Review: The Future is Yours

**5/5 Stars**

I’ll admit that I was going to put this down after the first few pages felt like it was yet another book about tech bros gone bad (or are they just all bad to begin with?!). But then I stuck with it for about 15 pages, and I was into it. And yes, I ended up giving this book a 5/5 stars rating despite my first few pages impression. Never judge a book by the first five pages!

What kept me reading Dan Frey’s The Future is Yours?

There are several things that kept me absolutely hooked to the point I read this in under 48 hours (and I have a busy schedule). For one, the structure of the book is just plain cool. I loved that most of the story is told via an archival, historical approach. The bulk of the book’s contents are texts, emails, newspaper articles, blogs, and a variety of other media. You would think the narrative would be hard to follow because of this piecemeal approach, but it isn’t. It’s actually insanely addicting.

Second, the premise of the book is interesting. I love how the genre of multiverses and time-travel is just exploding in recent years. It makes me feel like maybe we all just want to escape this world with all its problems and very real anxieties. This book is about two guys who meet at Stanford University (my alma mater, and yes, I loved the scenes involving campus and the dish for you insiders). Both characters are very flawed but motivated people. One character has a dream to engineer a machine that sees into the future. The other wants to market this concept and sell it to everyone to level the playing field when it comes to money and equality (or so he says).

If you love the story of Theranos (I loved the documentaries about the company and the book Bad Blood!), this book might be of great interest to you despite the fact it is fiction. Technology and innovation is moving at the speed of light in today’s world, but this book and the many sad stories of Silicon Valley’s start-up failures are really about the ethical and moral failures that arise due to technology. Just because you can invent a new technology doesn’t mean society is ready for it or even needs it at all. We need people in the humanities and social sciences thinking deeply about how new technologies will be used and implemented before they are rolled out. If this is a topic that interests you, I highly recommend reading Jaron Lanier’s books on social media and AI.

Thank you to the author, Dan Frey, the publisher, Random House, and NetGalley for the advance reviewer copy of The Future is Yours!

Review: The Chalet

**4/5 Stars**

As the leaves change (well, at least it does here in the Midwestern United States) and the weather gets colder, there’s nothing better than reading a mystery novel with a cup of hot cocoa by your side. Catherine Cooper’s debut novel The Chalet is the perfect fall read. Set in a posh ski resort in the French alps, this book will make you feel ready for winter even if you hate snow.

The book flips back and forth between two timelines. The first timeline is set in 1998, where college friends go on a skiing trip in the middle of a blizzard (yes, always a bad idea). This trip ends in disaster (shocking!), with one college student going missing up on the mountain, never to be found again.

Was foul play involved, or just really bad luck on the part of not so experienced skiers and irresponsible, selfish ski guides?

The second timeline is set 20 years after this fateful ski trip. The second timeline involves several couples stuck in a ski resort amid another bad winter storm. The contemporary timeline involves people who are somehow connected to the 1998 incident.

How they are connected is a mystery that readers must untangle.

Most of the characters in this book are not the most likable. There are unethical businessmen, cheating partners, and deceitful friends. This means everyone is a suspected of something, although what that something is does not become clear until the latter half of the novel.

This book was a strong first novel for Cooper. The setting really sold the book for me, perhaps because I am tired of being stuck at home amid COVID! A blizzard in the French alps somehow sounds appealing after 7 months of being at home. I will definitely read another book from Cooper if it is a mystery!

Thank you to the author, Catherine Cooper, the publisher, HarperCollins, and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy of The Chalet.

Review: The Space Between Worlds

**5/5 Stars**

“The universe erases me, but it also remakes me again and again, so there must be something worthwhile in this image.”

“They say hunting monsters will turn you into one.”

“Alive doesn’t mean anything at all. Sometimes the path to an easy life makes you miserable.”

This year I’ve been trying to read a lot of escapist fiction. Between a cancer scare and the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve really needed to check out in the late nights and early mornings when I read. I’ve behind on a lot of my reading this year, too, but I think that’s to be expected in times like these! Nevertheless, I was so happy to pick up and read The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. It was exactly the kind of read I needed this year.

The book is a haunting sci-fi thriller that has characters who are impossible to forget. The lead character is Cara, a rough and tumble woman who is clever, resourceful, and, above all, fearless. I don’t want to give away the brilliant plot, so I will be a bit cagey with my review. Cara claws her way out of the literal wastelands to become a traverser, someone who travels in time from one world to another. The book is set in the future where a megalomaniac engineer, Adam Bosch, has discovered that there are parallel worlds: 372 to be exact. Cara is one of the few traversers hired by Bosch’s company to extract information and data out of the other worlds for the benefit of her world.

But as readers will learn, Cara’s work comes at a cost.

Cara is scrappy and curious, determined to benefit and learn from her travels in other timelines despite corporate rules prohibiting such behavior. In all the worlds she has visited, her life is difficult. These worlds all have one thing in common: inequality. Cara is a member of the lower classes abandoned and discriminated against simply for being born outside the walls of the wealthy Wiley City, a city which also serves as a corporate haven for Bosch. Wiley City is for the elite, and the surrounding desert is for the rest of the world who toil under a constant threat of sexual and physical violence.

Cara desires to find a better way of life for herself and her family members who remain entangled in poverty and strife, but numerous obstacles stand in her way. Time is running out for Cara to figure out how to secure a safer future for her family; traversers are being replaced by a new technology that will remotely retrieve data from the other universes. Adam Bosch’s company also plans to monetize traversing, offering the opportunity to the wealthy few who seek to expand their fortune and fame by visiting other universes.

The odds are stacked against Cara, but she isn’t someone who cares about odds. Will she die trying to beat them?

This book is exciting, heartbreaking, and impossible to put down. If you love sci-fi, thrillers, brilliantly imagined worlds, and characters you won’t ever forget, this is absolutely your book. Definitely going to be a book I need to add to my permanent library!

Thank you to Random House Publishing, the author, Micaiah Johnson, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Space Between Worlds.

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**3.5 Stars**

“Marriage is very strange. It’s as full of hate as it is love. We can’t possibly speculate at what happens between any couple when all the doors are shut and all the curtains are drawn.”

“Anger is often not cruelty…it is more often love.”

I was excited to get an advanced reader copy of Araminta Hall’s newest book, Imperfect Women, as I really enjoyed her book, Our Kind of Cruelty, last year. Hall’s writing, especially at the beginning of the book, was first rate. There are some jewels scattered throughout the book, too, that I highlighted and certainly won’t forget. She has a gift for prose and for writing things that really hit home for me as a woman and working mother.

So why the 3.5 stars? I so wanted to like this book, but about 25% of the way in it seemed to go on a number of tangents. I think heavy-handed editing could have helped the narrative, as Hall often has her characters go into long diatribes on life and feminism. This is certainly not a bad thing in my book, but all of her characters are deeply introspective people who make questionable choices despite their reflectiveness. I am not confident that most people operate with that level and depth of self-awareness on a daily basis, and that’s probably what struck me as the most problematic part of the book.

The book is about three female friends who met in college and are now coming of age (despite being of middle age like myself). The friends find themselves tethered to one another when one of them disappears and then is found dead under what is believed to be suspicious circumstances. As the friends investigate what happened, betrayals and unfaithfulness are revealed, making the reader wonder how these three women ever stayed together and trusted one another in the first place.

I’ve read other reviews of this book now that I’m done with it, and some people have complained that everyone in the book is “imperfect” (hence the title) and irredeemably flawed. Every person out there is flawed, so I don’t see this as a big problem. What is a problem, in my opinion, is how self-absorbed all the characters are despite being “friends.” They seem to be so flawed that they lack a moral compass needed to have friends – maybe that’s Hall’s point, that all of these characters were drawn together because they were missing what makes them human. I am not sure.

Nevertheless, I will definitely read Araminta Hall’s next book because I enjoy her writing style so much. The plot is where the book fell short for me.

Thank you to Araminta Hall, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of the book!

Review: The Safe Place

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**4 Stars**

Emily is broke. Her dream to become a successful actress is fading as her bills are past due and piling up day after day. She has one last chance to get back on her feet and start auditioning again when she gets hired at a post investment firm as a secretary.

But then she blows it big time and gets fired. Rent is due. Her landlord is ready to give her the boot. Her roommate is on her heels to pay her for her portion of rent. To make matters worse, her adoptive parents won’t bail her out anymore. She has asked for help one too many times.

Kicked to the curb, Emily is beyond desperate. Out of the blue, she receives an invitation from Scott, the owner of the investment firm for which she worked. He asks her to meet to discuss an unusual but promising business opportunity.

With nowhere to go and nothing to her name, Emily meets Scott, who apologizes for firing her. Scott comes off as charming, attractive, and brilliant. He offers her what seems like a once in a lifetime job: move to France to assist his wife in renovating their chateaus and nannying his daughter, who, he says, is ill. Emily is enchanted by the life he promises her – a pool, the French countryside, miles of private hiking trails, her own house, delicious French wine and food, and an unspeakable amount of money to spend at her leisure. What could go wrong?

Emily immediately jumps at the chance to leave the country and start a new life. Initially, everything about her new job in France seems beyond perfect. Scott’s wife welcomes her with open arms, treating to all the delights of France and luxury unheard of.

But then Emily becomes suspicious of Scott’s wife and life in France. There’s a creepy basement that has boxes of infant and children’s clothing. Scott’s daughter is also an enigma; mute, shy, and complicated, she seems to be holding the key to the mystery of Scott’s family. And then there’s this awful smell that permeates the entire house despite the fragrant flowers and baked goods that fill the house. There are entire wings of the property that are off limits to Emily. Any time people come near the property, Scott’s wife screams at them to leave.

What is Scott’s family hiding? Emily must find out before her life is in danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was completely engulfed in the story from the first page to the last. The last 25% of the book, in particular, was so exciting and thrilling. I found the character of Emily relatable and appreciated how the author developed her character. The plot was a bit unbelievable, but honestly, if every thriller that was published was true we’d be in a big trouble as a society! I found the ending satisfying, though I did not want the book to end! This is definitely a book worth reading if you are into mysteries and thrillers set in Gothic mansions.

Thank you to the author, Anna Downes, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Safe Place!

Review: Little Secrets

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**5++ Stars**

Jennifer Hillier is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite authors! I absolutely devoured Hillier’s Jar of Hearts, which was one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read (and I believe it is either going to be on the screens soon). Little Secrets was also a fantastically wild ride of a book, one that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page!

As a mother, my absolute worst fear is something happening to my child, especially if it is something that I could have prevented. This is precisely what happens to Marin, who is the mother to four-year-old Sebastian.

Sebastian is kidnapped in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market. It’s Christmas time and Pike Place is even more bustling than it normally is, as it is a huge tourist trap during the entire year.

It only takes one second for Sebastian to slip out of Marin’s hands (literally) and then he’s gone….maybe for good. The person who abducted him was smartly dressed as Santa Claus – a guise that made it easy for Sebastian to be snatched. The FBI investigates and fails to find any leads.

Needless to say, Marin is absolutely crushed. But if anything is good about Marin’s life, it’s that she has a great deal of money to spend on finding her missing son. She hires a private investigator, who turns up questionable and shocking information about both her husband and her former boyfriend. Her husband is having an affair with a much younger woman, a woman Marin begins to investigate as the possible kidnapper.

But lots of people who are in Marin’s life are hiding secrets – and one of them has her son.

This book was SO exciting and thrilling. It will make for a great read if you are stuck indoors during the pandemic right now, or on the beach this summer. You will not be able to put this book down! I am absolutely 100% sold on Hillier’s books. She is one of the tried and true authors I can read and count on to spin a wonderfully intriguing story that I cannot stop reading!

Thank you to Jennifer Hillier, the author, NetGalley, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review this fantastic book!

Review: The Best of Friends

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**5 Stars**

Three close friends who go way back to primary school in Southern California suffer an unthinkable tragedy. Their three high-school-aged sons who all play on the soccer team are involved in a gun-related incident, one that has claimed one of the boy’s lives, put one in a coma, and left one traumatized to the point they cannot speak about what happened that night. Lucinda Berry’s The Best of Friends is a twisty who-done-it thriller that looks at what caused one, possibly two, and maybe even three best of friends to harm each other.

This was my first Berry thriller and I was very impressed with her ability to build and sustain suspense. The book is told from the perspectives of the three women whose lives have been irrevocably altered. Each mother is in search of answers as to what happened that terrible night. The three women – Dani, Kendra, and Lindsey – are well off and assumed that their boys, were the best of friends. But the bonds between mothers slowly unravel as they discover the truths about themselves, their husbands, their other children, and their sons.

One mother has developed close friendships with the teenage boys that the other two mothers don’t know about. Another mother has been secretly slipping Adderall to her son without telling her husband and friends. And the third mother is in an abusive relationship with her husband that she hides well, one that may have contributed to what happened that dreadful night.

What caused two boys to be shot? Are the parents somehow involved or responsible for this horrific incident? Could it have been prevented?

I found the parts about the mothers’ extraordinary grief really gripping and heartbreaking – it is exactly how I imagine feeling if, God forbid, something happened to one of my children.

This was a solid thriller that kept me turning the pages. It was one of those books I looked forward to reading and had a hard time putting down. Thank you to NetGalley, the author, Lucinda Berry, and Thomas & Mercer for an advance reader copy of The Best of Friends!

Review: The Half-Sister

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**4 Stars**

When Lauren decides to upload a DNA test to a genealogy website, she has no idea how one action will change the lives of her family forever. Sandie Jones’ The Half Sister examines the inner lives and secrets of two sisters, Lauren and Kate, who have skeletons in their closets.

Kate is an independent, successful reporter who has been desperately trying to get pregnant. She has an adoring, equally successful husband who also works as a political reporter. Kate and her husband have kept their infertility struggle secret from the rest of their family, including Kate’s sister, Lauren, and mother, Rose.

Lauren is a mostly stay at home mother to numerous young children who feels chained to the life she’s chosen. Her husband is moody and difficult. The love she once had for him disappeared as soon as he became controlling when they married. She pines for the love she lost in high school, a love who painfully broke up with her and who has conveniently returned to their hometown.

Feeling lost and alone, Lauren seeks out companionship online via a genealogy website. A knock on her mother’s door will unravel Kate, Lauren, and Rose’s lives, forcing them to confront their once beloved and now deceased father’s infidelities. Jess, a woman who claims to be Lauren and Kate’s half-sister due to the connection made online via a genealogy website, is looking for friendship and family after growing up as an adoptee.

But Kate, who had a closer relationship with her father than Lauren, cannot believe her father, a prominent lawyer, would do such a thing. Kate, using her stellar investigative skills, digs deep into Jess’ past, discovering that Jess is not who she claims to be. Will Jess destroy Kate and Lauren’s family forever, or will the truths she brings to light bring them closer?

I enjoyed this book a great deal, but I think it could have been edited a bit more as it felt long by the time I was done. I saw the ending coming about half-way into the novel, but I thought it was still satisfying. I thought the characters of Lauren and Kate were well developed and enjoyed seeing how their motivations were explained. While I have preferred the Jones’ other books just a tad bit more, I did not regret this read and recommend it for a summer beach book (if we can go out to the beach, that is!).

Thank you to the author, Sandie Jones, NetGalley, and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced reader copy of The Half Sister! I greatly appreciate the opportunity to review Jones’ books!

Review: Little Disasters

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**4 Stars**

Jess is a picture-perfect stay at home mother; she is pretty, thin, and has three beautiful children, including her beautiful baby Betsey. She is married to Ed, a successful businessman who works long days and nights to sustain his family and help his wife stay home. Jess’ world is flipped upside down when she finds herself being charged with negligent parenting after bringing Betsey into the ER. To make matters worse, the charges have been filed by Jess’ friend and ER doctor, Liz, who she befriended in a mother-baby group with their first children.

The story is told from the competing perspectives of Jess and Liz. Liz is a hard-working mother who feels terrible for reporting Jess. However, Betsey’s injuries appear serious; it seems as though she sustained a head injury, an injury that resulted in Betsey seizing and remaining hospitalized. Jess’ story of how Betsey got injured is inconsistent, making everyone around her wonder if she committed an unforgivable crime.

Did the taxing nature of motherhood cause Jess to hurt her child? Or is someone else responsible for Betsey’s serious injury?

Perhaps the guilty party is Ed, who might be having an affair on the side with Jess’ friend, Charlotte. Or maybe it is one of Jess’ sons, who are somewhat neglected due to the arrival of their newborn sister, Betsey. Or maybe it is Jess herself, who has been suffering from delusions and anxiety since she had Betsey. Liz also seems to have some skeletons in her closet and is working with doctors who are notoriously difficult to please.

This book is a good character study on the challenges and difficulties of being a parent. I appreciated the time the author put into developing the plot and characters. There were also lots of twists and turns that were unexpected that kept me engaged and interested in the book.

Thank you to Atria/Emily Bestler Books, NetGalley, and the author, Sarah Vaughan, for an advanced reader copy of Little Disasters!

 

Review: Playing Nice

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**5 Stars**

I took a bit of a break from book reviewing due to some health issues and am slowly working my way back to reading and reviewing regularly. When I was approved for J.P. Delaney’s Playing Nice, I was super excited to dive in and see what Delaney has cooked up for his readers. I have reviewed his last three books and loved them all; here are the links to my reviews of his last three books: Review: The Perfect Wife, Review: Believe Me, and Review: The Girl Before.

Playing Nice is a bit of a departure from his last three books. I don’t mean this in a negative way – it’s just a different type of book that looks deeply at what happens when a child is switched at birth and ends up with the “wrong” biological family. This book spends a good deal of time developing two characters – the parents (Pete and Maddie) of a child, Theo, who they discover is not their biological child. Pete and Maddie’s world is shattered when Miles and Lucy, Theo’s biological parents, show up unannounced in their lives and reveal the devastating truth that their children were switched at birth. I was super interested in how this complex, unusual situation would unravel and how each of the characters would respond to it.

How did Theo get switched at birth? Who is responsible? Nurses? The hospital? Or is it something more sinister, such as one of the parents? 

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but let’s just say that Miles and Lucy have ulterior motives in sharing this shocking information with Pete and Maddie. At first, it seems as though Miles and Lucy are good-natured folks who want the hospital responsible for the switch to be held accountable. There are vast class differences between the two families; Miles and Lucy are wealthy, while Pete and Maddie are struggling to get by. Both couples seem to have fractured relationships that also complicate matters.

What did I think of this book? I did miss some of the shocking twists and turns of Delaney’s last 3 books, but that doesn’t mean this book wasn’t enjoyable. As I said before, this is a book that is focused on character development more than pulling the rug under readers. Delaney has a real talent for making his characters come to life and feel relatable, no matter what questionable deeds they’ve committed. There are some surprising twists in this book, but they are simply not as dramatic in Delaney’s previous works. If you enjoy well-crafted characters and a skillfully paced plot, this book is for you!

Thank you to the author, J.P. Delaney, the publisher, Random House Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced reviewer copy of Playing Nice!

Review: Follow Me

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**5++ Stars**

Another hit from Kathleen Barber! I really enjoyed her last book (Are You Sleeping), which focused on how social media can add complexities and nuances to our modern lives. Follow Me also looks at how people’s worlds have changed thanks to social media and how social media has made it so much easier for people to stalk and harass others.

Audrey, the lead character of the book, is beautiful, and, from everything one sees on her social media, successful. She has a new, exciting job helping create social media buzz and content for the hottest and edgiest new art installation at a hip museum in Washington, DC. From outward appearances, it looks like she has it all – the looks, the job, the friends, the boyfriend….but what is really going on behind the scenes?

The reality is that Audrey is self-serving and careless with her friendships and relationships. She sometimes sees friends and boyfriends as simply a backdrop in her Instagram-perfect life, taking advantage of people’s kindness and desire to be around her. Audrey is somewhat clueless about how the people in her life feel about her.

All of this is about to change when a stalker – possibly multiple stalkers – starts to follow Audrey’s every move. Who is this person – or people – following her? What do they want from her? Perhaps the most dangerous people in Audrey’s life are those who are the closest to her.</b>

What I loved about this book is how the tension builds page by page. This was truly a classic mystery with a modern social media twist.

If you enjoy Riley Sager or even classic Agatha Christie novels, Barber is definitely your cup of tea! I read this SO quickly, which is kind of a bummer because now I have to wait for another new Barber book to come out!

Thanks to Kathleen Barber, Gallery/Pocket Books, and NetGalley for an advance reader copy of Follow Me.

Review: Lock Every Door

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**5++ Stars**

Jules has a dark past, one from which she has been running since she lost everyone and everything that mattered to her in her life. When she is laid off from her job and catches her boyfriend cheating on her, she finds herself broke without a place to live.

But then an amazing job opportunity appears in the local newspaper, one that Jules can’t believe is real. The job involves housesitting a posh loft in Bartholomew, a historic building in a very upscale neighborhood. What’s even more incredible about the job is that it pays 12k: money that Jules desperately needs.

Jules takes it without hesitation despite the fact that there are a number of red flags. The building is known to be haunted and has its own mysterious past, one that involves numerous residents’ deaths and disappearances. Jules is asked to follow a strict set of rules while living in the loft. These rules include no guests, no leaving the loft overnight, and no talking to the residents of the buildings. These rules seem weird to her one and only best friend, who encourages her to stay with her until she gets a new job and some money in her bank account.

The weirdness doesn’t stop there. Jules makes friends with two of the residents (which is against the rules) who are also professional housesitters at the Bartholomew, and soon thereafter one of them disappears under suspicious circumstances. Jules’ boss says that her friend who disappeared gave notice and left in the middle of the night, but Jules doesn’t buy it. She starts investigating her friend’s disappearance and finds that no one has seen or heard from her. What Jules discovers about the Bartholomew is even worse than the ghost stories people tell about the building, but can she reveal the building and its residents’ crimes before it’s too late for her and the other housesitters?

I loved this book – the pacing was fantastic. It read like a classic Agatha Christie novel for the modern age. I loved Sager’s last two books, too, but I think this one is even better than the last two. If you enjoy thrillers, I highly recommend Lock Every Door. Sager clearly has another hit on his hands with this one! Thank you to Riley Sager, Penguin/Dutton, and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy!