The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

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

The premise for this novel seemed so interesting, and I thought it would be the perfect read when flying off to my vacation destination. It was portrayed as a thriller … and we all know how much I love my thrillers!

In the year 2037, 7 people are chosen to participate in a 48-hr competition on the tiny island of Isola. Their prize: a top-secret intelligence position with the totalitarian Union of Friendship. Anna Francis didn’t really want to be a part of this. But as a workaholic bureaucrat with a 9-year-old daughter to care for, she didn’t really have a choice. Plus the Union President knows her secret … and if that was ever discovered, it would destroy her. However, Anna isn’t really a candidate for the position; in fact, she is the test. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then observe how the other 6 candidates behave from her hiding place. Everything is set in place… but then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins ….

This is one of those times where the premise is better than the actual story. I thought I was getting into something that would be intensely thrilling and packed with action. Instead, this book was slow paced, with tons of little anecdotes on Anna’s life before this competition. The author switched between different points in time and different characters. While this was interesting and appreciated, it made it super easy to guess what happened and what was going to happen in terms of the competition. That was a bit of a let-down because I was hoping it would be something of a mystery or a twist … and there wasn’t one. The novel may be set in 2037 but there really wasn’t too much that made it different than 2017, so that was a bit useless in my opinion. Overall, this novel just let me down. I was expecting a thriller but instead, I got an okay novel about a competition where I had already guessed the main points of the story.

Happy reading ~

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

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

From the moment I read the description of this novel, I knew it was my kind of book. It sounded intense and thrilling and absolutely realistic. I’m really glad that I got approved for this book and now … here is my review:

Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, love going to the zoo near closing time to just relax and play. It’s the perfect way to end the day. But then Joan sees something as she and her son are moving toward the exit gate, something that makes her sprint back into the zoo with her son in her arms. And for the next 3 hours, she keeps running. Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and the zoo itself comes in handy in her time of need … but will it be enough to keep her safe from danger?

Just as I had expected, this novel was gripping from the start. Joan and her son are very believable characters and the situation they find themselves in is also, unfortunately, something I can realistically imagine happening. I had my heart in my throat the entire time I was reading because I could feel how dangerous the situation was and how desperate Joan was to keep her son safe. The danger is present for the entire span of the novel, which means that Joan was running for safety for that entire time…. and yet, there really wasn’t a boring moment in the story. It was one of the more enjoyable features of this story. The novel is also told from the perspectives of other people in the zoo: fellow victims and even a perpetrator. I found that interesting but I wished the author had done it more often instead of just randomly including snippets from other perspectives; it would have helped me visualize and connect to the other characters in the same way that I did with Joan. I will admit that there were certain discrepancies in the plot that bothered me. Some I was willing to ignore because I understood that it was necessary for plot development, but there were others that seemed a tad bit ridiculous. The explanations for certain behaviors exhibited in the story also weren’t the best at times. These were really the only flaws for me, and overall, I was quite satisfied with my experience with the novel. The author promised a book that would make your heart pound and she definitely delivered on that account! I would give this novel a 3.5/5 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique thriller.

Happy reading ~

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

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

After so many thrillers that focus on the wife, I thought it would be a good change to read one that focuses on the husband and child. That was my motivation for requesting this book … so here is my review:

It’s been 1 year since Billie Flanagan, a beautiful Berkeley mom, went on a solo hike and vanished. Only a hiking boot was ever found. Billie’s husband, Jonathan, and teenage daughter, Olive, do their best to  cope with her death but things have been frayed between them. When Olive starts having waking dreams that her mother is alive, she is convinced these are signs that her mother wants Olive to look for her. Jonathan worries about Olive’s health and mental frame of mind … but then he unearths a secret from Billie’s past that makes him question everything he thought he knew about his wife. Now, Olive and Jonathan have to work together to piece together the woman they loved.

It was definitely unique to read this story with a husband and daughter as the main protagonists. I was hoping that the story would be more of a father-daughter search for the truth, where both characters grow. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The father’s character and judgments were reasonable based on the secrets he was discovering about his wife, Billie. However, he didn’t really do much about anything. He discovered things and let despair take him under. In fact, his daughter was much more active in getting to the bottom of things than he was. This ended up turning this book from an adult read to a young adult/teen read, which let me down a tad bit. In the end, this was a thriller that was interesting in terms of where the plot went, but I felt like it failed in its execution and character development.

Happy reading ~

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

And here we are with another thriller with “Girl” in the title. But I decided to ignore that when it came to this book, in an attempt to not be biased in my opinion. This book has been getting a lot of attention and I’ve been recommended it multiple times. So I finally decided to give it a go! Here is my review:

Emma
After a traumatic break-in, Emma is desperate to move into a newer, safer place. But nothing seems perfect – until she comes across One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece with its minimalist design…. but it also comes with many rules. The architect who built this house retains full control of it and only his word goes. The space is meant to transform its occupant completely – and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start – and she finds it at One Folgate Street. But it isn’t just the house she’s fallen for; the seductive creator keeps coming into her mind. Once she moves in, Jane soon learns of the untimely demise of the previous tenant, a woman who resembles Jane. As Jane tries to make sense of the truth, she unwittingly begins to make the same choices and experiences the same terror as the girl before.

I’m surprised by how much I liked this novel. The story was addictive and while I didn’t like everything about it, I can’t deny that it had the thrill and the twists that I was hoping for. The two perspectives were quite interesting and the author did a really great job of making them match up and integrate. Emma’s character gave me a lot of warning signs, and it became more and more clear that she was not what I expected as I kept reading – but that’s what I loved about the book. I love that the main characters didn’t conform to my initial assessment, and I liked to see how they acted in similar situations. This book is all about depraved characters, each who have their own mental issues. They’re very twisted and I like that the author kept them true to that trait throughout the book. I wasn’t very comfortable with some of the ways that the author handled sexual consent and rape … but it worked in the context of this story because the story itself is all about individuals who don’t really conform or believe in those norms. A lot of people are saying that this novel is a bit of a combination between 50 shades of grey and Girl on the train …. I kind of agree with the first part of that. There is a lot of sexual stuff going on in this novel and even though I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, I can see where people can draw the parallels. However, this aspect didn’t make me as uncomfortable as I expected, as I still quite enjoyed the story. Overall, this was a very interesting thriller that had me hooked from the start!

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 Student by Iain Fowler

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

I’ve never read a novel that falls into the noir genre. So I was really excited to give it a chance through this book. Here is my review:

It’s 1994 in Gatton, Queensland. Nate is a student who is trying to make ends meet by selling weed on the side. He hears that a girl he knew, Maya Kibby, is dead but nobody knows the identity of her killer. But Nate has bigger problems: he needs to refresh his supply, but Jesse, his friend and dealer, has gone missing. High on drugs and alone, Nate finds himself in a whole heap of trouble when major drug players hunt him down for money and drugs. And as things turn from bad to worse, Nate uncovers far more than he bargained for.

Unfortunately, this novel wasn’t for me. Maybe it was the ARC I received, but the story didn’t seem to flow very well. There were parts where the timeline of the novel changed and the transition was not marked clearly, so I had to go back and reread it to make sense of what was happening. While it was interesting to get an indepth look into the drug world, it was just so miserable-sounding that I didn’t really want to continue reading. I had no connection or feelings for any of the characters, and that was perhaps my biggest disappointment because it influenced my ability to care about the story itself. Maybe it’s just me, because there are quite a few positive reviews on Goodreads but this novel just didn’t do it for me. I would recommend this to anyone who likes books that can be classified as noir.

Happy reading ~

Vector by James Abel – Joe Rush #4

I’m always excited to read novels that deal with biological warfare or viruses. Thank you to First to Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Joe Rush is at an Amazon gold rush studying new forms of malaria, when his best friend, Eddie Nakamura, disappears. As Rush begins to search for Eddie, he discovers that many sick miners have also vanished.
Miles away, tons of sick people are starting to appear in US hospitals. When the White House admits that they received terrorist threats, cities all over begin to shut down. Rush and his team must come back to America, as the clock ticks toward an unimaginable annihilation. Time is short because the situation, while bad, is about to get even worse.

While this novel is part of a series, you can easily read it as a standalone. Now, I’ve read quite a few biological thrillers. The best praise I can give for this novel is that it wasn’t terrible. There was nothing that I really loved about this novel but it wasn’t terrible enough to warrant a bad rating. I had no feelings while reading this book. I didn’t get excited, I didn’t get attached to any characters… it was just a blah experience for me. This novel is mostly told from Joe’s perspective but it does shift to other POVs – including that of a mosquito. Yeah, you read that right. A mosquito. It was weird and I’m not sure if it was really necessary or helpful. I appreciated the amount of research that the author did on malaria; it was very thorough and gave reader an indepth knowledge into the disease as well as how mutations work in general. Overall, this novel was okay. It wasn’t really memorable but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Happy reading ~

Final Girls by Riley Sager

This thriller has been on my TBR list for a while. Thank you to First to Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

10 years ago, Quincy Carpenter survived a horror movie-scale massacre that left all her friends dead. Automatically, she became part of a club called the Final Girls, consisting of 2 other girls who had been the only survivors of separate massacres: Lisa, who lost her sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; and Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn. All 3 try to put their nightmares behind and move on. Now, Quincy is doing well. She has a caring boyfriend, Jeff, a popular baking blog, a nice apartment, and a friend in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. But her hard-won tranquility doesn’t last long, when Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead with her wrists slit, and Sam, the second Final Girl, shows up on Quincy’s doorstep. It seems Sam is determined to make Quincy relive the past. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy suddenly becomes suspicious of everyone. To find out the truth, she needs to remember what really happened to her 10 years ago.

This book took me on such an amazing ride! I absolutely adored every minute with this thriller. Deeply complex, with strong characters and a twisted plot, this novel had me on my toes the entire time. The story is mainly told from Quincy’s perspective, and she was a character that I really liked. The author did a great job of showcasing Quincy’s strengths and weaknesses, and making her likeable and believable. In fact, kudos to the author for all of the characters; each one was unique and intriguing to read about and I found it easy to imagine all of the different interactions playing out. The story itself had loads of different twists and turns, and there definitely wasn’t a single boring minute there! Nothing was too far-fetched as to throw me for a loop; everything worked and created this awesome thrill factor that fed my thrill addiction! I can go on and on about this novel but it is so much better if you experience it for yourself! If you like thrillers, then this is one you do NOT want to miss out on!

Happy reading ~

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

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

This novel was recommended for fans of The Missing Girls and In A Dark, Dark Wood, so I thought this might be the right fit for me. Here is my review:

Angela is brought into the police station and held in an interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Novak suspects Angela of knowing something relevant, even though Angela insists that she isn’t involved. Angela decides to tell the detective the entire story from the very beginning, going back 10 years to when Angela first fell in love with her highschool friend, H.P. But as the story continues, it is clear that something is being concealed. Is Angela the perpetrator of a crime or is she merely caught in a web of lies?

There are a lot of positive reviews on GoodReads; almost everyone has given this book a 4 or 5 star rating. After reading this novel, I’m confused: did I read a completely different book from everyone else? After seeing the positive reviews, I even read this book again and I still didn’t get it. Anyways, here are my thoughts on this book:

Angela’s character and personality really did not work for me. I understand that not all characters are likeable; I’ve read many Gillian Flynn novels and hated the characters but loved the books so I don’t really consider likeability to be an issue. The problem was that I really didn’t understand or connect with Angela. The novel was told completely from her perspective but I had a hard time making sense of her voice and personality; for some reason, it just didn’t seem believable and I couldn’t accept it. Angela is a very entitled character and it bugged me so much. Just like the Detective, I had no patience or sympathy for her because she literally has everything but still is dissatisfied. I’m sure that was the author’s intent but it just made me hate Angela so much.

The story itself was quite interesting and I quickly became engrossed in watching how the relationships unfolded. However, I found there were loads of things that made me roll my eyes. I’m not going to say any of them because I don’t want to ruin the story but there were things that were so far-fetched; they made no sense but were there for the sole purpose of making the facts all work out.

The ending was supposed to be a twist. There was no twist. I’m pretty sure that I had predicted things before the halfway point of the novel. When I am being told that I am reading a psychological thriller, I expect it to really change my perspective and be completely unexpected. That didn’t happen here so I was quite disappointed.

Overall, this thriller did not work for me. The main character was not likeable or easy to connect with, the plot had elements to it that didn’t really make sense, and the ending was a disappointment. Obviously, many people thought otherwise so maybe I’m just that one person for whom this novel didn’t work so if you like thrillers, consider giving it a shot!

Happy reading ~

The Thirst by Jo Nesbo – Harry Hole #11

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

This is the first book I have read in the Harry Hole series. This made me a bit worried since I felt that I would be missing out on a lot of details but a lot of people assured me that I would still enjoy the story as a standalone. With these reassurances, I began my journey into the world of Harry Hole … and here is my review:

In the latest novel featuring Inspector Harry Hole, Harry is hunting down a serial killer who uses Tinder to find his victims. Each victim is a self-declared Tinder addict. On examination of the body, there is only one clue: fragments of rust and paint in her wounds. Harry does not want to get involved with this case; he promised himself that he would never go back into the field. But there’s something about these murders that grabs his attention. Despite his promises, and in spite of all the risks, Harry throws himself back into the chase, in search of the monster who got away.

As someone who is completely unfamiliar with this series, I felt I was at a disadvantage. There were all of these subplots and character interactions that I didn’t feel like I grasped 100%, so my experience fell a bit short. That being said, this is still a very well-written and engaging thriller. I was swept up in the chase from the beginning and could not put this book down. I really liked Harry’s character; he is so flawed yet so perfect in his role as a detective. The mystery itself was really well executed and I enjoyed watching it all come together. All of the characters were well developed and I enjoyed finding out how everyone was connected, even if my understanding was superficial compared to that of a fan of the series. This novel has definitely shown me what I am missing, and you can bet that I will be getting myself into this series as soon as I possibly can!

Happy reading ~