Review: Wicked River by Jenny Milchman

Publication Date: May 1, 2018    |    Rating: 2-Stars

Wicked River. What can I even say? Firstly, I waffled between a 1- versus a 2-star rating. Ultimately, I decided on 2-stars because it makes me feel bad to give anything a 1-star unless it has offensive or inappropriate content. This one wasn’t offensive it was just not my cup of tea. At all. This book and I just did NOT get along. The good news, I actually made it through the entire thing, so there’s that.

I knew within the first 30-pages that perhaps this wasn’t going to be the strongest story for me but I trudged on because I had hopes that it would get better. The premise sounds great. The execution of said premise, not so much. It kicks off at the wedding of our two main characters, Natalie and Doug, which was cheese-factor level TEN and had me audibly scoffing over the dialogue and lame characters. Then they head off on the their honeymoon, a trek into the wilderness on a hiking / canoe trip for which I feel neither of them was even remotely prepared for.

The main characters dumbass choices aside, we also have a psycho guy living in the woods whose odd perspective we get every couple of chapters. Then there is a 13-year old whiny girl, Mia, the niece of Natalie, whose perspective we also get which was completely disjointed for me from the rest of the story. Oh, yah, and there is this totally unrealistic side plot involving Doug’s childhood friends that contributes to the story as well.

I don’t know, for me, the whole thing was just a mess. I couldn’t stand Natalie. She was so weak. All she seemed to care about was ‘her husband’ – she admits to losing any friends she ever had because all she cared about was being with him. She could barely scrounge together two bridesmaids for her wedding and tells us they were literally the bottom of the barrel who would probably disappear again into nothingness once the wedding was over. She let Doug make all of her decisions and just goes along to go along, I guess. She was horrible – I wanted her to be lost in the woods.

Now, let’s talk about the term ‘her husband. This had to have been in the book 1,027,432 times. If I ever hear that again, I am going to punch the speaker in the face. This is not a quote but to give you and idea what I’m talking about, it would go a little something like this, ‘her husband forged ahead through the trees. Her husband’s arms easily broke through the branches so much better than hers ever could because her husband was so much bigger and stronger than she was. Natalie felt so happy that her husband would be willing to go ahead so that she could drift along unscathed behind him.’ If reading this makes you go, what? Yah, it’s like that. This book is 464 pages long and I think it could have been edited down to 300 if the term ‘her husband’ had been taken out.

I have no clue who I would recommend this to – maybe someone who doesn’t read a lot or is new to the ‘thriller’ genre; although, I am not even sure I would classify this as a thriller. There was nothing really thrilling about it. It kind of took the suspense out of it when the 4th part of a 4 part book is titled, Saved. Really? No other word could have been chosen to title Part 4? You get there and are like, ‘geeeee, I wonder if Natalie and Doug will be SAVED????’

I would like to thank the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I do always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback. This one just wasn’t for me but as we all know there are readers for every story!

What’s the last book you read that you didn’t get along with? I want to know!  Leave a comment below or contact me through my social media links to the right – Cheers~

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 3, 2018    |    Rating: 5-glorious STARS

Riley Sager has done it again!! Thrilling from beginning to end. This one kept me guessing until the final pages!

When Emma Davis first went to Camp Nightingale she was late; her parents doing. Subsequently, she got stuck in a cabin with girls much older than herself. Luckily, the pretty and popular bunkmate, Vivian, quickly took Emma under her wing and she began to have a camp experience unlike anything the other girls her age were experiencing. Unfortunately, one night, on the 4th of July, her three cabinmates disappear, never to be seen again. That night continues to haunt Emma, even fifteen years later when we meet her. Now a successful painter living in NYC she continues to meld the haunting images of her camp experience into her work. Invited back to Camp Nightingale by the wealthy owner, Franny Harris-White, to be an art instructor, Emma begrudgingly accepts, thinking she can finally figure out what happened to her friends.

Once Emma returns to Camp she is reunited with many individuals who were also there her first time round; including the handsome Theo Harris-White, Emma’s crush from THAT summer. This story is darkly atmospheric and filled with mystery and dread. For me, Sager’s writing is so cinematic – as I am reading, the entire drama is unfolding in my mind with the perfect clarity of a movie – I felt the same way with Final Girls. His descriptions and feelings are so easy to follow and imagine and are definitely one of my favorite things about his writing.

As the story unfolds, there are multiple occasions where you think you know what happened all those years ago, but those thoughts are quickly dashed away by new information becoming available. The cast of characters was fantastic and past and present unfolded with such ease and excitement that it made this novel very fast-paced! I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this book – I loved it – would read it again and would recommend to any thriller or horror reader. I cannot wait to see what Sager comes up with next! You better believe I will be waiting for it and buying it on release.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It was a highlight of my year for sure and I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

Review: Hangman by Jack Heath

Publication Date: June 12, 2018    |    Rating: 4-gritty STARS

WICKEDLY entertaining~ Sherlock Holmes meets Hannibal Lecter!!! I really enjoyed this one. It is so bizarre in theory but somehow it just works. Let me break this down: our main character is a cannibal (you read that right…a cannibal) who ends up making a deal with an FBI Agent that he will help with investigations in exchange for free bodies from death row inmates. Why? Why would an FBI Agent want this man working with him you ask? Well, the guy is a freaking genius of course! A modern day Sherlock Holmes with a photographic memory who obviously can see into the minds of criminals because, well, he IS one…oh, and of course, the cannibal knows about the Agent’s coke habit… Intrigued yet?

I would recommend this book to ANYONE who loves a new twist on the thriller genre. Obviously, you need to be a open-minded with the whole concept behind this but I tell you, that Timothy Blake (our MC) is pretty lovable. Honestly the first cannibal I have ever rooted for in a novel. But in addition to the weirdness of it all, this is actually a really taut crime thriller. There were a few times that I was convinced I knew what the answer was to the string of kidnappings that Blake was trying to unravel, but in the end, I turned out wrong every time and was surprised by the reveal. The writing style was fast paced and the mystery well developed. It’s definitely dark and gruesome, so if that is something you aren’t into, best to stay clear of this one!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review! I really hope that this becomes a series. I would hate to think that this is the last I am ever going to see of Timothy Blake. There’s more to his story, I can just feel it! I look forward to hearing other opinions on this book as well. If you have read it, what did you think??

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Publication Date: March 8, 2018    |    Rating: 3.5-stars

I liked this one. Some aspects of the story I really enjoyed and others were just okay for me. There were moments, toward the beginning in particular, that I was a little confused as to what type of story this was trying to be. Thinking back on those early chapters, I am still a little confused by them. A literary sleight of hand perhaps; they got your brain going in one direction which, at least for me, ended up being flipped completely on its head. The book follows multiple perspectives but the two main ones being, Anna and Murray. Anna is a young woman who recently lost both parents to suicide. Murray, is a semi-retired criminal investigator, who ends up looking into Anna’s parents suicides when she begins to suspect that foul play may have been involved.

There were plenty of twists and turns in this and the end in particular was so wild in bordered on ridiculous. This being said, ridiculously far-fetched plot points aside, it was also wildly entertaining. It did keep me engaged the whole way through; I was particularly drawn to the chapters from Murray’s perspective. Although his chapters were not as wrought with turmoil as Anna’s, there was something very relatable and likable about his character and experiences. I also liked the way this book took classic societal gender roles and challenged them; it challenged what the reader would typically expect to happen. I really enjoyed that actually. I felt like someone had played a trick on me which made it very unique!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity! I had some fun with it and really look forward to checking out other reader’s reviews now that I am done.

Review: Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Publication Date: June 19, 2018

5-STARS:  Bring Me Back, which hits stores on June 19th, is the third novel written by B.A. Paris – who has very rapidly become one of my favorite authors. Her first novel, Behind Closed Doors was published in 2016 and her second, The Breakdown was published last year. I have read all three of these and given them all solid 5-star reviews! I cannot tell you the last time I have had that kind of experience with an author.

This story, like the rest of her stories, starts off with a bang and NEVER lets up. To me, this is one of the most consistent and memorable parts of her stories – how quickly they get going. There is no time wasted, no numerous pages of filler to get through waiting for the excitement to start – you are in it, right away. For example, with this one, I made the following comment on Goodreads at page 6: “Just quickly, 6 paragraphs in…6! And just like that = intense! By paragraph 8, I am already yelling at our protagonist, you did what!? What!? B.A. Paris is queen!”

The story follows two main POVs through both present time and flashbacks. The narrative is expertly woven to keep you at the edge of your seat the whole way through. I had so many theories. ‘This is the answer. No, wait, that can’t be. Okay, okay, I have it, this is it. No?? What is happening???’

This story is not just psychologically intense but as with her other novels, I feel the character development is really strong. I find myself developing strong attachments to her characters, even the most unreliable narrators. I wouldn’t say they are always 100% ‘likable’ but they are definitely always believable! With her MCs especially, I feel like they are my friends – they are doing stupid things and making stupid, yet very human, mistakes and I just want to shake them (and frequently do scold them…yes, out loud, while I am reading…).

I feel it is best to go into her stories blind. The only thing you need to know about this is that it is a taut psychological thriller that will keep you frantically turning pages until the very END! And what an end it is – shook! So, yeah, in summation – I love this book so much. I CANNOT wait to see what she comes up with next – I am really hoping for a 2019 release to keep this beautiful rhythm we have going!

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review. It has seriously been the highlight of my year so far. To B.A. Paris, thank you so much for writing – you are my idol – the Queen of Manipulation!! xo

 

Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Publication Date: November 7, 2017

I really enjoyed this and would give it between a 4 and 4.5 ☆s. I was introduced to this book through Book of the Month Club (which, if you aren’t a member of, you should be) – although I didn’t select it in the month it was first offered, I ultimately got it in a later box after seeing it everywhere!

This is the debut novel for Krysten Ritter, most well known as Jessica Jones in the Netflix original series of the same name. I was skeptical going in, I will admit – that whole singers becoming actors, actors becoming writers thing…but was so pleasantly surprised with how engaging this book was. The story follows our MC, Abigail Williams, who is an environmental attorney in Chicago. Having ‘escaped’, quite literally it seems, her small hometown in a very rural area, she gets the chance to return in order to investigate Optimal Plastics, the largest employer in town. Once there, Abby is thrown back into her old life and memories arrive that lead her to start questioning events that occurred when she was still in high school. Through memories of the past and current events a vicious tale of corruption and betrayal is told. The pace of this book is excellent and I just flew through it. Due to the short length of the chapters it is definitely a book that has that, ‘just one more chapter…just one more chapter…’ way about it!

The format of the book itself is pretty standard mystery/thriller which reminded me a bit of John Grisham’s, The Rainmaker. There is nothing really groundbreaking or out of the ordinary about this book but it is very fun and overall, very strong storytelling IMO. I think this would be a great book to bring on vacation or to the beach. I hope Ms. Ritter keeps writing because I have a feeling her writing will mature and her books will continue to get stronger and stronger.

My only issue with the book, and it is a slight one, was that the ending felt a bit rushed. Personally, I think this could have been 20 to 40 pages longer in order to better explore the outcome of events that Abby reveals – both past and present. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys legal thrillers, particularly with an evil corporation twist!  What was the last book you read that pleasantly surprised you with how good it ended up being? Leave a comment below!

Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

5-stars!! 

I finished ‘Our Kind of Cruelty’ last night right before bed so figured I would take the night to consider what I had read before formulating my review. Here I am, the next morning, still trying to wrap my head around this book. Firstly, what a unique way of telling this story. Unique and impactful. Mike Hayes, our MC, and narrator of this story is unhinged and you get a front row seat to obsession. Verity, the object of focus, is a young lady you struggle throughout the book to understand; at least I did. Mike and V were involved in a long-term relationship which began while they were in college and eventually ended. This story follows that break-up and relives pieces of it through the mind of Mike.

How much of his thoughts are reality and how much are fantasy. The author did a phenomenal job of keeping you guessing. Is Mike as crazy as he seems? Is he creating a fantasy or she is feeding into his behaviors somehow. I absolutely loved the format of this book and how the author never let Mike slip from character. You are full force in this ‘love story’ from start to finish gaining insight into his infatuation with this young lady.

The culmination of the tale takes place in a courtroom where we see side characters, as well as both Verity and Mike, be questioned by attorneys regarding the exact nature and events of their relationship. I will admit even I was questioning Verity and her honesty at that point – which to me is humorous – an extension of how women can be blamed or treated with suspicion when it comes to a man’s behaviors in regards to her. Questioning the victim, blaming the victim, shaming the victim – these are all prevalent occurrences in our society – and I myself was guilty of it. I didn’t trust V, the whole way, even though I was witness to Mike’s mental fixation with her. I questioned what she was doing to fuel that fire. I continually questioned her choices: why didn’t she tell someone, her husband, the police? Why did she continue to correspond with him?

This was an incredibly intricate, mind-shaking story that gave me chills on the regular. I applaud the author for this effort – it is a truly distinct book for the thriller genre. I would highly recommend it. I hope my thoughts on this make some sort of sense – I am still boggled by this one. Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus & Giroux for providing me with the opportunity to read this book early and to provide my opinion. I cannot wait to see what other readers take from this one! What was the last book you read that really got under your skin? I want to know!  Leave a comment below!

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Publication Date: July 14, 2016

3-Stars:  I will get this out of the way up front – I listened to the Audio version of this book. The narrator…let’s just say, her style wasn’t my favorite as far as narration goes. This being said, I’m not sure how much that ended up affecting my ultimate rating for the book but I wanted to be sure to point it out.

I went into this book completely blind, I had heard a little buzz about it through social media, but really had no idea what it was about. I was completely surprised by the fact that the action kicked off so quickly. There were quite a few twists and turns, places where I thought I had it figured out, moments of revelation, etc., but overall it was pretty bland for me. It was a good book but I really had no feelings for it after it was over. It was a thing that happened, it kept me occupied, told me a little tale and then…that’s it. I did not enjoy any of the characters at all – I actually believe one of my mid-book status update comments was, ‘every character in this book is an asshole’ – so yeah. Bottom line, it was good, it didn’t blow me away but it was good. Average.

In other, much more exciting news, I pre-ordered my copy of Stephen King’s newest novel, The Outsider, which will be released on May 22nd!!!  Raise the flag, I am so excited to add a new, gorgeous King hardback to my bookshelves.  Check out the cover below – very creepy and cool!

Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 11, 2017

4-stars out of 5
SURVIVOR
Wow, okay, this was a really fun read. A Book of the Month Club pick for July 2017, I am actually sad I waited this long to get to it (damn you, never-ending tbr list!). I am giving this four stars instead of five because I usually only give five stars to books that I would read again and I don’t think I would reread this one. The story for this is definitely one where it is most impactful the first time through.
The structure and storyline reminded me of a B-rate Horror flick and I do not mean that as an insult. I am a person who has sought out the best B-rate horror films my whole life- I love them. I feel this book would translate well into a movie actually. It starts much like many of those movies start, a group of super attractive college kids head off campus for a weekend celebration in the woods at a creepy little cabin…well, you can imagine the rest. Picture Cabin Fever, directed by the insanely talented Eli Roth, but witnessed through flashbacks. So fun, right?!
The beginning of the book was a little slow for me but about half way through the chapters started to get shorter and the flashbacks more frequent as you begin to piece together what the hell is actually going on. You think you know what is happening, you think it is predictable, but then that all gets flipped on its head and the ending was absolutely fabulous. Overall, I think this was very well done and I definitely want to read the book Riley Sager is set to release later this year, Last Time I Lied – if it is anything as good as this, I know it will be a wild ride!

Review: The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty

Expected Publication: March 13, 2018

“It’s like my mother’s death made this huge noise a long time ago. And this murder is the echo of it”

(3.5-stars rounded up to 4) The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty is an adult thriller following female protagonist, Harper McClain, who is a crime reporter in the city of Savannah. As female leads go, I really liked Harper; I found her to be smart and believable. Although haunted by a past trauma where she stumbled across the crime scene of her murdered mother, we learn how Harper’s whole life was shaped by that one event; how she used it to fuel her passions for writing and reporting. For me, the book didn’t really pick up until about 30% into the story. The introductory phase of the characters, the city and Harper’s early life seemed just a little too drawn out for my taste before ever getting into the main point of our story – the murder and subsequent investigation of a woman by the name of Marie Whitney. Once Harper started looking into Ms. Whitney’s death, and coming to the conclusion that there was more to the story than her police friends were letting on, the action really started to pick up. Overall, I enjoyed this story and would definitely be interested in reading the next book in the series!

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur for providing me with an early copy of this book – I am excited for the release date to see what other readers think of it!