Tag: Thriller (page 1 of 14)

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen HamiltonThe Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She's even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she'll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it's worth all the pain...

Thank you to NetGalley, Karen Hamilton and Wildfire for my free ARC.


I loved him and yet I’d been unable to stop him making the biggest mistake of his life. He was mine.

Juliette loved Nate. Nate decided to end his relationship with Juliette. Juliette cannot let Nate go and will do anything to get him back. And thus begins our story.

Once upon a time, I could walk up to him and hug him any time I pleased. Now, I am not allowed. Those are the rules. I have not been given any choice or say in the matter.

Juliette is both highly problematic and also sympathetic in moments. After being dumped by Nate, an airline pilot, Juliette becomes a flight attendant to worm her way back into his life. She is methodical, disciplined and tries to stay three steps ahead of everyone else. It honestly sounds exhausting, but Juliette is nothing but dedicated.

He thinks he doesn’t want me, but he’s proving that he does. It’s all up to me to help him come to terms with his feelings so this whole mixed-messages thing stops.

This book is very much along the lines of Kaira Rouda novels or “The Last Mrs. Parrish.” I found it hard to put down because I wanted to see what Juliette would do next. I think my mouth dropped open as some of the pieces fell together at the end. I felt like I should have seen it coming, but I was so invested in what was in front of me, I wasn’t really trying to piece it together like that.

Some people may hate the ending, as it is not the cleanest, but I didn’t mind. After all the events of the book, it seemed fairly realistic. It thought this was very well written and while Juliette was far from a good person, I did have sympathy for her, especially as we learn about her background. I didn’t want her to succeed, but I did want her to get the help she very much needed.

If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t, make them.

BOOK REVIEW: #Murdertrending (Murdertrending #1) by Gretchen McNeil

BOOK REVIEW: #Murdertrending (Murdertrending #1) by Gretchen McNeil#Murdertrending (Murdertrending #1)
by Gretchen McNeil
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest 8/18 citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

“Fifty million people are about to watch me die.”

From the very first line of this book, I was hooked. Two years ago, I read McNeil’s book Ten and was left underwhelmed. The plot was good (I know it was borrowed, but still), but was not impressed by the characters. There was marked improvement in the character development, which made me enjoy this book more.

If you are squeamish, I would not recommend this. While this a YA book, there are fairly graphic descriptions of death, starting with the very opening pages. I thought the opening chapter set the story up splendidly: Dee, our protagonist, has been convicted of her step-sister’s murder and has been dropped off onto Alcatraz, where she has been sentenced to death in a government-sanctioned murder reality show. Think Survivor + The Hunger Games = The Postman app.

But instead of being murdered in the first few minutes of her time on the island, Dee fights back and kills her would-be killer. From then on, she is left to survive on the island with a group of other convicted killers, while all the while trying to prove she is innocent. And on top of that, Dee is still dealing with PTSD from the time she was kidnapped and kept captive by a deranged girl a few years prior to the events of the book.

“‘I Scream’?” Dee said, reading the name of the shop. “You’ve got be kidding me.”
“You’ll find an abundance of dark humor on the island.”

While I liked Dee well enough, I thought the side characters and the world building were even better. Nyles, Griselda, Blair, Ethan and Mara were all great characters and I enjoyed getting to know more about them and their stories. I also thought McNeil did a great job setting up the game and the island. It was intricate, but not overly bogged in unnecessary details. I especially enjoyed the brief pages of the user board messages and the detail around the infamous killers who were hired to take out the inhabitants of the island (for the most views of course!).

So where did this fall a little short? As with McNeil’s other work, I found the romance shoe-horned into the story line a little bit. I don’t mind romance in perilous situations, but I never felt the spark to make me overcome the oddness of romance against the backdrop of the story. And while I enjoyed the characters and world-building, the writing was a little stilted and simplistic in nature. Also, the ending is bit a cliffhanger, although it appears the author has confirmed there will be a sequel.

I’m interested in where this is headed, especially how it was mostly wrapped up at the conclusion of this book. I’m also curious if the author will explore the fallout of these characters being forced to kill before they were killed themselves. It is briefly touched upon in the book, but because of the action leading up to the ending, it is moved to the back burner.

Had Dee, in some way, become a Painiac? The idea mad her breath catch in her chest. No! She wasn’t like them, would never be like them. She was fighting for survival. She was different.

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunting Party by Lucy FoleyThe Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

Thank you to Edelweiss, HarperCollins UK and Lucy Foley for my ARC!

 

That’s the thing about old friends. You just know these things about them. You have learned to love them. This is the glue that binds us together.

The first time I tried to start “The Hunting Party” by Lucy Foley, I was baking in the Florida sun on vacation. Suffice to say, a book set in a remote winter setting didn’t quite gel with my current situation and I couldn’t get into the story.

Fast forward another week, when I was back in the cold Midwest and I began attempt number two. Bundled under blankets, I fell easily into the story.

The book takes place from multiple perspectives. It took me a little while to get each person straight and their relationship to others. Some characters are much more utilized to others, but as the story develops, I found myself totally engrossed.

There are a lot of relationships to untangle here. There are genuine friendships and romantic relationships, as well various toxic friendships, frenemies and not-so-healthy romantic pairings.

But here I’m in the middle of nowhere, with no one except my closest friends. The silence here, the expanses, seem suddenly hostile.

As with many mystery/thrillers, the setting is that of a remote getaway for a group of friends, plus a few others. There is a death, but help cannot reach the group, as a blizzard has made the group totally inaccessible for some time.

The narrative jumps forward and backward, from perspective to perspective. As I mentioned before, once you figure out who is who and how they relate to the others, the timeline jumping shouldn’t really affect one’s ability to understand the story line. Sometimes, it feels like authors use different perspectives to muddy the waters so it’s not clear what the big reveal is. However, I found the different perspectives brought a lot of great character development and insight into this fascinating friend group that we would not have otherwise received from a singular perspective.

I look straight back at her, as I tread water. I hate you, I think. I hate you. I don’t feel bad anymore. You deserve everything that is coming to you.

And not for the firs time-but with much better reason now-I think: I do not know this person at all. I do not know what he is capable of.

While the story starts off a little slow, it truly goes full throttle into the ending. Layer by layer, characters’ feelings and intentions are revealed until we finally understand what happened and why. I’m happy to say the whole story is nicely wrapped up – no cliffhanger or unclear ending. I had my suspicions about who was dead and who did it, but I was still definitely surprised at all the revelations!

Overall, I was very happy with the book and enjoyed it. I certainly look forward to Foley’s next thriller novel!

But that’s the thing about old friends, isn’t it? Sometimes they don’t even realize that they no longer have anything in common. That maybe they don’t even like each other anymore.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Time I Lied by Riley SagerThe Last Time I Lied Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it's immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

I smile, pretending they’re right. What none of them understand is the point of the game isn’t to fool others with a lie. The goal is to trick them by telling the truth.

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for stories that take place with summer camp setting. I went to one for several summers as a pre-teen, so I certainly have no trouble picturing it. There’s just something about breathing in those early breaths of independence and freedom. No parents, new people and new experiences that often don’t translate back to life at home. Because of this, I am thrilled when books have a summer camp setting, and this book DID NOT disappoint.

Fifteen years. That’s how long it’s been. It feels like a lifetime ago. It also feels like yesterday.

As the synopsis says, fifteen years ago four girls (Vivian, Natalie, Allison and newcomer, Emma) form a short but strong bond one summer. But one night, Vivian, Natalie and Allison go missing while Emma is left to fill in the blanks, which she does with varying degrees of accuracy and truthfulness.

In present day, Emma struggles with the events of fifteen years ago. She does her best to deal with the aftermath, using painting as a form of therapy. But when she is asked to return to the camp as a counselor and art teacher, she is drawn back into the world and begins to investigate what really happened so long ago.

But after my time at Camp Nightingale, I vowed never to lie again. Omission. That’s my tactic. A different sin entirely.

While this is certainly a thriller, at the heart of this story is female friendships, especially those made at the cusp of the change between being a girl and being a woman. It’s a precarious time of life; there’s a reason it’s written about so much – it is such a unique and major event in life.

The scenes between Vivian and Emma were fascinating. Vivian is older and more experienced at life and takes Emma under her wing. She serves as a surrogate older sister, which is both wonderful and terrible for Emma, as we the readers learn more about the events of that summer. While Allison and Natalie play a role, this novel really focuses on the relationship between Vivian and Emma.

Yes, boys can break your heart and betray you, but not in the same stinging way girls can.

As the book jumps back and forth between the summer of the girls disappearing and present day, more and more comes to light about the events of what happened and how that plays into what is happening to Emma in present day.

The author, Riley Sager, did an excellent job in creating sympathetic but complicated characters and keeping me guessing the entire time. I enjoyed his last novel, Final Girls, but was a little put off by the ending. However, that was not the case this time around. I was breathless up until the last page and I was left fully satisfied. I cannot wait for future books from Sager if his first two novels are an indication of what’s to come next.

I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to confess. Instead, I say, “Two Truths and a Lie. Let’s play.”

BOOK REVIEW: You (You #1) by Caroline Kepnes

BOOK REVIEW: You (You #1) by Caroline KepnesYou (You #1)
by Caroline Kepnes
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

You made your way onto my shelf unexpectedly, a gift from a long ago friend. You sat there, totally unassuming, just waiting your turn to be read. You stared unabashedly at me as I skimmed my shelves, always skirting right past you, knowing someday I’d probably pick you up, but not wholly sure if I’d ever make the time. You sat there, waiting patiently with your gorgeously disturbing cover that always intrigued me, always enraptured me, but never quite could pull me in, despite how perfect you were. I didn’t know you, Book. I didn’t know that we were somehow perfectly imperfect for one another and that when I started you, I’d be addicted to the point of obsession…even as you repeatedly tested my morals and boundaries. Even as you made yourself hard to read (haha). But I never gave up on you, Book-I always held out hope we’d be friends. And someone obviously knew I was immensely disturbed and loved morally grey (more like black) male leads. I’m just sad it took a tv-show preview, a ridiculously addicting song remake, and an actor [I will not name] I love to make me truly see you, Book. But I’m so glad I did. Now we are destined to be together forever.

Ahhh see what I did there? Tee-hee. I know, I knooow, I’m sure this has been done, like, a million times. But I really never looked at reviews much, so I wana say I’m wholly original???? But I doubt that’s the case. Either way, WTF was this book????? WTF was this addicting, repetitive, addictive, repetitive book?

I started this story because of the show-sorry, I’ll admit it-but I’ve had it foreverrrrr. I’ve NEVER been a fan of books that make me feel bad, that clearly don’t have a HEA written out in the stars. But, for some reason, my friend thought I would love this (Joe. She thought I’d love Joe), and I always held out hope I’d be able to pick this up and stomach this one day. Apparently, that day came when I saw Penn’s beautiful, stalkerish face up on the screen with the most darkly enticing rendition of ‘I Want You to Want Me’ ever.

Two things you should know about me:

1) Put an actor I ADORE in a movie, and I’m likely to give it a try, no matter the content
2) Make a commercial, movie trailer, whatever with a song that has been remastered or, in this case, darkened, that makes it flow beautifully and I. Am. OBSESSED.

“Do you have any beards?”
She objects jokingly, “Are you quite serious, young man?”
“It’s cold out there.”
“We have beards but they’re not all Dickensian.”

She lowers the volume on the ancient tape player. Celine Dion in cassette isn’t very Dickensian either, but she concedes and points me toward the non-Dickensian, nonrefundable beards, which are in a box in the back marked JOHNNY DEPP/DUCK DYNASTY.
Fucking America, Beck. I just don’t know sometimes.

Legit, I can’t stop thinking about things. I’m like Joe in that way-I get weirdly obsessed with things-well created trailers, product commercials, tv show commercials when they are made with a song that seems as if it were molded just for the purpose of making that show (or whatever) pop. It’s super weird, but at least I can own it. SO, really, the song is what did it. Look what you made me do! (haha)

I was just sitting there with my husband, dog, and daughter, and I heard this epic and dark song and I looked up and….there You were. I was done. I started reading it the next day, which just so happened to be the day the show came out (and yes, I am studiously recording it). But I was good, I didn’t want to ruin the book. And though there were parts that reallllyyy were hard for me, I ended up really loving this. Sometimes I don’t know what will make me tick, only that it does. And I think it’s more than just Joe. I find myself pondering my life more often after just finishing this darkly seductive book. When I walk past an open window in my new house, I pause, wondering who is out there. No, I’m not that vain. However; people are creeps, and I’m used to living out in the country where no one is watching. It’s an insanely intense feeling I’m not used to, haven’t been used to since I was 6 or 7. Also, I ponder what it would be like if I were a more social media infused person.

As it is, I only use it for our handle, @starcrossedbookblog, and I have a private personal account I got once I had my daughter just so family members would stop texting incessantly for pictures of her. The jury is still out on if that is a successful endeavor, though. MY POINT IS, I’m very aware of how easy it is to be traced, followed, or just flat out stalked or seen. We sift through life on a cloud, never paying attention to the crazy surrounding us-we’re comfortable. And it’s deeply unsettling how little we see, how blind we can be, and what danger is lurking around each and every corner-whether that be some rabid beast (okay, coyotes freak me the f*** out), a serial killer, a robber, whatever…they’re everywhere. And I really need to be more aware.

So yeah, this book effected me in a way I find I am having trouble explaining without sounding vapid, but I’m okay with that, because it’s how I feel. But then there were the characters. Those selfish, psycho, into-themselves characters. Because of said characters, it’s hard to not fall for the manic, lonely, and idealistic Joe. It’s just sad to see how alone he is, how one girl’s flirty advances can set off a landslide that will forever effect everyone surrounding them.

And, I’m sorry, I’m just going to say it: I didn’t like Beck. She wasn’t worthy of his affections (yet she’s so sweet in the show, not fair), yet he went after her with every fiber of his being, even after she strung him along time and time again. I mean, yes, he is a MURDERER. I’m not dumb. I’m just sayinggg if you’re guna stalk someone, stalk someone worth stalking.

But that’s also the beauty of this book: It shows how we are all morally gray people, and that even though we don’t think we’re into ourselves, above all else, we are. We put us first, and if we stomp on someone along the way, will we even notice? Who cares? It was just some dude I saw somewhere, what does it matter? Apparently a lot, to some. *shivers*

…and because I want to be there in case you need me, I am gonna have to sell a fucking Dickens on eBay to cover the expenses of the motel, the costume, and the psychotherapy I’ll no doubt need when I realize I am permanently fucked up from from that day I froze my ass off in pantaloons and stood on a deck with a bunch of quarter-wits. The half-wits are at home watching Great Expectations, the movie.

I loved that I was always cringing, thinking to myself, GAWD I do this. I do this all the time. The excuses. The lateness. The thrill of ‘something new’. I mean, not to Beck’s extreme, but I can be careless…and I’m blind to it. I think that, even though this book made me ill at the end, that’s why I’m still thinking about it even days later. I just really, thoroughly enjoyed this book.

”Are you ready?”
“In a second,” I say and maybe Irish women don’t speak English. Celine Dion is still screaming about her goddamned heart and I’m choking on mothballs and self-loathing and if you would have told View Spoiler » about me, View Spoiler »could have rented costumes for both of us.

And the humor!!! Oh my gosh, do you know how many times I laughed out loud? How many times my husband was like, what are you even laughing at, Chelsea? My answer every time? Joe-OMG, this guy is a HILARIOUS psychopath-he says the funniest stuff! But I wouldn’t tell him what I was laughing at, because you just don’t get it if you aren’t in this dude’s mind for a while-his sarcasm. His string of thought. How everyone is so beneath him, yet he sees that he is imperfect. He isn’t rational. He isn’t sane. But that’s why I found him so funny, so darkly funny: There was a lot of truth to his crazy.

We think it-he says it.

That’s all there is to it, and I totally dug it. And, last thing: I hated Beck’s friend, Peach, too. Like…eew. But this is where it was also a really cool idea-everything we hear is from Joe’s mind-and, lemme tell ya, he is an extremely unreliable narrator.

So what is true? What isn’t? I LOVED THIS. Because even though he’s telling us how to feel, you can’t lie about what is written (texts, emails, IMs)…so, we see that Beck, Peach, Benji, whomever really are assholes…even if he embellishes it. Mind=blown.

Obviously I loved this, even after a rocky start where I was wholly grossed out by the personal masturbation and almost-public-masturbation, the sexual nature of the whole story, really.

Somewhere along the way it stopped being a shock to me and became something I didn’t want to put down and had to finish. And, honestly, I’ll admit it: I’m a sick sick sicko, because I wanted them to get together for a little bit, I wanted Joe to win Beck’s affections and for them to DO IT. I did. Why else am I reading this crap if not for the thrill of how wrong it all was? **I eat chicken, then I look at naked pictures of my friends!**


So yeah, this was a winner, even as I wonder why it was. It just clicked. And sometimes that’s all it takes. Click.

*******

What?

Don’t look at me like that…can’t a girl inconspicuously jump on a bandwagon?

View all my reviews

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