Summer Reading

What are you reading right now that’s an advanced reader copy? I just received Guilty by Laura Elliot via NetGalley, which looks to be a page turner about a missing girl whose family comes under the scrutiny of the media. I love the cover, and so far the first few pages have been promising.
guilty

I also received Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan via NetGalley, which I have yet to start but will be reviewing on this blog in June. The reviews of the book are mixed on Goodreads, but I am always willing to give a good mystery a try.

southern

I am hoping to get my hands on a copy of Paula Hawkins’ newest book, Into the Water. I really enjoyed Girl on a Train, and the movie was fairly true to the novel.

water

I’ve also got Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10, Sibel Hodge’s Duplicity, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke’s The Good Widow, Emily Carpenter’s The Weight of Lies, and Charlie Donlea’s The Girl Who Was Taken on my wishlist of summer reads. If they don’t come my way, I will definitely be picking up copies of them this summer.

What are you reading this summer? What am I missing from my list of thrillers?

 

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Review: The Black Painting

The Black Painting
The Black Painting by Neil Olson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thank you to the author, Neil Olson, Netgalley, and the publisher for providing me an advanced reader copy of this book.

I rated this book 2.5 stars. I was so disappointed with this book because it had so much promise. The setting and atmosphere lured me in: an old, mysterious house, a painting by Goya that supposedly has a demon lurking inside it, and a family with dark secrets. All this sounds great, right?

This book is a case study in what happens when characters aren’t fully developed, and when the storyline meanders without truly committing to a plot. I really, really wanted to love this book, but the creepy old house and painting completely got left behind after the beginning of the book. Teresa, the main character, was also supposed to be hiding a dark past or secret that I stopped caring about because it was only alluded to a few times.

The overall plot is that Teresa’s grandfather passes away, and her relatives descend upon his southern manor to see what he has left behind for them. The grandfather was mean and cruel, and there was an ordeal with him acquiring (potentially via black market) the Goya painting that curses those who look at it. The Goya painting was stolen, and it’s unclear who took it. Teresa is charged with uncovering the mystery of the stolen painting, and potentially undergoing a mysterious surgery so that she can receive money from her grandfather’s will. There are so many side plots taking place in this book that I got lost and was constantly re-reading the book to make sure I at least attempted to follow it.

I also had such a difficult time following the immense cast of characters because none of them were fully developed. I often had no clue who they were when they popped up into the narrative. By the time I was 80% into the book, I didn’t care about the characters, and I didn’t care about the ending. It’s a huge bummer, because again, the book started strong and faded due to the confusing cast of unpredictable, unreliable, and stiff characters.

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Review: Lies She Told

Lies She Told
Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the author, Cate Holahan, the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and Netgalley for an advanced reader copy of “Lies She Told.”

I rated this book five stars because how many authors can write not just one but TWO enthralling psychological thrillers in one book?! Cate Holahan has managed to package two parallel and eventually intertwined psychological thriller stories into the confines of one book artfully and masterfully. Both stories are also amazingly delicious and juicy. I could not put this book down.

The story starts off with Liza, a moderately successful mystery/crime writer who is in a not so happy marriage to David, a high profile lawyer. Liza is struggling to write a book after experiencing a lack-luster response to her latest thriller, which has been difficult to swallow given the bestseller success of her first book. She is also struggling to get pregnant, and subjects herself to painful, mind-altering fertility treatments that sometimes leave her questioning her own sanity. David has been unwilling to be close with Liza, placing more stress on her as she pursues fulfilling her wish to conceive a child.

The second story in the book is about Beth and Jake who are also facing marital difficulties among many other issues, one of which includes Jake’s infidelities. Jake, like David, is an attorney who works long hours. Beth is stuck at home caring for her baby, Vicky, and is struggling with serious post-partum depression. Stuck in the drudgery of caring for an infant in isolation while her husband is putting long hours in at work, Beth starts spying on Jake and discovers he is cheating on her with a cop involved in one of his cases.

I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but let’s just say the lives of Liza and Beth collide and parallel one another as the book comes to crescendo. The scenario in which their lives intersect was shocking but completely realistic – the best formula for an exciting psychological thriller!

A HUGE kudos to Cate Holahan for bringing this story to a fantastic, exciting close. I literally read the book on every work break today because the ending was so fabulous. Her characters are vivid and real despite their character flaws, and the atmosphere and setting is intricate and detailed (especially for a book that is essentially a book within a book). I can’t wait to get my hands on Holahan’s other books!

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Review: Follow Me Back

Follow Me Back
Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you to the author, A.V. Geiger, the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, and Netgalley for the ARC of Follow Me Back.

After a traumatic event, Tessa finds herself unable to leave the confines of her home and room. Her phone is the only connection she has to the outside world, and soon she finds herself obsessed with the music of a YouTube artist turned mega-pop star, Eric Thorn. She follows his Twitter account, and becomes one of the more influential twitter fans who are monitored by other Eric Thorn-obsessed fans. She listens to her music to calm her nerves and help her heal from her trauma.

Eric Thorn despises his mega fans. Spooked by the murder of a recent pop star by a fan, Thorn wants nothing to do with his Twitter. His hand is forced by his record company and publicist to tweet every now and then, but her remains frightened of his fans. Angry and scared, he starts a Twitter account under the alias of “Taylor” in an attempt to talk his followers out of following him. He ends up starting with Tessa, and through private Twitter conversations he realizes she also struggles with different sorts of fears. He starts to see her as a person and not as a crazed super fan, and slowly falls in love with her as “Taylor.”

Tessa, too, starts to have feelings for “Taylor,” and he becomes a central part of her therapy, and an inspiration to get out of her home. But there is danger lurking outside it, which will keep readers on the edges of their seats.

The ending is really surprising, and I will probably pick up the next book in this series!

I don’t think this book is for my demographic (a 37 year old mom!), but I enjoyed it. It was fluffy and fun, and I could see a young adult really enjoying this book, too.

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Review: The Party

The Party
The Party by Robyn Harding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you to Robyn Harding, the publisher, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Party. What a fantastic roller coaster ride of a read!

A catastrophic event creates a seismic shift in the lives of a small prep school community in San Francisco, California. Hannah, the daughter of fairly well to do family, is turning 16. Like many teenagers her age, she struggles to fit in at school. She’s smart, pretty, and a talented musician, but that doesn’t get anyone very far in a private high school. The sweet 16 party, which is a small, intimate sleepover with a mix of old friends and a few new friends, is her chance to finally get an “in” with the “in” crowd and move up on the social ladder of her high school.

Hannah’s mother, Kim, is strict and controlling. She lectures the girls about not drinking or using drugs in their house as soon as they step foot into the house for the party. Kim’s dad, Jeff, is not the disciplinarian, and, in a moment of really poor parental judgement, sneaks a bottle of champagne to the girls who are partying in their fancy basement.

Hannah, who wants to impress the two popular girls at the party (Ronni and Lauren), not only happily takes the champagne but also has her boyfriend and his friend smuggle in additional alcohol. To top it off, the girls have also brought their own debaucherous stash of alcoholic drinks and drugs. What could go wrong?

Well, as you can probably imagine, a LOT can go wrong with a toxic mix of teenagers, alcohol, and drugs. Since Hannah has always been an upstanding student and well behaved daughter, Kim doesn’t worry about the party downstairs. Kim takes a small dose of Ambien and drinks some wine to help her sleep the night away, not checking on the girls because Hannah has never given her a reason to worry.

Later that night, Hannah comes into Kim and Jeff’s room sobbing, hands covered in wet, warm blood. One of the girls at the sleepover has been irreparably injured due to the drugs and alcohol at the party, leaving Kim, Hannah, and Jeff to grapple with what it means to moral, compassionate, and a family in a litigious, judgmental, and helicopter-parent dominated society.

In the wake of the accident, the characters deal with their own character flaws. A former bully is now bullied at school. A parent struggles with the consequences of years of permissive parenting that contributed to the accident. A father is blackmailed and forced to come to terms with his own moral failings. A daughter realizes what it means to be a good person and friend, even if it comes at the cost of her family’s riches.

The author plunges deep into the lives of Hannah, Ronni, Lisa (Ronni’s mom), Kim (Hannah’s mom), and Jeff (Hannah’s dad). You hear the story from their perspectives, and each story and person has different but completely valid feelings about the accident and what restitution should involve. I absolutely adore a book with well developed characters and plot that is paced like a firecracker, quick and explosive. If I didn’t have to go to work, I would have read this book in one sitting. I finished it in two days during a busy work week because I could not put it down! Five stars for a fantastic read!

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