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 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 ~

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 ~

The Dry by Jane Harper

I know that I’ve been a lot slower in reading books and posting books, and I can assure you that it isn’t due to a lack of reading material (I am up to my eyeballs in books!) But there is a lot going on in my lab and in terms of course work so my reading has taken a bit of a back seat. However, I am planning on making up for it by reading a lot more this weekend so hopefully it all works out. Anyways, enough excuses, here is my review!

20 years ago, Aaron Falk and his family were driven out of their hometown of Kiewarra. Aaron moved to Melbourne and eventually got a job as a Federal Police investigator, hoping to never have a reason to visit that vicious place. But then he discovers that his childhood friend, Luke, is dead. What’s more, Luke is said to have killed his wife and son before committing suicide, leaving behind only his infant daughter. With this shocking news comes a cryptic letter from Luke’s father saying “You lied. Luke lied. Come to the funeral.” Aaron arrives but only plans to stay for one day. But his investigative skills are called on by Luke’s parents – and that’s when he realizes that the murder-suicide charge may not fit the bill. As Falk probes deeper into the murders, old wounds begin to reveal themselves. Because Falk and Luke shared a secret, one that they thought was long-buried but has finally been brought to the surface…

I wasn’t expecting to like this novel as much as I did; in fact, when I first began to read, I thought that this novel would be just like every other thriller. But that impression soon changed. This book had my attention after just one chapter and I raced through it (surreptitiously, of course, so that my supervisor wouldn’t see me reading!) in just a few hours. What an excellent novel! It was thought-provoking, had great pacing, a really polished writing style, and wonderfully fleshed-out characters. Everything about this novel worked. This is not a fast-paced thriller. This is a novel that takes its time to draw out the tension, reveal all of the different characters and their motives, show how inner secrets can fester and become an obsession. It makes the story very believable and emotionally-packed. It makes the reader WANT to invest the time to engage with the novel – and this novel is definitely engaging! I cannot (and will not!) stop raving about the way the author developed each character, made them stand out in your mind, and made them important to the reader and to the story itself. I never found myself forgetting about who a character was, or wondering why a character was mentioned. It all made sense. The plot was also amazing in that it flowed logically and came to a very satisfying conclusion; there are few things I value more than that in a book! This novel is best described as an experience, because it makes the reader feel like a part of the story. When the author describes the heat, I find myself sweating. As the author depicts certain interactions between different characters, I feel like I am physically present. I can go on and on about this book, but I think it’s best if you read and judge for yourself. Overall, a masterful book with perfect flow, deep characters, and a satisfying story.

Happy reading ~

She’s Not There by Joy Fielding

I’ve always been a fan of Joy Fielding, ever since I first read her book Heartstopper back when I was in grade 10. Granted, I haven’t read a book by her in a while, but reading this one makes up for it!

15 years ago, Caroline Shipley was looking forward to her wedding anniversary. But the celebratory trip to Mexico with her husband and friends became a disaster when her infant daughter, Samantha, was kidnapped. Now, 15 years later, there is still no trace of Samantha. Divorced and isolated, Caroline is forced to relive the horrible event every year by reporters who won’t stop calling her. But this year, when the phone rings, Caroline hears another voice – the voice of a young girl claiming to be Samantha. Taken back into a world of heartbreak and suspicion, Caroline doesn’t know who or what to believe. But when she starts to piece things together, she finds the answers are dangerously close to home.

I’m still trying to put my thoughts together on this novel so I’m going to start off by saying the things that I liked about this novel (this is basically my way of saying I’m going to ramble):

This book is emotionally charged and it does a really good job of staying that way. It shows the ways in which this kidnapping affects not only Caroline but her older daughter, Michelle, too. And while Michelle’s character might be annoying, she is arguably accurately depicted. In fact, everyone is accurately depicted, and I love that the author took the time to make realistic characters. It made the story that much more believable and emotional.

The story flits back and forth in time, to show the events leading up to and after the kidnapping, as well as showing what is happening in the present moment with the mysterious caller. It was a nice effect and kept me intrigued with the actual mystery of the story.

However, and this is the one thing that has made me feel confused in terms of my feelings about this book, I didn’t like the actual mystery aspect. For 90% of the book, the author focuses on the emotions and the events themselves, not bothering to mention how such an act could have happened. And I was fine with that. The story was gripping enough as it is and the mystery of the identity of the caller was good enough for me! But in the last few chapters, the author decides to unveil the perpetrators of the crime. And while this was necessary, it is the one thing that I don’t think was done well. There was a lack of build-up, of investigation, and it gave the effect of just being plopped down there as an afterthought. A few more chapters that focused on the whodunit aspect would have been appreciated and would have allowed for a smoother transition. I especially did not like the cliched effect of having all of the suspects in one room and having each one be hinted at as the possible kidnapper, only to finally reveal the truth. It reminded me of something out of Hercule Poirot, and it just made the whole scene really cheesy.

Another thing that felt a bit weird to me was when the mysterious caller arrives and just integrates “so well” with the family. It was a bit cheesy and made the story fall a bit, especially when compared to the previous spot-on emotional aspects of the story.

While this novel was emotionally strong, with great characters and details, it rushed parts of the ending and gave the feeling of not being satisfactorily completed. For that reason, I would give this novel a 3.5/5.

The Children by Ann Leary

Charlotte Maynard is a recluse, rarely leaving her family home in Connecticut, a lake house that has been in the family for generations. Technically, Charlotte and her sister, Sally, are not part of the “family”; their stepbrothers are true Whitmans, and they are the owners of the house. Charlotte and her mother, Joan, however, continue to live there by the grace of the boys – and a provision in the family trust. When Spin, the youngest and favorite brother, brings his fiancée home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued by her. Laurel Atwood is beautiful and accomplished and perfect in every way. But as the wedding date looms closer, the family’s polite veneer begins to chip and an array of resentments and unsettling truths are exposed.

When I first heard the premise of this book, it reminded me of The Nest, which I really did not like at all. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I quite enjoyed this novel. The writing style was really great, and kept me engaged throughout the story. It wasn’t filled with useless details, and everything was connected. I loved the characters. They were all so eccentric and funny and just lovable. The story was told from Charlotte’s perspective, and she doesn’t shy away from any of the craziness that surrounds her. But through her account, we see the different facets of each child’s personality that come together to make them the way they are. The story began to really pick up pace at the midpoint of the novel and it moved quickly until the end. It isn’t a happy ending, but it is one that I feel is realistic and genuine. I wasn’t expecting this novel to win me over but it did. It really really did. And in order to appreciate this novel for its worth, you just have to read it!

Happy reading ~

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain – Kendra Donovan #2

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

YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW EXCITED I WAS TO GET AN ARC OF THIS NOVEL!! I absolutely loved the first book in the series and as soon as I saw this ARC I wanted to get my hands on it ASAP! I had to wait so long to read and publish my review on it, but it was so worth it! So here I go:

Former FBI agent Kendra Donovan is still stuck at Aldridge Castle in 1815 and has found no way to return to the 21st century. And that’s just one of her many problems. She soon finds out that the Duke of Aldridge’s nephew, Alec, is under suspicion for murdering his former mistress, Lady Dover, who was found viciously stabbed and disfigured. Lady Dover had plenty of secrets, many which could ruin the lives of other people – which doesn’t exactly narrow the list of suspects. In order to clear Alec’s name, Kendra must navigate the treacherous 19th century to pick apart the strands of Lady Dover’s life.

This novel. I loved it. I have to say that this is one of my favorite novels that involves time travel. The author does such a great job of highlighting the struggles that Kendra has adapting to her new place in time, with her new status and her lack of power. It puts things into perspective and makes one realize that women have come along way from the 1800s – even if we still have a ways to go! Another thing I really like about this series is that Kendra isn’t some helpless woman who needs the men around her to solve all her problems. She is very adept at taking care of herself and figuring things out on her own. This image of power remains with her even though she is not in the 21st century, and I really liked that the author maintained that. The way the author showed the disparity in attitudes, mindsets, and language between Kendra and the people she interacted with in the 19th century was really interesting to read about. I also really enjoyed the actual mystery itself and the way Kendra and her allies worked together to solve it. All in all, this was a great read that caught my interest just like the first book in the series! I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

Happy reading ~

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel – Themis Files #2

When I received the ARC for this novel, it was all I could do to wait until the release day to read it. I generally try to read ARCs close to their publishing date, but it was a struggle for me to wait for this one. I absolutely LOVED Sleeping Giants, and I’ve been waiting for so long to find out what the author had in store for the sequel. So thank you to the author, publishers, and NetGalley for allowing me access to this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

When Rose Franklin was a little girl, she fell onto a giant metallic hand buried within the Earth.  Now that she’s an adult, she has spent her life working to solve the mystery of the hand as a scientist. After years of investigation, she has produced some intriguing answers – and even more perplexing questions – about this robot and its origins. And the need for more information becomes urgent when a second robot, more massive than the first, appears and uses deadly force. Now, humankind is faced with a danger that they are in no way equipped to handle. Can Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps unlock the last secrets of this advanced alien technology and keep Earth – and all of its inhabitants – safe?

When I compare this novel to the first one in the series, I have to admit that it wasn’t as good. That being said, this novel was really really cool and it took the story in a direction I wasn’t expecting. The author did a good job of resolving a lot of questions from the first book in this one, and that felt sooooo satisfying to me; I hate unanswered questions! He also left me with a lot more questions, which I HOPE will be answered in another book! There were a couple new characters introduced, and they were nice additions to the story. There was also the brief return of other characters into the plot line, and this was done in a very nice, cohesive way. I’m going to give a mini-spoiler here: some characters die. Their deaths made me really really sad, especially because I really liked them. However, I’m curious to see how this series will move in the next installment (which I hope will be released soon)! This novel had a lot of action, a lot of science, and enough confusion to keep the reader intrigued and perplexed, in the best way possible. I’m really in love with the author’s writing style, as the novel continues to be written in interview, letter, and email format; it just makes for such an interesting read. If you liked the first book, you are going to have a great time with this one. And if you like science fiction, and alien robots, then you need to get this series on your must-read list!

Happy reading ~

The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep by Steven Heighton

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

My knowledge on world history is really poor. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s also one of the reasons why I try to pick up books that highlight some conflict that happened between different nations that I was unaware of. This novel does that through the eyes of a soldier suffering from PTSD. So here is my review:

Elias Trifannis is lost. He joined the military in order to make his dying father happy, but soon realizes what a terrible mistake this decision was. His time in Afghanistan scars him, and he is so exhausted by nightmares that he seeks refuge in Cyprus. There, he meets Eylul, a beautiful Turkish journalist, and he finds comfort in her arms. But their reprieve ends in a moment of shocking violence that drives Elias into Varosha, an old town that has been abandoned since the Turkish invasion of 1974. Hidden in the ruins of this once-famous resort town is a community of exiles and refugees who live in harmony, thanks to the cheerfully corrupt Colonel Kaya who turns a blind eye to their existence. As Elias begins to heal, he finds himself drawn to this town and its inhabitants; he may have finally found a place to “belong”. But just when he feels safe, his past comes back to endanger this sanctuary.

I really wanted to like this novel but I had a hard time getting through. At first, I was intrigued with the action and Elias’s discovery of Varosha. I sympathized with him and enjoyed learning about the people living in this town. I liked that the story switched perspectives and the reader was able to glimpse the life of Colonel Kaya. However, none of this was enough to get me to push through the rest of the novel. I could feel my interest waning as each new character was introduced. It felt like the story wasn’t moving at all, and after a while I didn’t care about Elias’s healing time. Because of this, I stopped reading at about 128 pages. I hope this doesn’t deter other people from reading this novel; it has received strong positive reviews from other readers.

If you did finish this novel, I would love to hear what you thought about it! Let me know if it is worth the effort, and I might just give it another shot!

Happy reading ~

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

Hattie Hoffman has spent her entire life trying to be what everyone expects from her: a good daughter, a good student, a good girlfriend, a good friend. But Hattie isn’t satisfied with the way her life is. She wants something bigger… something far more dangerous than she could ever imagine. When she is found stabbed to death, the tragedy rips through the community – and rips apart Hattie’s many facades. As the story reveals the explosive secret Hattie had been hiding, it begs the question: who killed her … and who is the REAL Hattie Hoffman?

I found this story to be quite interesting. The author writes from the perspective of multiple characters at various time points, allowing the reader to glimpse the situation from all angles. This was done quite nicely, with every character having a distinct voice. Hattie was by far the most mysterious character, and I was intrigued by her all the way until the end. The author also did a good job of keeping everything a secret until the last chapter; in most cases, I am quite good at guessing who the perpetrator of the crime is but this one took me by surprise. The story was well-written and kept me interested throughout. I don’t know if I would give this a glowing recommendation; it didn’t really do too much for me. But it is still a very good novel that will catch you by surprise, so if you are looking for a new mystery/thriller to read, I would give this one a shot!

Happy reading ~