Her last novel will be her confession.

This is definitely a mystery/thriller I’m not going to forget, because it was very well-written and had a unique story.

First off, for those of you who are familiar with other works by this author, this novel is not a romance. Yes, it deals with marriage and love, but it is not a romance novel.

In terms of the actual book, I have to say that the writing is fantastic. From the very first sentence, I was hooked. The author has this really great style where she doesn’t overly describe anything but still manages to deliver the full picture. I love how the author managed to perfectly switch between different voices and time points to create such a cohesive story. I also absolutely adored the main character. Helena is not your typical protagonist; she carries a lot of suspicion and anger and hate but somehow I still felt drawn to her. I cared about her story and I cared about her and what she was going through. In this story, Helena is an author who has serious writing skills …. and it showed in her character; the way Helena dragged out her story and gave little tidbits was tantalizing! I really liked the other characters that were involved and the way they influenced Helena’s life. The ending was definitely a surprise and it was one I wasn’t expecting. I think that there could have been more clues leading to the ending to ground it a bit more, but I thought that the way the author described the end events was amazing. This novel isn’t a happy one but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Compared to most of the thrillers I have read recently, this is definitely in the top 10 and it was “unputdownable”. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a really good thriller that is written superbly! 4.5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

The Man in the Crooked Hat by Harry Dolan

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

When I read the premise of this novel, I was hooked. It was just so intriguing and I could already feel myself wanting to know more about the author’s vision for this story. I’m really glad I received this ARC because it was such a worthwhile read! Here is my review:

There’s a killer, and he wears a crooked hat.

Jack Pellum left his job as a detective and became a private investigator two years ago, when his wife was murdered. Jack has been looking for the murderer – an man he last saw wearing a peacoat and a fedora. He has spent months posting fliers asking if anyone has seen a man of this description but to no avail. But when a local writer commits suicide and leaves a cryptic message, it ends up being the first breadcrumb of many to lead Jack onto a path…

Michael Underhill is a philosophical man who has had a rough past. But things are finally coming together. He has a wonderful girlfriend, and they are ready to get going with their future. Underhill is desperate to make everything perfect. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing will go wrong, if Underhill has anything to say about it. The problem is Underhill has a dark past … and it’s coming back to haunt him.

These two men are inexorably drawn together in a mystery where there is far more than meets the eye, and nothing can be taken for granted.

I don’t say this often but this novel deserves this praise: this was a seriously well-written and well-executed mystery. It is rare to have an author introduce such a complicated premise with a high body count, and yet make everything make sense. I loved the author’ delivery style because he made Jack’s story very personal; I felt very sympathetic towards Jack and I wanted him to get what he wanted. In the beginning, it really did feel like a wild goose chase because the initial clues seemed so insubstantial. And I think that was the point; every character in this novel points out how fixated Jack is on these clues and the author wants the reader to also see that crazy side. But as the story starts to come together, and the narrative and clues begin to make sense, the author starts to make you rethink. As I mentioned before, there is a high body count and that worried me in the beginning because I really didn’t want the author to just throw out some weird tie-in or conclusion. But the author didn’t do that. Instead, he broke apart the murders and made it all make sense. There was logic in this story, and it was something I was really happy to see because it honestly doesn’t happen very often. I also liked all of the characters the author created; even the minor characters had enough development that the reader could form a connection or opinion  about them, which was really nice. Overall, this was a very good mystery and I cannot wait to read more by this author! I’m giving this a 5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~